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Southern Gothic


Background Takes classic Gothic archetypes, ... Outsider Southern novels are filled with characters who are set a part from the established cultural pattern, ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Southern Gothic

Southern Gothic
  • in American Literature

Elements of Gothic Fiction
  • What elements of Gothic fiction can you recall
    from last semester?

Elements of Gothic Fiction
  • Setting in a castle.
  • An atmosphere of mystery and suspense.
  • An ancient prophecy
  • Omens, portents, visions.
  • Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events.
  • High, even overwrought emotion.
  • Women in distress.
  • Women threatened by a powerful, impulsive,
    tyrannical male.
  • The metonymy of gloom and horror.
  • The vocabulary of the gothic.

  • Gothic literature was a reaction to Enlightenment
    rationalism, which was concerned with classical
    principles and scientific progress.
  • Gothic novels drew upon the conventions of the
    medieval (chivalric) romances that told of
    knights battling with magic and monsters.
  • Presented a protagonists immersion into a dark,
    horrific realm
  • Reintroduced supernatural elements into fiction.

  • Sub-genre of the Gothic style
  • Popular in Europe in 1800s
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Unique to American literature
  • relies on supernatural, ironic or unusual events
    to guide the plot
  • uses these to explore social issues and reveal
    the cultural character of the American South.

  • Takes classic Gothic archetypes, such as the
    monster or the heroic knight, and turns them into
    American Southerners
  • a spiteful, reclusive spinster an uneducated
  • a quiet, wise lawyer
  • Most notable feature is the grotesque
  • a character whose negative qualities allow the
    author to highlight unpleasant aspects in
    Southern culture.
  • Something in the town, the house, the farm is
    bizarre and often falling apart

  • The Grotesque
  • includes situations, places, or stock characters
    that often possess some truly awful qualities--
    typically racial bigotry and egotistical
    self-righteousness-- but enough good traits that
    they are nevertheless interesting.
  • Southern Gothic authors commonly use deeply
    flawed, grotesque characters for greater
    narrative range and more opportunities to
    highlight unpleasant aspects of Southern culture,
    without being too literal or appearing to be
    overly moralistic.

Defining Feature
  • Cast of off-kilter characters
  • Broken bodies, minds or souls
  • Used to symbolize problems created by the
    established pattern
  • Used to question established patterns morality
    and ethical justification
  • The Innocent is a common character, who may or
    may not be broken, but who often acts as a
    redeemer for others

Other Specific Features of Southern Gothic
  • Freakishness
  • Outsider
  • Imprisonment
  • Violence
  • Sense of Place

  • In most southern gothic stories, there is an
    important character who is set apart from the
    world by in a negative way by a disability or an
    odd, and often negative way of seeing the world.

  • Southern novels are filled with characters who
    are set a part from the established cultural
    pattern, but who end up being heroes because
    their difference allows them to see new ways of
    doing things that ultimately help to bring people
    out of the dark.

  • This is often both literal and figurative.
  • Many southern gothic tales include an incident
    where a character is sent to jail or locked up.
  • There are also Southern gothic characters that
    live in fate's prison.

  • Racial, social and class difference often create
    underlying tension in Southern gothic novels that
    threatens, and usually does, erupt in violent ways

Sense of Place
  • You cant read a Southern Gothic novel without
    understanding what a Southern town feels like
  • old small towns
  • Houses have front porches with rocking chairs
  • Old downtown with stately but worn-down buildings

The End
As you are reading A Streetcar Named Desire and
other Southern Gothic selections over the next
few weeks, continue to ask yourself what elements
are present?