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American Gothic Literature


Title: American Gothic Literature Author: nflannery Last modified by: NEWBORSC Created Date: 1/18/2008 2:57:16 AM Document presentation format: On-screen Show (4:3) – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: American Gothic Literature

American Gothic Literature
The Dark Side of Individualism
  • American Gothic

Gothic Literature
  • The Beginnings
  • Gothic Literary tradition came to be in part from
    the Gothic architecture of the Middle Ages.
  • Gothic cathedrals with irregularly placed towers,
    and high stained-glass windows were intended to
    inspire awe and fear in religious worshipers.

Gargoylescarvings of small deformed creatures
squatting at the corners and crevices of Gothic
cathedralswere supposed to ward off evil
spirits, but they often look more like demonic
spirits themselves.
  • Think of the gargoyle as a mascot of Gothic, and
    you will get an idea of the kind of imaginative
    distortion of reality that Gothic represents.

Gothic vs. Romanticism
  • Romanticism developed as a reaction against the
    rationalism of the Age of Reason.
  • The romantics freed the imagination from the hold
    of reason, so they could follow their imagination
    wherever it might lead.
  • For some Romantics, when they looked at the
    individual, they saw hope.
  • For some Romantic writers, the imagination led to
    the threshold of the unknownthe shadowy region
    where the fantastic, the demonic and the insane
  • When the Gothic's saw the individual, they saw
    the potential of evil.
  • Romantic writers celebrated the beauties of
  • Gothic writers were peering into the darkness at
    the supernatural.

Gothic Movement in America
The Gothic Tradition was firmly established in
Europe before American writers had made names for
By the 19th century, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathanial
Hawthorne, Emily Dickenson, and to a lesser
extent Washington Irving and Herman Melville were
using the Gothic elements in their writing.
Gothic Archetypes
Literary archetype characters or symbols that
are repeated over time and cultures.
  • Anti-Hero the protagonist in the story,
    sometimes with evil intent.
  • Villian the antagonist who poses a challenge
    for the hero.
  • Damsel-in-distress a female character in
  • Setting - the location, such as a castle or
    crypt, becomes a character in the action of the
  • Priest or Monk a religious character
  • Demon could be represented through death,
    decay, or the supernatural

Edgar Allan Poe
  • His stories have
  • Settings that featuring
  • Dark, medieval castles
  • Decaying ancient estates
  • Characters that are
  • Maleinsane
  • Femalebeautiful and dead (or dying)
  • Plots that include
  • Murder
  • Live burials
  • Physical and mental torture
  • Retribution from beyond the grave

For Poe, it was only in these extreme situations
that people revealed their true nature.
Poes Reputation
  • Poes work generated strong responses. Critics
    either loved his work, or they hated it.
  • Shortly after his death, a one-time friend
    published a biography on Poe.
  • This work established the view of Poe as a
    gifted, but socially unaccepted writer.
  • This tainted his reputation in America for many
  • Eventually in the United States, his reputation
    was regained.
  • Today, Poe is recognized as a master of poetry, a
    superb writer of short stories, and a profound
    explorer of the torments of the human soul.
  • He wrote only one novel, around 50 poems, and 70
    short stories.

Timeline of Poes Work
1839 Poe published Tales of Grotesque and
Arabesque including The Fall of the House of
1845 Poe published The Raven
1827 Poe published Tamerlane and Other Poems
1845 Poe published Hop-Frog
1836 Poe married Virginia Clemm
1842 Poe wrote The Masque of Red Death
1809 Poe was born on January 19th
1831 Expelled from West Point Publishes Poems
1841 Poe wrote The Murders of Rue Morgue
1849 Poe dies in Baltimore on October 7th
The Gothic dimension of Poes fictional world
offered him a way to explore the human mind in
these extreme situations and so arrive at an
essential truth
Edgar Allan Poe
Nathanial Hawthorne
  • He also used Gothic elements in his work to
    express what he felt were essential truths
  • Instead of looking at the mind for its
    dysfunction, Hawthorne examined the human heart
    under conditions of fear, vanity, mistrust, and

  • Emily Elizabeth Dickinson
  • Born December 10, 1830 lived almost all of her
    life in her family's house in Amherst, MA
  • 1840, Emily was educated at the nearby Amherst
  • She studied English and classical literature, and
    Latin also was taught in other subjects
    including religion, history, mathematics,
    geology, and biology.
  • In 1847, at 17, Dickinson began attending Mary
    Lyon's Mount Holyoke Female Seminary ( Mount
    Holyoke College)
  • Returned home after less than a year at the
    Seminary, and she did not return to the school.
    Some speculate that she was homesick, however
    there is also speculation that she refused to
    sign an oath stating she would devote her life to
    Jesus Christ

  • Emily Elizabeth Dickinson
  • Recluse? After Holyoke, she left home only for
    short trips to visit nearby relatives. Always
    wore white.
  • Ten poems published during life.
  • Relationships? Wrote passionate poetry.
  • Master
  • Sister-in-law Susan Gilbert
  • Dickinson died on May 15, 1886 of a kidney
  • After her death, her family found 40 hand-bound
    volumes containing more than 1,700 of her poems.

Emily Dickinson Puritan/Gothic
  • Represented a Puritan life belief systems while
    writings carry Gothic themes.
  • Reclusion and limited social interaction carries
    into writings.
  • Solitude, elements of nature, individual beliefs
  • Shakespeare, Emerson, Tennyson, Keats all sources
    of inspiration.
  • This is my letter to the World
  • The Soul selects her own Society
  • Theres a certain Slant of light-
  • I heard a Fly buzz-when I died-
  • Interrupted thoughts, phrases, descriptions.
  • Much Madness is the divinest Sense-
  • Because I could not stop for Death
  • Extended metaphor One thing represented as
    another throughout a whole piece.
    (Carriage-death/a body).

Southern Gothic
  • After the real horrors of the Civil War, the
    Gothic tradition lost its popularity.
  • During the 20th century, it made a comeback in
    the American South.
  • Authors like William Faulkner, Carson McCullers,
    Truman Capote, and Flannery OConnor are grouped
    together because of the gloom and pessimism of
    their fiction.