AD's English Literature : Elements of Gothic Literature: Mystery and Horror

Elements of Gothic Literature: Mystery and Horror

"The first thing that struck Manfred's eyes was a group of his servants endeavouring to raise something that appeared to him a mountain of sable plumes. He gazed without believing his sight. What are ye doing? cried Manfred, wrathfully: Where is my son? A volley of voices replied, Oh, my lord! the prince! the prince! the helmet! the helmet! Shocked with these lamentable sounds, and dreading he knew not what, he advanced hastily—But what a sight for a father's eyes!—He beheld his child dashed to pieces, and almost buried under an enormous helmet, an hundred times more large than any casque ever made for human being, and shaded with a proportionable quantity of black feathers."-

From The Castle of Otranto By Horace Walpole
A Gothic Story Chapter I
  Gothic literature , the setting for which was usually a ruined Gothic castle or abbey, is a type of romance very popular from the 1760s onwards until the 1820s. The Gothic novel, or Gothic romance, emphasized mystery and horror and was filled with ghost-haunted rooms, underground passages, and secret stairways. It has had a considerable influence of fiction since and is of much importance in the evolution of the ghost story and the horror story.

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). One of the earliest examples of Tobias Smollett’s Ferdinand Count Fathom (1753), very probably the first novel – a form then newly developed – to propose terror and cruelty as its main themes. Much
better known than this is Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), which h3e wrote in his house at Strawberry Hill, Twickonham, near London. Walpole (1717-97) settled there in 1747. He made his abode into a little Gothic cantle and established a private press. ‘Strawberry Hill Gothic’ becomes a common term for any example of romantic Gothicized architecture of the period. This was the era of the Gothic revival in architecture, brought about by a renewed and romantic interest in the medieval. 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. 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.

Most Gothic novels are tales of mystery and horror, intended to chill the spine and curdle the blood. They contain a strong element of the supernatural and have all or most of the now familiar topography, sites props, presences and happenings: wild and desolate landscapes, dark forests, ruined abbeys, feudal halls and medieval castles with dungeons, secret passages, winding stairways, oubliette, sliding panels and torture chambers; monstrous apparitions and curses, a stupefying atmosphere of doom and gloom; heroes and heroines in the direst of imaginable straits, wicked tyrants, malevolent witches, demonic powers of unspeakably hideous aspect, and a proper complement of spooky effects and clanking specters…. The whole apparatus in fact that has the cinema and much third-rate fiction going for years, is to be found in these tales. The most popular sold in great quantities and they were read avidly. 

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