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.
I would prefer participants to limit their focus on "literary" or "classic" gothic pieces of literature (poetry, short stories, novellas, novels). (Published before 1960) But I won't exclude your entry if you focus on more modern gothic literature.
I would encourage you to browse the Literary Gothic site between now and September so you can plan your reading accordingly. There are plenty of novels, short stories, poems, and novellas to choose from. And many are e-texts. (Though you should be able to find many at Amazon or your local library.)
Here are just a few examples:
- Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey
- Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights
- Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre
- Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
- Mary Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret
- Samuel Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner
- Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White
- Wilkie Collins' The Haunted Hotel
- Maria Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent
- Elizabeth Gaskell's Gothic Tales
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"
- Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow
- Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle
- H.P. Lovecraft...
- Matthew Lewis' The Castle Spectre
- Matthew Lewis' The Monk
- Edgar Allen Poe...
- John Polidori's The Vampyre
- Thomas Peacock's Nightmare Abbey
- Ann Radcliffe's The Italian
- Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho
- Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market
- William Shakespeare's Hamlet
- William Shakespeare's Macbeth
- Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
- Robert Louis Stevenson's The Body Snatcher
- Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
- Bram Stoker's Dracula
- Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews