Sunday, October 13, 2019
The Gothic Genre and What it Entails Essay -- Gothic Criticism
"The invaluable works of our elder writers re driven into neglect by frantic novels, sickly and stupid German Tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse. The human mind is capable of being excited without the application of gross and violent stimulants.." William Wordsworth, Preface to The Lyrical Ballads, 1802. "..Phantasmagoric kind of fiction, whatever one may think of it, is not without merit: 'twas the inevitable result of revolutionary shocks throughout Europe thus to compose works of interest, one had to call on the aid of Hell itself, and to find things familiar in the world of make believe.." Marquis (Donatien Alphonse) de Sade, "Reflections on the Novel.", 1800. Gothic literature has been an area of critical contention since Horace Walpole's seminal Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, was published in 1764. Although vilified by much of the contemporary press the Gothic had its champions, many of whom were also its practitioners including Walpole, the subsequent generation's Anne Radcliffe and the Marquis de Sade who had his own brand of highly sexualized Gothic. Despite these voices, Gothic was still a marginalised genre in its incipient days, at least in the bulk of critical writing (this is the view of most contemporary historical overviews e.g.: Sage, Botting, Kilgour). Many critics writing at the time of the Romantic Gothic (i.e: Gothic written during the arbitrary period of Romanticism) considered such novels to be sensationalist, trashy and "completely expurgated of any of the higher qualities of mind" (Peacock quoted in Sage, 11). I think this is an unfair judgemen... ...------------------------------------  Most quality Gothic books are likewise referential or intertextual. Frankenstein draws on a rich lineage of Romantic favourites from Milton to Goethe through Godwin up to Percy Shelley. It is from these books the monster learns his culture thus his humanity. Melmoth has frequent allusions to contemporary romance e.g.: "Romances have made one familiar with tales of subterranean passages and supernatural horrors." (Maturin, 191).  The same thing occurs in Pier Paolo Pasolini's film version of 120 Days via the use of altered lighting, camera angles and wall paintings to the subtle distortion of the physical surroundings.  The Midnight Bell by Francis Lathom. David Punter, in The Literature of Terror, refers to it as one of a "morass" that "flooded the market" (114).