May 13, 2017, 12:52pm
Gothic Literature and the Origins of Goth
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As most of you know, the gothic subculture as we know it was born out of the music scene of the late '70s and '80s, but it takes its name (and parts of its aesthetic) from a much older tradition. The term "gothic" was borrowed from the Gothic literature movement of the 18th and 19th centuries and the related Gothic Revival architectural movement. Both movements were kicked off in the mid-1700s by the author Horace Walpole.

Horace Walpole was an English aristocrat who decided that he wanted to live in a medieval palace. Mimicking the turrets and arched windows of earlier castles and cathedrals, he built Strawberry Hill House on his estate in London in 1749 (pictured below). A couple of decades later, he wrote The Castle of Otranto, a tale of murder, ghosts, and spooky castles widely considered to be the first Gothic novel.



After Horace Walpole, a number of other 18th-century writers hopped onto the Gothic bandwagon. One of the most prolific of these was Ann Radcliffe, matriarch of the Female Gothic movement. Her most famous novels are The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Romance of the Forest. In her writing, Radcliffe espoused a style based on "terror," which involved slow-mounting suspense and dread. In contrast, one of the other major Gothic writers of the day, Matthew Lewis, published The Monk which exemplified the shock and gore of the "horror" school of writing.

Moving into the 19th century is when we get to the Gothic literature that is still popular with readers today. In 1818, Mary Shelley published Frankenstein, which combined Gothic elements with the emerging genre of science fiction. Meanwhile, Shelley's friend Lord Byron helped to popularize brooding poetry and the dark and mysterious figure of the Byronic hero. The heyday of the Gothic novel had ended by this point, but writers such as Edgar Alan Poe helped to modify the genre and bring it into the Victorian era. The most famous Gothic novel, however, comes at the very tail end of this time period: Bram Stoker's Dracula, published in 1897, which sparked a long tradition of vampire and monster fiction. These early works led to creation of the diversity of dark and spooky genres that are loved by many members of the gothic subculture today, from horror, to mystery, dark fantasy, paranormal romance, and many others.



You can learn more about Gothic literature on my blog, TheGothicLibrary.com, and stick around for more book-related featured content from me on VampireFreaks.
Edited by TheGothicLibrarian on May 13, 2017, 12:54pm
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Oct 04, 2017, 12:10pm

interesting <3 i knew some of this but not all and i love learning and learning from the subculture :-)
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Jan 17, 2018, 11:22pm

This is very interesting.....never knew any of it..thank you
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Feb 27, 2018, 09:29pm

Thanks, batwriter79!
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Mar 30, 2018, 01:51pm

It´s a hard stuff to difference what is gothic or not in literature, even in music. I´ve been arguing about it sooo many times. It could take us hours and hours talking about it. One thing is very clear, at least from my point of view. All Gothic is Romantic, but not all Romantic is Gothic, but any Romantic author has written minimum one Gothic work. So, both "movements" are linked along history. A Gothic underrated author is Thomas Hardy and even Shakespeare, two clear examples of extreme Gothic style.
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Mar 30, 2018, 01:57pm

...some people still think that Moby Dick is a simple story about a whale and a monomaniac fisherman , and pooor whale....and it´s a damned superb gothic novel...
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Apr 02, 2018, 10:32am

JudetheObscure I absolutely agree that it’s pretty tough to define what is and isn’t Gothic. I tend to use a bundle definition, so if it meets a certain amount of characteristics, then I would count it, but even then it gets pretty wishy washy.

I wouldn’t consider Shakespeare officially Gothic, since he was writing long before the start of the Gothic literary movement, but many of his works are definitely proto-Gothic (especially Hamlet and Macbeth) and had profound effects on later Gothic writings.

There is definitely a huge amount of overlap between Gothic and the Romantics, though I’d hesitate to say that every Romantic writer wrote something Gothic. I don’t think Wordsworth did, for example.
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Apr 02, 2018, 12:13pm

Check, The Thorn by Wordsworth, bit it is true that Wordsworth wasn't a poet with a prolific gothic imagery
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Apr 02, 2018, 03:32pm

JudeTheObscure Wow, I’d never come across that Wordsworth poem before. Certainly more Gothic than his usual style. Thanks for sharing!
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Apr 02, 2018, 03:35pm

That's The reason I told you about the idea that at some point any Romantic wrote some Gothic piece.
Thanks to you for keeping literature alive!!
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Apr 02, 2018, 03:46pm

As I said in another forum, I would like to translate some Thomas Hardy's poems into my native language to be published , choosing the darkest ones. I've got all his collected Poems but I need to make a selection. 50 of them would do it oooo
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Apr 08, 2018, 06:44am

What about The Graveyard Poets in England in the 18th century??...they were called Pre-Romantics...fucking etiquettes..!!! They were pure goths and romantics.
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Apr 09, 2018, 03:29pm

JudeTheObscure I love the Graveyard Poets! Some of them were quite close friends with the original officially-“Gothic” authors, too. I wrote a featured post a while back about how Graveyard Poet Thomas Gray wrote this over-the-top elegy for Horace Walpole’s pet cat.
Let me dig it up....
https://vampirefreaks.com/journal_entry/8831203
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Jun 02, 2018, 12:56pm

Thank you for the history! A quick Google seems to say that works published before 1922 are considered to be in the Public Domain.. (I had to double check this.) I'm going to take a look around later online for PDFs, and also in the Nook and Kindle store.. there are probably a few ways to get some of these stories for free. I never did the whole "summer reading" thing, but I'd consider going from oldest to newest on this list.
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Jun 04, 2018, 03:40pm

Teufelzug Yes! You can find quite a few of the early Gothic novels for free online. Check out Project Gutenberg. I know they have The Castle of Otranto, The Mysteries of Udolpho, and The Monk
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Posts: 2
Jun 19, 2018, 07:15am

I love gothic music I love funeral Doom
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Gothic Literature and the Origins of Goth  
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