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Gothic Literature and The Sublime


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Title: Gothic Literature and The Sublime

Gothic Literature and The Sublime
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • 1749-1832
  • Writer
  • Very influential
  • One of the first writers to rebel against the
    principles of Neo-Classicism, Goethe used both
    poetry and prose to express the most turbulent
    emotions (Culture and Values p. 451)
  • Leader of the Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress)
    literary movement in Gemany
  • Main works
  • The Sorrows of Young Werther (1787)
  • The play Faust (in two parts) (1806 1828)
  • Gardners quotes Goethe "Trust your heart rather
    than your head. Feeling is all! Source
    Gardner's Art Through the Ages, 11th ed. pp.

Sturm und Drang
  • German literary movement during the Romantic
  • rebelled against the formal structure and order
    of Neo-Classicism, replacing it with an emphasis
    on originality, imagination, and feelings.
    (Culture and Values p. 451)
  • Its chief subjects were nature, primitive
    emotions, and protest against established
    authority. (Culture and Values p. 451)

German Romantic Opera
  • Webers Der Freischütz
  • Singspeil (opera with spoken dialogue)
  • esp. the Wolfs glen scene
  • casting magic bullets
  • dark forests
  • satanic forces
  • show the video excerpt

What is Romanticism
  • nostalgia for idealized past
  • interest in exotic, distant lands
  • man is inherently good
  • emphasis on nature, emotion, intuition,
  • commitment to political and social freedom
  • Source Adams Exploring the Humanities p. 495

Romanticism is more a set of characteristics than
an era (see p. 426)
  • The expression of personal feelings
  • Self-Analysis
  • Love of the Fantastic and Exotic
  • Interest in Nature
  • Nationalism and Political Commitment
  • Erotic Love and the Eternal Feminine

Love of the Fantastic and Exotic The Beauty of
the Medusa grotesque, gloomy, melancholy,
  • Head of Medusa at the Uffizi Gallery
  • Flemish School (formerly attributed to Leonardo
    da Vinci)
  • P.B. Shelley poem On the Medusa of Leonardo da
    Vinci in the Florentine Gallery
  • 1.?It lieth, gazing on the midnight sky,?Upon the
    cloudy mountain-peak supine?Below, far lands are
    seen tremblingly?Its horror and its beauty are
    divine.?Upon its lips and eyelids seems to lie
    ?Loveliness like a shadow, from which
    shine,?Fiery and lurid, struggling
    underneath,?The agonies of anguish and of death.
  • 2.?Yet it is less the horror than the grace?Which
    turns the gazer's spirit into stone, ?Whereon the
    lineaments of that dead face?Are graven, till the
    characters be grown?Into itself, and thought no
    more can trace?'Tis the melodious hue of beauty
    thrown?Athwart the darkness and the glare of
    pain,?Which humanize and harmonize the strain.

Graveyards and Insanity might be beautiful
  • P.B. Shelley from Hymn to Intellectual Beauty
  • P.B. Shelley The Waning Moon
  • (1820)
  • While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
  • Through many a listening chamber, cave, and ruin
  • And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
  • Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
  • Sudden, thy shadow fell on me
  • I shrieked, and clasped my hands in ecstasy!
  • And like a dying lady, lean and pale,
  • Who totters forth, wrapped in a gauzy veil,
  • Out of her chamber, led by the insane
  • And feeble wanderings of her fading brain,
  • The moon arose up in the murky East,
  • A white and shapeless mass --

The Sublime
  • Friedrich Arctic Shipwreck (1823)
  • Burke's A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin
    of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful -
    (1756 1759)
  • Sublime
  • excites the ideas of pain, danger, terrible,
  • produces the strongest emotions the mind can feel
  • vastness of dimensions, ruggedness, massiveness,
  • unleashes passions like terror
  • Pleasant Terror?
  • we must be in no real danger-
  • Pain and Terror cause the Sublime as long as they
    are not really harmful
  • Sublime horror cannot possess us, can not harm us
  • Source Eco History of Beauty p. 291

