Definitions of the term "GOTHIC"

Seminar Session

Goths - a German tribe

Romanticism - aestheticism

Supernatural elements

folk (fairy) tales (without happy end?)

provoke thought

mental state of protagonist is centered


Gothic fiction (sometimes referred to as Gothic horror) is a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. As a genre, it is generally believed to have been invented by the English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto. The effect of Gothic fiction depends on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of essentially Romantic literacy pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole's novel. Melodrama and parody (including self-parody) were other long-standing features of the Gothic initiated by Walpole. Gothic literature is intimately associated with the Gothic Revival architecture of the same era. In a way similar to the gothic revivalists' rejection of the clarity and rationalism of the neoclassical style of the Enlightened Establishment, the literary Gothic embodies an appreciation of the joys of extreme emotion, the thrills of fearfulness and awe inherent in the sublime, and a quest for atmosphere. The ruins of gothic buildings gave rise to multiple linked emotions by representing the inevitable decay and collapse of human creations— thus the urge to add fake ruins as eyecatchers in English landscape parks. English Protestants often associated medieval buildings with what they saw as a dark and terrifying period, characterized by harsh laws enforced by torture, and with mysterious, fantastic and superstitious rituals. In literature such Anti-Catholicism had a European dimension featuring Roman Catholic excesses such as the Inquisition (in southern European countries such as Italy and Spain).

Prominent features of Gothic fiction include terror (both psychological and physical), mystery, the supernatural, ghosts, haunted houses and Gothic architecture, castles, darkness, death, decay, doubles, madness, secrets and hereditary curses.

The stock characters of Gothic fiction include tyrants, villains, bandits, maniacs, Byronic heroes, persecuted maidens, femmes fatales, madwomen, magicians, vampires, werewolves, monsters, demons, revenants, ghosts, perambulating skeletons, the Wandering Jew and the Devil himself.

(Posted by Lars Schmeink, 01.10.2008)

Definition by Eric Gunter (Lamar University, 2007)

"Gothic literature, often considered a dark, supernatural sub-genre of Romanticism, manifests ideas of “creepy crawly bumps in the night.” But defining exactly what Gothic is and what literary works fit into its complicated nuances of categorization can be tedious, unconvincing, and arguable. With Gothic literature, problems develop when the genre itself, in all its different functions, symbols, motifs, and tropes, becomes convoluted and intermeshed with other types of genre." (Gunter 2007, S.3)

Gunter, Eric (2007): "A Definition of Gothic Literature" (22.10.2008)

(Posted by Helge Neuenhüsges, 22.10.2008)

Definition from "The Literature of Terror"

"In a literary context, "Gothic" is most usually applied to a group of novels written between the 1760s and the 1820s. Their autors are now, with few exceptions, not the object of much critical attention, although some names still stand out: Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, C. R. Maturin, Mary Shelley. As we shall see, there are important differences between the better-known Gothic novels; nonetheless, literary history has tended to group them together into a homogeneous body of fiction. When thinking of the Gothic novel, a set of characteristics springs readily to mind: an emphasis on portraying the terrifying, a common isistence on archaic settings, a prominent use of the supernatural, the presence of highly stereotyped characters and the attempt to deploy and perfect techniques of literary suspense are the most significant. Used in this sense, "Gothic" fiction is the fiction of the haunted castle, of heroines preyed on by unspeakable terrors, of the blackly lowering villain, of ghosts, vampires, monsters and werewolves."

Punter, David: The Literature of Terror - A History of Gothic Fictions from 1765 to the present day. London: Longman 1996.

(posted by Corinne Lehfeldt, 22.10.2008)

Definition by G.R. Thompson

"In literature, the word Gothic normally refers to the kind of work that seeks to create an atmosphere of mystery and terror through pronounced mental horror. Applied to fiction in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the primary and constant element of the term is terror or horror – terror suggesting frenzy and horror suggesting perception of something incredibly evil or repellent."

