This summer I’m embarking on a Gothic literature reading project- an independent study directed by one of my professors- and, of course, I’ll be synthesizing my thoughts here.
First of all: why Gothic lit? Primarily as a foundation- I’m enmeshed in a larger project (I know, wheels within wheels) looking at gender stuff in Victorian ghost stories (19th century saw the rise of published women’s writing, it was a time of unrest with gender roles, a time of drastic social changes with roles and economics and world views, a time of “official” rigidity of social mores that leads to all this really cool submerged stuff.) Victorian ghost stories, and the Victorian Sensation fiction (which I’m also very interested in) has its roots in the Gothic.
My experience with Gothic literature is kind of hit and miss: I’ve read Dracula and Frankenstein several times each; I’ve read some of the more recent works (Neil Gaiman, Anne Rice, Elizabeth Kostova, Daphne du Maurier) but all of them just for fun, not as “works in a genre.”
Speaking of works in the genre–we all get an image in mind when someone refers to Gothic, whether it be Anne Rice, Evanescence or Pauley Perrette. The genre of Gothic literature is usually defined as some combination of horror and romance, physical spaces play a big part (think spooky houses and lonely cemeteries), misunderstandings, mistreated women, quest for the sublime (huh? I’m going to have to research that a bit), doubles, madness, and hereditary curses. How absolutely fabulous.
Here’s my reading list (so far):
- Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto
- Beckford’s Vathek
- Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho
- Lewis’s The Monk
- Austen’s Northanger Abbey
- Marsh The Beetle
- Five Victorian Ghost Novels, E.F. Bleiler, editor
- Botting’s The Gothic