top-rated free essay

American Gothic Fiction

By 100fry100 Feb 07, 2011 808 Words
American Gothic Fiction
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Url: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Gothic_Fiction
American Gothic Fiction is a subgenre of Gothic Fiction. Elements specific to American Gothic include: rational vs irrational, puritanism, guilt, Das Unheimliche (strangeness within the familiar as defined by Sigmund Freud), abhumans, ghosts, monsters, and domestic abjection. The roots of these concepts lay in a past riddled with slavery, a fear of racial mixing (miscegenation), hostile Native American relations, their subsequent genocide, and the daunting wilderness present at the American frontier. American Gothic is often devoid of castles and objects which allude to a civilized history. Differentiating between horror and terror is important in the study of these texts. [edit] Analysis of Major Themes

The inability of many Gothic characters to overcome perversity by rational thought is quintessential American Gothic[1]. It is not uncommon for a protagonist to be sucked into the realm of madness because of his or her preference for the irrational. A tendency such as this flies in the face of higher reason and seems to mock transcendentalist thinking as outlined by "Common Sense (pamphlet)" and The Age of Reason. Also, one cannot ignore the contemporary Gothic themes of mechanism and automation that rationalism and logic lead to. Puritan imagery, particularly that of hell, acted as potent brain candy for authors like Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel HawthorneHYPERLINK \l "cite_note-A_Study_of_Hawthorne-1"[2]. The dark and nightmarish visions the Puritan culture of condemnation, reinforced by shame and guilt, created a lasting impact on the collective consciousness. Notions of predestination and original sin added to the doom and gloom of traditional Puritan values. This perspective and its underlying hold on American society ripened the blossoming of stories like "The Pit and the Pendulum", "Young Goodman Brown", and The Scarlet Letter. The Dungeons and endless corridors that are a hallmark of European Gothic are far removed from American Gothic in which castles are replaced with caves. Lloyd-Smith reinterprets Moby Dick to make this point convincingly[3]. Early settlers were overcome by fear linked to the unexplored territory which surrounded, and in some cases, engulfed them. Fear of the unknown stemming from environmental factors like darkness and vastness is notable in Charles Brockden Brown's Edgar Huntly. The emergence of the “abhuman” in American Gothic Fiction was closely coupled with Darwinism[4]. Ideas of evolution or devolution of a species; new biological knowledge and technological advancement created a fertile environment for many to question their essential humanity. Parallels between humans and every other living thing on the planet were made obvious by the aforementioned. This is manifest in stories like H.P. Lovecraft’s "The Outsider" and Nicholson Baker's "Subsoil". Ghosts and monsters are closely related to this theme, they function as the spiritual equivalent of the abhuman and may be evocative of unseen realities, as in The Bostonians. Julia Kristeva's explanation of jouissance and abjection is employed by American Gothic authors such as Charlotte Perkins GilmanHYPERLINK \l "cite_note-books.google.com-4"[5]. Kristeva theorizes that the expulsion of all things defiling, much like a corpse, is a common coping mechanism for humanity[5]. Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" exploits this concept. Furthermore, "The Yellow Wallpaper" reads like a social commentary on the oppressive conditions women suffered in their home lives at the turn of the century. [edit] Early American Gothic

Early American Gothic writers were particularly concerned with frontier wilderness anxiety and the lasting effects of a Puritanical society. "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving is perhaps the most famous example of American Colonial era horror fiction. As mentioned above Charles Brockden Brown was deeply affected by these circumstances, this is well evidenced by pieces such as Wieland (novel). Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Washington Irving are often grouped together[2]. They present impressive, albeit disturbing, portraits of the human experience by way of horror. Poe accomplished this through the window of a diseased and depressive fascination with the morose, Irving with the keen charm of a masterful storyteller, and Hawthorne with familial bonds to past abominations like the Salem Witch Trials which he addresses in "Custom House". [edit] Southern American Gothic

(See: Southern Gothic)
[edit] New American Gothic
Authors who fall under the category of "New American Gothic" include: Flannery O'Connor, John Hawkes, and J.D. Salinger. These writers rely on the use of private worlds to weave their Gothic intrigue, as such the destruction of the family unit is commonplace in the New American Gothic. The psyche becomes the setting in the microcosms this particular brand of horror creates[6]. Typically, these stories have a sort of "antihero"; an anxiety riddled individual of little admirable strength. These features are conspicuous in stories such as "A Good Man is Hard to Find", "The Laughing Man", Wise Blood, The Lime Twig, and The Beetle Leg

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • American Gothic Literature Mevlida

    ... American Gothic Literature Directions Please save this document before you begin working on the assignment. Type your answers directly in the document. _________________________________________________________________________ Part 1 Answer the following questions in complete sentences. (Each question is worth two points) 1. Why is For...

    Read More
  • Gothic Fiction

    ...Gothic fiction combines the elements of Horror and Romance. This genre consists of fear, darkness, heroes, villains, and love. If you ask me those are very contrasting subjects. The name “Gothic Fiction” comes from medieval architecture. That is why this style of writing took place mostly in the medieval era. The writing style p...

    Read More
  • Southern Gothic Fiction

    ...Sean Tinsley Eng 151C-33 3/08/2013 Southern Gothic Fiction is a genre of literature unique to the American south. Major influences of the genre itself were the culture, religion, and economic standing of the south at the beginning of the 20th century. Many who read southern gothic are transported into a grotesque fantasy world where ideas ...

    Read More
  • Gothic and Horror Fiction

    ...In this final assignment I will talk about the patriarchal fear of female sexuality. I will also be dealing with a brief summary of the female figure in the gothic novel. To begin with, I will give a brief summary of the changes that experimented the topics of the nineteenth century novel; then I will comment on the description which some schola...

    Read More
  • Gothic Fiction and Geraldine

    ...A Unique Analysis of “Christabel” In the year 1797 economic troubles filled the land and society of England. An era previously known for romantic/traditional literature, writers such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, began entertaining other forms. Samuel Taylor Coleridge took to the innovative gothic genre with his poem “Christabel”. The p...

    Read More
  • Gothic

    ...Oates short stories usually follow young characters through their struggles in life. There are many family imperfections in Oates stories that mostly tend to have a disturbing image in the readers head. While it seemed that Joyce Carol Oates experienced dark childhood experiences, she seems to explore her thoughts according to similar events tha...

    Read More
  • Carrie and Columbine: American Gothic

    ...juxtaposed we can see many similarities between the book ant the incident, the fact that they are gothic in nature in particular. Gothic Literature is a literary style made popular during the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th . This style usually portrayed fantastic tales dealing with horror, despair, the grotesque and oth...

    Read More
  • Gothic Or Not?

    ... Gothic literature is one of the most gruesome type of literature that exists in the world. Anything that falls into gothic literature explores taboo subjects such as murder, suicide, lost loves, haunting settings and grotesque characters. Stories or poems that are classified as Gothic Literature are put into that category because their...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.