Thompson, G.R.: Poe’s Fiction. Romantic Irony in the Gothic Tales. Madison: The University Of Wisconsin Press 1973.

(posted by Thore Vollert, 23.10.2008)

Definition by Elizabeth Mac Andrew

"[…] inner evil is projected outward, but in such a manner that it will ultimately be apprehended as lurking in the shadows within us."

Mac Andrew, Elizabeth: The Gothic Tradition in Fiction. New York: Columbia University Press 1979.

(posted by Thore Vollert, 23.10.2008)

Victor Hugo's "Preface to Cromwell"

"[…] the modern muse will see things in a higher and broader light. It will realize that everything in creation is not humanly beautiful, that the ugly exists beside the beautiful, the unshapely beside the graceful, the grotesque on the reverse of the sublime, evil with good, darkness with light. […] All things are connected."

Hugo, Victor: Preface to Cromwell, in: Prefaces and Prologues. Vol. XXXIX. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son 1909–14.

(posted by Thore Vollert, 23.10.2008)

Nathaniel Hawthorne's introduction to "The Scarlet Letter"

"Moonlight, in a familiar room, falling so white upon the carpet, and showing all its figures so distinctly, - making every object so minutely visible, yet so unlike a morning or noontide visibility, - is a medium the most suitable for a romance-writer to get acquainted with his illusive guests. […] all these details, so completely seen, are so spiritualized by the unusual light, that they seem to lose their actual substance, and become things of intellect. Nothing is too small or too trifling to undergo this change, and acquire dignity thereby. […] Thus, therefore, the floor of our familiar room has become neutral territory, somewhere between the real world and fairy-land, where the Actual and the Imaginary may meet, and each imbue itself with the nature of the other. […] Then, at such an hour, and with this scene before him, if a man, sitting all alone, cannot dream strange things, and make them look like truth, he need never try to write romances."

Hawthorne, Nathaniel: The Scarlet Letter, in: Person, Leland S. (Hg.): The Scarlet Letter. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2005.

(posted by Thore Vollert, 23.10.2008)

"The Gothic Canon"

"Often criticized for its sensationalism, melodramatic qualities, and its play on the supernatural, the Gothic novel dominated English literature from its conception in 1764 with the publication of The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole to its 'supposed' demise in 1820. The genre drew many of its intense images from the graveyard poets intermingling a landscape of vast dark forest with vegetation that bordered on excessive, concealed ruins with horrific rooms, monasteries and a forlorn character who excels at the melancholy."

Zittaw Press, 2008: "The Gothic Canon"

(posted by Patrick Rowe, 24.10.2008)

Webster's Dictionary

Gothic: 1.of the Goths and their language 2.designating or of a style of architecture developed in Western Europe between the 12th and the 16th centuries and characterized by the use of ribbed vaulting, flying buttresses, pointed arches, steep roofs etc. 3.a) medieval b) not classical c) barbarous, uncivilized literature, using medieval locale, properties, local color etc. especially to produse and effect of horror and mystery

Source: Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language

And from what I recall from Dr. Rohr's lecture, gothic literature, especially Poe's works, focus on the abysmal depths of individual minds. Structures in stories are to evoke an elevation of the soul (terror, fear) in the reader, for instance, inanimate things coming to life; thus, everything is mystified and transformed to achieve that effect.

(Posted by Lene van Beeck, 23.10.2008)

Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

Gothic: (adj.)

1: Connected with the Goths (=a Germanic people who fought against the Roman Empire)

2: (architecture) built in the style that was popular in Western Europe from the 12th to the 16th centuries, and which has pointed arches and and windows and tall thin pillars: a gothic church

3: (of a novel, etc.) written in the style popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, which described romantic adventures in mysterious or frightening surroundings.

4: (of type and printing) having pointed letters with thick lines and sharp angles. German books used to be printed in this style.