The Sublime
  • Friedrich Monk by the Sea (1808)
  • Kants Sublime
  • Mathematical Sublime
  • starry sky gives us the impression that it goes
    on forever. This is because reason postulates an
    infinity which is beyond the reach of our
    imagination. This collapses the "free play"
    between imagination, reason and intellect which
    creates a disturbing negative pleasure.
  • Dynamic Sublime
  • the sight of a storm
  • infinite power (rather than vastness) shakes us
    here, but our soul rises up courageous and we
    measure ourselves against the seeming omnipotence
    of nature.

The Sublime
  • Friedrich The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818)
  • Friedrich von Schiller from On the Sublime (1801)
  • ...the Sublime ... is composed of a sense of
    sorrow whose extreme expression is manifested as
    a shudder and a feeling of joy .... This
    combination of two contradictory perceptions in a
    single feeling is irrefutable proof of our moral
  • Source Eco History of Beauty p. 297

Toward the Gothic
  • Friedrich Abbey in an Oak Forest (1809-10)
  • ruins as beautiful
  • Jane Austen (1775-1817) Northanger Abbey
  • written c. 1798, but not published till 1817
  • "Northanger turned up an abbey, and she was to be
    its inhabitant. Its long, damp passages, its
    narrow cells and ruined chapel, were to be within
    her daily reach, and she could not entirely
    subdue the hope of some traditional legends, some
    awful memorials of an injured and ill-fated nun."
  • from chapter 17

  • Füssli The Nightmare (1781)
  • Friedrich von Schiller from On Tragic Art (1792)
  • It is a general phenomenon of our nature that
    sad, terrible, and even horrible things have an
    irresistible attraction for us and that scenes
    of suffering and terror repel and attract us with
    equal power.
  • We eagerly devour the most adventurous ghost
    story, and the more it makes our hair stand on
    end, the greater our eagerness.
  • This impulse of the spirit is all the more
    manifest when we are faced with reality. Seen
    from the shore, a storm that causes and entire
    fleet to sink would delight our imagination with
    the same power with which it would agitate the
    sentiments of our heart
  • source Eco History of Beauty p. 289

View of Norton Anthology of English
Literature source http//
  • "The Gothic," another topic for this period, is
    also a prominent and distinctive element in the
    writings of the Romantic Age.
  • The mode had originated in novels of the
    mid-eighteenth century that, in radical
    opposition to the Enlightenment ideals of order,
    decorum, and rational control, had opened to
    literary exploration the realm of nightmarish
    terror, violence, aberrant psychological states,
    and sexual rapacity.
  • In the first Gothic novel, Horace Walpole's The
    Castle of Otranto (1764), the ominous
    hero-villain had embodied aspects of Satan, the
    fallen archangel in Milton's Paradise Lost.
  • This satanic strain was developed by later
    writers and achieved its apotheosis in the
    creation of a new and important cultural
    phenomenon, the compulsive, grandiose,
    heaven-and-hell-defying Byronic hero.
  • In many of its literary products, the Gothic mode
    manifested the standard setting and events,
    creaky contrivances, and genteel aim of provoking
    no more than a pleasurable shudder a convention
    Jane Austen satirized in Northanger Abbey.
  • Literary Gothicism also, however, produced
    enduring classics that featured such demonic,
    driven, and imaginatively compelling protagonists
  • Byron's Manfred (NAEL 8, 2.63668),
  • Frankenstein's Creature in Mary Shelley's novel,
  • Heathcliff in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights,
  • and, in America, Captain Ahab in Melville's

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelleys Frankenstein
  • In 1816, at 18, she and Percy Shelley visit Byron
    at Villa Diodati near lake Geneva, Switzerland
  • They are not yet married.
  • Tell ghost stories to each other
  • Frankenstein, the novel, written 1816-1818

Frankensteins monster
  • Theodor von Holst from the 1831 edition
  • Boris Karloff from the 1931 film