19. THE GOTHIC NOVEL

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The Gothic Novel
James Ward, Gordale Scar, 1814, London, Tate Gallery.
The Gothic novel
1. The origin of the name
It came to popularity at the end of the 18th century
The adjective “Gothic” 
three connotations
Medieval, linked to the
architecture of the
12th-14th centuries
Irregular, barbarous,
opposed to
Classicism
The Prose and the Passion
Wild, supernatural,
in the sense of
mysterious
The Gothic novel
2. Influences
Industrial exploitation
The 18thcentury society
• Destruction of the single human
being
• Man as a slave to forces he could
not control
• Gothic symbols as denunciation of
social problems
The Prose and the Passion
The Gothic novel
2. Influences
• As a celebration of terror
The “sublime”
• As a rejection of
constraints and limits
• As exploration of
forbidden areas
The Prose and the Passion
The Gothic novel
3. The setting
• Great importance given to
terror, characterised by
obscurity and uncertainty,
and horror, caused by evil
and atrocity.
• Darkness necessary
ingredient for the mysterious,
gloomy atmosphere.
Jonathan Barry, Udolpho Castle, 1993, private collection.
The Prose and the Passion
The Gothic novel
3. The setting
• Ancient settings  isolated
castles and mysterious
abbeys with hidden
passages, underground
cellars, secret rooms.
• Catholic countries as the
setting for the most terrible
crimes, due to Protestant
prejudices against
Catholicism.
A drawing depicting the Gothic staircase at
Strawberry Hill, near London.
The Prose and the Passion
The Gothic novel
4. The characters
 Characters  dominated
by exaggerated reactions
in front of mysterious
situations or events.
 Supernatural beings 
vampires, monsters and
ghosts.
Henry Fuseli (Johann Heinrich Füssli),
The Nightmare, 1781, Goethe Museum, Frankfurt
The Prose and the Passion
The Gothic novel
4. The characters
 Sensitive heroes  they
save heroines.
 Heroines  stricken by
unreal terrors and
persecuted by the villains.
 Satanic, terrifying male
characters, victims of
their negative impulses.
Henry Fuseli (Johann Heinrich Füssli),
The Nightmare, 1781, Goethe Museum, Frankfurt
The Prose and the Passion
The Gothic novel
5. The language
Semantic
areas
Words
Mystery
enchantment, ghost, haunted, infernal, magic,
secret, spectre, vision
Fear/ Terror/
Sorrow
agony, anguish, apprehensions, despair, dread,
fearing, frightened, hopeless, horror, melancholy,
miserable, panic, sadly, scared, shrieks, sorrow,
tears, terror, unhappy, wretched
Haste
anxious, breathless, frantic, hastily, impatient,
running, suddenly
Anger
anger, enraged, furious, rage, resentment, wrath
Largeness
enormous, gigantic, large, tremendous, vast
The Prose and the Passion
The Gothic novel
6. First Gothic authors
• Horace Walpole  The Castle of Otranto (1764)
• Ann Radcliffe  The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
• Matthew Lewis  The Monk (1796)
• Mary Shelley  Frankenstein (1818)
The Prose and the Passion
The Gothic novel
7. Popularity
• Great interest during the 18th century common to all
strata of society.
• The features of Gothic novels preserved in modern
and contemporary descendents of this genre in the
works of:
Charlotte Brontë
E. A. Poe
R. L. Stevenson
Bram Stoker
The Prose and the Passion
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