5: connected with goths

(Posted by Sascha Bieber, 26.10.08)

Norton Anthology of English Literature

The Gothic begins with later-eighteenth-century writers' turn to the past; in the context of the Romantic period, the Gothic is, then, a type of imitation medievalism. When it was launched in the later eighteenth century, The Gothic featured accounts of terrifying experiences in ancient castles — experiences connected with subterranean dungeons, secret passageways, flickering lamps, screams, moans, bloody hands, ghosts, graveyards, and the rest. By extension, it came to designate the macabre, mysterious, fantastic, supernatural, and, again, the terrifying, especially the pleasurably terrifying, in literature more generally. Closer to the present, one sees the Gothic pervading Victorian literature (for example, in the novels of Dickens and the Brontës), American fiction (from Poe and Hawthorne through Faulkner), and of course the films, television, and videos of our own (in this respect, not-so-modern) culture.[...]

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(Posted by Daniela Schröder, 26.10.08)

Louis S. Gross - Redefining the American Gothic

Gothic fiction is first and foremost, literature where fear is the motivating and sustaining emotion. This fear is shared by the characters within the story and the reader. The Gothic thus examines the causes, qualities, and results of terror on both mind and body. It does so in a process of epistemological inquiry, and because it is concerned with the acquisition and internalizing of kinds of knowledge, the Gothic finds an appropriate vehicle in the quest narrative or, more specifically, the Erziehungsroman or narrative of education. Unlike the traditional narratives of this kind, however, the Gothic journey offers a darkened world where fear, oppression, and madness are the ways to knowledge and the uncontrolled transformation of one's character the quest's epiphany. While the classical quest ends in the regeneration of a decaying world and the integration of the hero into society, the Gothic quest ends in the shattering of the protagonists` image of his/her social/sexual roles and a legacy of, at best, numbing unease or, at worst, emotional paralysis and death. The Gothic may then be described as a demonic quest narrative.

Gross, Louis. S. Redefining the American Gothic from Wieland to Day of the Dead. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1989: 1.

(Posted by Julia Gatermann, 26.10.08)

The Columbia Encyclopedia

Gothic romance

Type of novel that flourished in the late 18th and early 19th cent. in England. Gothic romances were mysteries, often involving the supernatural and heavily tinged with horror, and they were usually set against dark backgrounds of medieval ruins and haunted castles. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole was the forerunner of the type, which included the works of Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Gregory Lewis, and Charles R. Maturin, and the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey satirizes Gothic romances. The influence of the genre can be found in some works of Coleridge, Le Fanu, Poe, and the Brontës. During the 1960s so-called Gothic novels became enormously popular in England and the United States. Seemingly modeled on Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, these novels usually concern spirited young women, either governesses or new brides, who go to live in large gloomy mansions populated by peculiar servants and precocious children and presided over by darkly handsome men with mysterious pasts. Popular practitioners of this genre are Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Catherine Cookson, and Dorothy Eden. 1 See studies by T. M. Harwell (4 vol., 1985) and D. P. Varma (1987).

“Gothic romance.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001–07.

(Posted by Nina Mengdehl, 26.10.08)

Gothic Literature

The English Gothic novel began with Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1765), which was enormously popular and quickly imitated by other novelists and soon became a recognizable genre. To most modern readers, however, The Castle of Otranto is dull reading; except for the villain Manfred, the characters are insipid; the action moves at a fast clip with no emphasis or suspense, despite the supernatural manifestations and a young maiden's flight through dark vaults. But contemporary readers found the novel electrifying original and thrillingly suspenseful, with its remote setting, its use of the supernatural, and its medieval trappings, all of which have been so frequently imitated and so poorly imitated that they have become stereotypes. The genre takes its name from Otranto's medieval–or Gothic–setting; early Gothic novelists tended to set their novels in remote times like the Middle Ages and in remote places like Italy (Matthew Lewis's The Monk, 1796) or the Middle East (William Beckford's Vathek, 1786).

