The Dark Romantics Click on the pictures for biographies on these writers.
Poe as a “Dark Romantic” during The Romantic Era (1828-1865)
The “Dark Romantics,”(Poe, Hawthorne and Melville) examined the psychological effects of guilt and sin, the conflict between good and evil, and people plagued with madness. They agreed that human nature is not necessarily good.
What is the Gothic (in general?
Today, the word Gothic primarily describes a style of European architecture which flourished from the twelfth through the sixteenth centuries (Medieval).
Gothic Architecture used pointed arches, flying buttresses, narrow spires, stain glassed windows, etc.
What does Gothic Architecture Look Like and Why is this Relevant? Here you can see Notre Dame in Paris. This is relevant because the style applies to literature, too.
Gothic Literature is:
A literary style of fiction prevalent in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe which emphasized the grotesque, mysterious, and the desolate. This style of fiction reflected the Gothic art and architecture from the Middle Ages and thus, dark, foreboding castles, Knights and ladies and strange supernatural occurrences were all prominent themes of the Gothic novel.
Edgar Allen Poe and the Gothic In the nineteenth century (1800’s), American writers like Poe were influenced by the Gothic movement in England. Poe was especially influenced by Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto . The term Gothic can be uses interchangeably with Dark Romanticism, at least in Poe’s case. Remember: The Gothic began in the Middle Ages with art and architecture. Then, it began to influence British literature in the late 1700’s-early 1800’s. Finally, Poe was greatly influenced by this movement as we will see.
Background for Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death ”
“ The Masque of the Red Death” was written in 1842 by Edgar Allen Poe(1809-1849).
Although Poe wrote this story in 1842, his use of the “Red Death,” which probably refers to the Black Plague, suggests a medieval setting.
Poe is often considered the father of the horror genre.
What was “The Black Plague?”
The Black Plague, Cont’d ~ The Black Plague, also known as The Black Death or the Bubonic Plague was a devastating and usually deadly disease that began in China and spread to Europe in the 14th century, killing 1/3 of the entire continent’s population. Many people believed that plague occurred as a result of disobeying God. ~ People contracted the plague through infected fleas. Click on map to enlarge
Closing: As you read “The Masque of the Red Death,” think about how it is a good example of Dark Romanticism/Gothic. Remember that the setting is not modern—while Poe wrote in the 1800’s, we are supposed to assume that the story has a medieval setting.