Transcript of "Some features of the Gothic as a genre"
Write down three specific moments
1. There is a cruel yet fascinating male
2. A young woman is beset by terrors.
3. An isolated setting is used.
4. Extremity of weather seems to mirror interior
5. „Sapere Aude!‟ is an unwise move…
(Kant‟s slogan in his 1784 „Was ist Aufklarung?‟)
6. Extreme psychological states feature.
7. A large building features…
8. Narration is unreliable…
What is Gothic about this?
We had expected, upon looking back, to see a terrible and incredible
moving entity if the mists were thin enough; but of that entity we had
formed a clear idea. What we did see…its nearest comprehensible
analogue is a vast, onrushing subway train as one sees it from a
station platform - the great black front looming colossally out of
infinite subterranean distance, constellated with strangely colored
lights and filling the prodigious burrow as a piston fills a cylinder.
But we were not on a station platform. We were on the track
ahead as the nightmare, plastic column of fetid black iridescence
oozed tightly onward through its fifteen-foot sinus, gathering unholy
speed and driving before it a spiral, rethickening cloud of the pallid
abyss vapor. It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any
subway train - a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles,
faintly self-luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming
and un-forming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling
front that bore down upon us…
What is Gothic about this?
Soon she turn‟d up a soiled glove, whereon
Her silk had play‟d in purple phantasies,
She kiss‟d it with a lip more chill than stone,
And put it in her bosom, where it dries
And freezes utterly unto the bone
Those dainties made to still an infant‟s cries:
Then ‟gan she work again; nor stay‟d her care,
But to throw back at times her veiling hair…
In anxious secrecy they took it home,
And then the prize was all for Isabel:
She calm‟d its wild hair with a golden comb,
And all around each eye‟s sepulchral cell
Pointed each fringed lash; the smeared loam
With tears, as chilly as a dripping well,
She drench‟d away: - and still she comb‟d, and kept
Sighing all day - and still she kiss‟d, and wept…
The Double or Doppelganger /Evil Twin
• a second self or alternate identity, sometimes, but not
always, a physical twin
• a reciprocal or lower bestial self or a Mr. Hyde.
• Gothic doppelgangers often haunt and threaten the
rational psyche of the victim to whom they become
• suggests that humans are burdened with a dual nature,
a soul forever divided.
• Double characters are often paired in common
relationships, such as twins, siblings, husband/wife,
parent/child, hero/villain, creator/creature, etc
• Confusion over identities also can result
Faust: Forbidden Knowledge and Power
• Dr. Faustus in German legend sold his soul to the devil
to obtain power and knowledge forbidden to ordinary
• Forbidden knowledge/power is often the Gothic
• The Gothic “hero” questions the universe's ambiguous
nature and tries to comprehend and control those
supernatural powers that mortals cannot understand,
make himself into a “god”.
• This ambition usually leads to the hero's “fall” or
• individuals with the courage to defy fate and cosmic
forces in an attempt to transcend the mundane to the
eternal and sublime.
The Beast in Man
• The ambitious pursuit of forbidden powers often results
in transformation into a beast/monster.
• Often this transformation is depicted as a degradation of
the protagonist and a loss of humanity (overreaching
ambition has caused the protagonist to fall to the level of
• Sometimes the protagonist's beast transformation is a
liberating experience that results in an enlightening unity
with the natural world. Harmony results.
Demon Lovers/ Femme Fatales/ Vampires
• The protagonist's fall is sometimes accomplished
through a relationship with a “demon lover” who acts as
the protagonist's double or alter-ego, leading the
protagonist into experiences forbidden by societal
• The demon lover is frequently female, a femme fatale
(fatal or deadly woman) who seduces and entices the
protagonist to destruction.
• In some cases, the femme fatale seems indicative of the
misogyny of patriarchal cultures, in others, the masterful
and destroying female seems to enact a fantasy of
• Can embody or symbolise conflicting forces within the
• The hero may be tempted by evil spirits or redeemed by
good spirits that symbolize the hero's own potential for
evil or good.
• can represent some aspect of the protagonist's
experience that “will not die,” that cannot be repressed
• can represent an unacknowledged set of desires or
• Terrible truths are often revealed to characters through
dreams or visions.
• when the person sleeps, reason sleeps, and the
supernatural, unreasonable world can break through.
• Expressions of the dark, unconscious depths of the
psyche that are repressed by reason—truths that are too
terrible to be comprehended by the conscious mind.
Magic Talismans/ Cursed or Blessed
• Magic talismans may represent supernatural forces or
forces within the hero's personality (e.g., the crucifix
wielded by vampire hunters against the vampire
symbolizes the goodness and self-sacrifice of those who
fight the vampire).
• Cursed and blessed objects can also act as symbols of
• They are often external representations of inward
• such settings suggest human confrontation with infinite
forces (death, spirits, time, etc.)
• they show the powerlessness of civilisation when
confronted by time.
• Reflects the protagonist's psychological character.
• Hidden chambers, subterranean vaults, twisting
corridors, and secret passages can symbolize the hidden
depths of the mind
• Outer world is as inner world
Multiple Narratives /Recursive Narratives
• The story is frequently told through a series of secret
manuscripts or multiple tales, each revealing a deeper
secret, so the narrative gradually spirals inward toward
the hidden truth.
• The narrator is often a first-person narrator compelled to
tell the story to a fascinated or captive listener
(representing the captivating power of forbidden
• By revealing to us their own souls' secrets, these
narrators reveal the secrets of humankind's soul.
• Shows the paradox of the human condition; blood can
represent both life and death, or both guilt (e.g., murder)
and innocence (e.g., redemptive blood).
• Suggestive of the power of the female, as may be
indicative of menstrual blood.
Madness/ Madmen/ Risk of insanity
• suggests humanity's encounter with the fantastic side of
existence that defies human reason.
• Because mad characters are in touch with a deeper
reality beyond rational comprehension, they often speak
the truths that normal characters wish to deny.
• Madmen acknowledge universal or psychic forces that
rational men fear to acknowledge.
Other common themes
• innocence victimized by evil
• sexual perversion,
• reversal of values
• the Wanderer
• the Outcast,
• dichotomies or the linking of opposites
(attraction/repulsion, life/death, innocence/evil,
• the sublime.
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