What makes a work Gothic is a combination of at least some of these elements:

  • a castle, ruined or intact, haunted or not,
  • ruined buildings which are sinister or which arouse a pleasing melancholy,
  • dungeons, underground passages, crypts, and catacombs which, in modern houses, become spooky basements or attics,
  • labyrinths, dark corridors, and winding stairs,
  • shadows, a beam of moonlight in the blackness, a flickering candle, or the only source of light failing (a candle blown out or an electric failure),
  • extreme landscapes, like rugged mountains, thick forests, or icy wastes, and extreme weather,
  • omens and ancestral curses,
  • magic, supernatural manifestations, or the suggestion of the supernatural,
  • a passion-driven, wilful villain-hero or villain,
  • a curious heroine with a tendency to faint and a need to be rescued–frequently,
  • a hero whose true identity is revealed by the end of the novel,
  • horrifying (or terrifying) events or the threat of such happenings.

The Gothic creates feelings of gloom, mystery, and suspense and tends to the dramatic and the sensational, like incest, diabolism, and nameless terrors. Most of us immediately recognize the Gothic (even if we don't know the name) when we encounter it in novels, poetry, plays, movies, and TV series. For some of us--and I include myself, the prospect of safely experiencing dread or horror is thrilling and enjoyable.

Elements of the Gothic have made their way into mainstream writing. They are found in Sir Walter Scott's novels, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights and in Romantic poetry like Samuel Coleridge's "Christabel," Lord Byron's "The Giaour," and John Keats's "The Eve of St. Agnes." A tendency to the macabre and bizarre which appears in writers like William Faulkner, Truman Capote, and Flannery O'Connor has been called Southern Gothic.

"The Gothic Experience Page"

(Posted by Isabell Köster, 26.10.08)

The Gothic

No one has ever claimed that gothic texts offer examples of the best that has been thought and said in the world. More often the contrary. Indeed, it is as explorations of mysterious supernatural energies, immense natural forces, and deep, dark human fears and desires that gothic texts apparently found their appeal. Emerging at a time when enlightenment reason, science and empiricism were in the ascendancy, the attraction of Gothic darkness, passion, superstition or violence came from prohibition and taboos, and was not the positive expression of hidden natural instincts and wishes: the newly dominant order produced, policed and maintained its antitheses, opposites enabling the distinction and discrimination of its own values and anxieties. To study the worst that has been thought and said, then, manifests a different attitude towards value. It is not a matter of simply endorsing negative images in a malicious promotion of all things dark and destructive, though such an approach may be a nihilistic and, even, enjoyable posture in itself. Rather, it involves an analysis of the negatives represented by and in Gothic texts, a recognition that what is cast out by cultures is often as telling as what is celebrated by them.

Botting, Fred "Preface:The Gothic" in "Essays and Studies 2001" Cambride:D.S. Brewer, 2001: pg 2-3

(posted by Tanja Ehrlich 26.10.2008)

Gothic Novel

"[a] type of romantic fiction that predominated in English literature in the last third of the 18th century and the first two decades of the 19th century, the setting for which was usually a ruined Gothic castle or abbey (see Gothic Art and Architecture). The Gothic novel, or Gothic romance, emphasized mystery and horror and was filled with ghost-haunted rooms, underground passages, and secret stairways. The principal writers of the English Gothic romance were Horace Walpole, author of The Castle of Otranto (1764); Clara Reeve, who wrote The Champion of Virtue (1777); Ann Radcliffe, author of The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794); Matthew Gregory Lewis, author of Ambrosio, or the Monk (1796); Charles Robert Maturin, who wrote The Fatal Revenge (1807); and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein (1818). Charles Brockden Brown, the first American professional novelist, is best known for his Gothic romances. The genre was one phase of the literary movement of romanticism in English literature and was also the forerunner of the modern mystery novel (see Mystery Story). Later American writers who used Gothic elements in their fiction include Henry James, William Faulkner, and Flannery O'Connor. The term Gothic is also used to designate narrative prose or poetry of which the principal elements are violence, horror, and the supernatural. Many of the works of the late-20th-century American novelists Stephen King and Anne Rice demonstrate the continued influence and popularity of the Gothic form."

