Gothic Literature

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The gothic style originated in Europe during the 12th to the 18th century. It applied to medieval styles of art and architecture, particularly buildings such as cathedrals and other churches. Gothic literature began in England with the novel the ‘Castle of Oranto’ by Horace Walpole. From this novel, gothic fiction developed and flourished, becoming a significant literary genre that inspired famous works such as Frankenstein, Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Gothic texts share the central theme of horror, and incorporate elements of romanticism to create a dark, mysterious atmosphere and evoke feelings of fear within the reader.

Gothic literature is, in essence, a genre which aims to create vivid moods and appeal to human emotions. It uses sensory language to create an atmosphere of foreboding and horror in order to create a feeling of terror. An important aspect of gothic texts is the heightened passion and sensibilities combined with an element of melodrama, a characteristic of the genre which renders it susceptible to parody and satire. The setting and characters are pivotal features in gothic literature and are used to reinforce the gothic theme whilst building suspense and intriguing the reader.

The setting of gothic literature is a stereotype perpetuated within all texts of the genre. A typical gothic tale will be set in a place with a dark, sinister mood and a menacing feel. An old castle especially ruined or haunted, with secret passageways, labyrinths, crypts and dungeons, is a major convention of the gothic genre. The building is usually decrepit, and can have winding staircases, dark corridors and spooky attics. To increase the eerie feel of the setting, the light in the castle or ruins is often dim and flickering, with creepy shadows on the wall, or sources of light suddenly extinguishing. The setting of a gothic novel is a key aspect in creating the atmosphere of the text and arousing fear, two of the most important features of the genre....
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