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Gothic Fiction


In general, the Radcliffian Gothic incorporates an innocent that is imperiled by ... [sic]; if not, more pleasingly, fairies of the legendary order, wooing their ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Gothic Fiction

Gothic Fiction
  • Enter at your peril!

  • A non-realistic writing style, which came to
    prominence in the 1760s continues to the
    present day.
  • It is referred to as a mode or style of writing

Gothic Context
  • The gothic was first used as a Medieval,
    architectural term to describe a style of
    building that included gargoyles, scenes of Hell,
    and souls in torment.

Examples of Gothic Architecture
  • Notre Dame Cathedral
  • St. Etienne
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Are all examples of Gothic Architecture
  • The term was generally meant as an insult. It is
    a reference to the Goth and Visigoth invaders,
    who were looked upon as barbarians.

The Early Gothic
  • Horace Walpoles The Castle of Otranto (1764) is
    generally considered the first full-fledged
    Gothic novel.

  • The classic Gothic novels were written by Matthew
    Lewis, Jane Austen, and Ann Radcliffe in the

Radcliffe creates the formula for the classic
Gothic novel in The Mysteries of Udolpho.
  • In general, the Radcliffian Gothic incorporates
    an innocent that is imperiled by his/her own
  • A guardian/protector figure, who must rescue the
    innocent from unmentionable evil. The irony of
    the Radcliffian Gothic is that it is the naiveté
    of the innocent that puts the innocent at risk in
    the first place.
  • Critics, like Kate Ferguson Ellis, have argued
    that the Gothic mode of writing replays the felix
    culpa or fortunate fall.

Contemporary Writers
  • twenty-first century Gothic artists include Anne
    Rice, Stephen King, Angela Carter and Patrick

The Gothic may be described using the following

Degeneration, Darkness, and Decay
As a rule, gothic literature is generally set in
darkened scenes of degeneration and
decay. Popular settings include decaying houses,
crumbling castles, ancient abbeys, antiquated
priories, and moldering manor houses. Gothic
settings use physical descriptions of
degeneration to emphasize moral, spiritual,
cultural, and or psychological decay. Setting
can thus be said to be symptomatic of social
There is an emphasis on the psychology of
the characters rather than plot. Things do not
always make sense logically in gothic texts.
There is an emphasis placed upon extreme
emotional situations.
The Gothic goes to extremes.
Use of the supernatural
Use of the doppelganger theme
Doppelganger is a word that comes to us from the
German. It means living double. The doubling
of animate and inanimate objects is a major motif
found in gothic literature. These mirror images
often show a split between the characters public
and private self.
Use of an unreliable narrator
Dark, pessimistic view of existence
There is a general emphasis on metamorphosis and
transformation this may manifest itself as a
physical or psychological change or both.
American v European Gothic
  • The American gothic is different from the
    European gothic for 3 reasons
  • Americas lack of historical breadth (theres
    less loss history to be found).
  • Protestant foundation
  • No abandoned/crumbling castles, monasteries,
    priories, abbeys, etc.

Poe and the Gothic
  • Edgar Allan Poe invents the American Gothic.
  • In creating the modern horror story, Edgar Allan
    Poe redefines the gothic. Poes gothic is
    distinctly American in taste and setting.

Southern Northern Gothic
Within the American Gothic, there are two
distinct movements that are tied to geography
the Northern Gothic and the Southern
Gothic. Both express a fear of social entropy.
Henry James (1843-1916)
  • Born into a family of wealthy intellectuals
  • His father, Henry James, Sr., was a leading
    intellectual of his day, who was friends with
    Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and
    Nathaniel Hawthorne.
  • His brother William James was a pioneer in the
    field of psychology.

James Background
  • James was interested in literature, philosophy
    and psychology.
  • He wrote 112 short stories, 20 novels, 12 plays,
    numerous essays, and literary criticisms.
  • His writing is heavily influenced by Charles
    Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the French
    writer Balzac.

Jamess Literary Style
  • James is generally classified as a Realist
  • In TOTS, he deliberately sets out to write a
    Romantic text.
  • While there are strong Gothic/Romantic elements
    in TOTS, James strives to convey his story as
    realistically and pragmatically as he can.
  • James is concerned primarily with the
    psychological effect his writing has on his

The Turn of the Screw
  • In 1908 he James wrote that Peter Quint and
    Miss Jessel are not "ghosts" at all, as we now
    know the ghost, but goblins, elves, imps, demons
    as loosely constructed as those of the old trials
    for whichcraft sic if not, more pleasingly,
    fairies of the legendary order, wooing their
    victims forth to see them dance under the moon."