(posted by Jasmin Agyemang 26.19.2008)

Funk and Wagnalls New Enzyclopedia

Gothic Architecture

Term used to describe the architecture that developed from the Romanesque and spread throughout Europe in the beginning of the 12th century. Trademarks were the buttress, the flying buttress, the pointed arch and the ribbed vault.

Gothic Art

Term applied to the architecture, sculpture, painting and applied arts of Europe from approximately the 12th to the 15th century. The art of this period was derisively termed Gothic by Italian artists and critics of the Renaissance, who used the term as synonymous with barbaric and not in association with any tribe or nation of Goths or Germans. The use of the term Gothic established the persistent erroneous belief that the style of the 12th to 15th centuries originated in Germany; in truth, Gothic art originated in France and spread from France throughout Europe.

Gothic Language

Dead language constituting the eastern branch of the Germanic subfamily of Indo-European languages. Gothic was spoken by Ostrogoths of ancient Germanyand Italy; it was replaced by other Germanic tongues in the period between the 7th and the 9th centuries A.D. It is older than any other Germanic language, exepting, possibly, several of the Norse dialects.

Gothic Romance

Type of novel which predominated in English fiction in the last third of the 18th century and the first two decades of the 19th century, the setting for which was usually a ruined Gothic castle or abbey. The Gothic romance emphasized mystery and horror and made particular use of ghost-haunted wings, underground passages and secret stairways. The principal writers of the English Gothic romance were Horace Walpole, Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Gregory Lewis, Charles Robert Maturin, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Charles Brockden Brown, the first American professional novelist, is best known for his Gothic romances. The genre was one phase of the Romantic movement in English literature and was also the forerunner of the modern mystery novel. The term "Gothic" is used to designate narrative prose or poetry of which the principal elements are violence, horror and the supernatural.

(posted by Tim Eggert 26.10.2008)

Elements of the Gothic Novel by Robert Harris

The gothic novel was invented almost single-handedly by Horace Walpole, whose The Castle of Otranto (1764) contains essentially all the elements that constitute the genre. Walpole's novel was imitated not only in the eighteenth century and not only in the novel form, but it has influenced writing, poetry, and even film making up to the present day.

Gothic elements include the following

1. Setting in a castle. The action takes place in and around an old castle, sometimes seemingly abandoned, sometimes occupied. The castle often contains secret passages, trap doors, secret rooms, dark or hidden staircases, and possibly ruined sections. The castle may be near or connected to caves, which lend their own haunting flavor with their branchings, claustrophobia, and mystery. (Translated into modern filmmaking, the setting might be in an old house or mansion--or even a new house--where unusual camera angles, sustained close ups during movement, and darkness or shadows create the same sense of claustrophobia and entrapment.)

2. An atmosphere of mystery and suspense. The work is pervaded by a threatening feeling, a fear enhanced by the unknown. Often the plot itself is built around a mystery, such as unknown parentage, a disappearance, or some other inexplicable event. Elements 3, 4, and 5 below contribute to this atmosphere. (Again, in modern filmmaking, the inexplicable events are often murders.)

3. An ancient prophecy is connected with the castle or its inhabitants (either former or present). The prophecy is usually obscure, partial, or confusing. "What could it mean?" In more watered down modern examples, this may amount to merely a legend: "It's said that the ghost of old man Krebs still wanders these halls."

4. Omens, portents, visions. A character may have a disturbing dream vision, or some phenomenon may be seen as a portent of coming events. For example, if the statue of the lord of the manor falls over, it may portend his death. In modern fiction, a character might see something (a shadowy figure stabbing another shadowy figure) and think that it was a dream. This might be thought of as an "imitation vision."

5. Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events. Dramatic, amazing events occur, such as ghosts or giants walking, or inanimate objects (such as a suit of armor or painting) coming to life. In some works, the events are ultimately given a natural explanation, while in others the events are truly supernatural.

6. High, even overwrought emotion. The narration may be highly sentimental, and the characters are often overcome by anger, sorrow, surprise, and especially, terror. Characters suffer from raw nerves and a feeling of impending doom. Crying and emotional speeches are frequent. Breathlessness and panic are common. In the filmed gothic, screaming is common.

7. Women in distress. As an appeal to the pathos and sympathy of the reader, the female characters often face events that leave them fainting, terrified, screaming, and/or sobbing. A lonely, pensive, and oppressed heroine is often the central figure of the novel, so her sufferings are even more pronounced and the focus of attention. The women suffer all the more because they are often abandoned, left alone (either on purpose or by accident), and have no protector at times.

8. Women threatened by a powerful, impulsive, tyrannical male. One or more male characters has the power, as king, lord of the manor, father, or guardian, to demand that one or more of the female characters do something intolerable. The woman may be commanded to marry someone she does not love (it may even be the powerful male himself), or commit a crime.

9. The metonymy of gloom and horror. Metonymy is a subtype of metaphor, in which something (like rain) is used to stand for something else (like sorrow). For example, the film industry likes to use metonymy as a quick shorthand, so we often notice that it is raining in funeral scenes. Note that the following metonymies for "doom and gloom" all suggest some element of mystery, danger, or the supernatural.

wind especially howling, rain especially blowing, doors grating on rusty hinges, sighs, moans, howls, eerie sounds, footsteps approaching, clanking chains, lights in abandoned rooms, gusts of wind blowing out lights, characters trapped in a room, doors suddenly slamming shut, ruins of buildings, baying of distant dogs (or wolves?), thunder and lightning, crazed laughter

10. The vocabulary of the gothic. The constant use of the appropriate vocabulary set creates the atmosphere of the gothic. Here as an example are some of the words (in several categories) that help make up the vocabulary of the gothic in The Castle of Otranto:

Mystery: diabolical, enchantment, ghost, goblins, haunted, infernal, magic, magician, miracle, necromancer, omens, ominous, portent, preternatural, prodigy, prophecy, secret, sorcerer, spectre, spirits, strangeness, talisman, vision

Fear, Terror, or Sorrow :afflicted, affliction, agony, anguish, apprehensions, apprehensive, commiseration, concern, despair, dismal, dismay, dread, dreaded, dreading, fearing, frantic, fright, frightened, grief, hopeless, horrid, horror, lamentable, melancholy, miserable, mournfully, panic, sadly, scared, shrieks, sorrow, sympathy, tears, terrible, terrified, terror, unhappy, wretched

Surprise: alarm, amazement, astonished, astonishment, shocking, staring, surprise, surprised, thunderstruck, wonder

Haste: anxious, breathless, flight, frantic, hastened, hastily, impatience, impatient, impatiently, impetuosity, precipitately, running, sudden, suddenly

Anger: anger, angrily, choler, enraged, furious, fury, incense, incensed, provoked, rage, raving, resentment, temper, wrath, wrathful, wrathfully

Largeness: enormous, gigantic, giant, large, tremendous, vast

Elements of Romance

In addition to the standard gothic machinery above, many gothic novels contain elements of romance as well. Elements of romance include these:

1. Powerful love. Heart stirring, often sudden, emotions create a life or death commitment. Many times this love is the first the character has felt with this overwhelming power.

2. Uncertainty of reciprocation. What is the beloved thinking? Is the lover's love returned or not?

3. Unreturned love. Someone loves in vain (at least temporarily). Later, the love may be returned.

4. Tension between true love and father's control, disapproval, or choice. Most often, the father of the woman disapproves of the man she loves.

5. Lovers parted. Some obstacle arises and separates the lovers, geographically or in some other way. One of the lovers is banished, arrested, forced to flee, locked in a dungeon, or sometimes, disappears without explanation. Or, an explanation may be given (by the person opposing the lovers' being together) that later turns out to be false.

6. Illicit love or lust threatens the virtuous one. The young woman becomes a target of some evil man's desires and schemes.

7. Rival lovers or multiple suitors. One of the lovers (or even both) can have more than one person vying for affection.


(posted by Nina Mengdehl, 26.10.08)

Gothic Literature: An Overview | Introduction

The origins of Gothic literature can be traced to various historical, cultural, and artistic precedents[...] However, while these elements were present in literature and folklore prior to the mid-eighteenth century, when the Gothic movement began, it was the political, social, and theological landscape of eighteenth-century Europe that served as an impetus for this movement. Edmund Burke's treatise A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) introduced the concept of increasing appreciation for the nature of experiences characterized by the "sublime" and "beautiful" by depicting and then engaging (vicariously) in experiences comprised of elements that are contrary in nature, such as terror, death, and evil. Writers composed Gothic narratives during this period largely in response to anxiety over the change in social and political structure brought about by such events as the French Revolution, the rise in secular-based government, and the rapidly changing nature of the everyday world brought about by scientific advances and industrial development, in addition to an increasing aesthetic demand for realism rather than folklore and fantasy. The Gothic worlds depicted fears about what might happen, what could go wrong, and what could be lost by continuing along the path of political, social, and theological change, as well as reflecting the desire to return to the time of fantasy and belief in supernatural intervention that characterized the Middle Ages. In some cases Gothic narratives were also used to depict horrors that existed in the old social and political order—the evils of an unequal, intolerant society. In Gothic narratives writers were able to both express the anxiety generated by this upheaval and, as Burke suggested, increase society's appreciation and desire for change and progress.

Source: "Gothic Literature: An Overview: Introduction." Gothic Literature. Ed. Jessica Bomarito. 1, 2006. 2006. 26 Oct, 2008

(posted by Ruby Salvatore 26.10.08)

The New Encyclopeadia Britannica

Gothic novel

European Romantic, pseudomedieval fiction having a prevailing atmosphere of mystery and terror. Its heyday was the 1790s, but it underwent frequent revivals in subsequent centuries. Called Gothic because its imaginative impulse was drawn from medieval buildings and ruins, such novels commonly used such settings as castles or monasteries equipped with subterranean passages, dark battlements, hidden panels, and trapdoors. The vogue was initiated by Horace Walpole's immensly succesful The Castle of Otranto (1765). His most respectable follower was Ann Radcliffem whose Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and Italian (1797) are among the best examples of the genre. A more sensational type of Gothic flourished in Germany and was introduced to to England by Matthew Gregory Lewis with The Monk (1796). Other landmarks of Gothic fiction are William Beckford's Oriental romance Vathek (1786) and Charles Robert Maturin's story of an Irish Faust, Melmoth the Wanderer (1820). The classic horror stories Frankenstein (1818), by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and Dracula (1897), by Bram Stoker, are in the Gothic tradition but without the sepcifically Gothic trappings.

Easy targets for satire, the early Gothic romances died of their own extravagances of plot, but Gothic atmospheric machinery continued to haunt the fiction of such major writers as the Bronte sisters, Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and even Dickens in the second half of the 20th century, the term was applied to paperback romances having the same kind of trappings similar to the originals.

Source:The New Encyplopaedia Britannica, 15th edition (1987). S.384.

(posted by Kirsten Hinzpeter, 27.10.08)

The Concise Oxford Dictionary (Oxford University, 1963)

Goth'ic, a. & n. 1. Of the Goths or their language. 2. (Archit.) in the pointed-arch style prevalent in Western Europe in the 12th-16th cc., including in england an Early English, Decorated, & Perpendicular (orig. sense not classical). 3. Barbarous, rude uncouth. 4. (Print., a. & n.) German, also black-letter, (type); hence Goth'ically adv.,~ism(2,3,4)n.,~ize(2.3)v.i.&t. 5. n. ~language ; ~architecure ; ~type. [f. L Gothicus (GOTH, -IC)]

(Posted by Moritz Mohazab, 27.10.2008)


"To some, goth is a style of dress; to others it's a lifestyle. Either way, the gothic look involves very black clothing and very white makeup with edgy, tough accessories. Prime example of classic gothic style: Marilyn Mansion."


(Posted by Juliane John, 27.10.2008)