What is GOTHIC literature and its characteristics

Discover everything about gothic literature and its characteristics! How did the word “Gothic” go from describing a German town, to an architectural style, to finally defining a terrifying literary genre? In BCN shows We are very curious and the world of words and literature fascinates us, so we wanted to find out everything about “the gothic”. Come, delve into the most terrifying literature with us!

Stephen King, George Romero, Agatha Christie, or any of the modern black literature authors owe a huge debt to gothic writers and writers. all that sublime feeling that generates modern terror and intrigue behind every corner that leaves us on the edge of our seats was devised by a small group of romantic authors who decided that literature should exalt the senses and provoke reactions. But, then, what is Gothic literature? Read on and let’s find out where this term came from.

What is gothic literature?

After a century dedicated entirely to erecting reason as the maximum and the only truth, the dissident authors who considered that reality and life could be much more than Reason they began to work on new literary forms. At the end of the 18th century and the Enlightenment, Romanticism arose and its attack against Neoclassicism and the Age of Reason promoted the appearance of new ideas and literary styles. One of the forms of Romanticism was the Gothic narrative.

The term Gothic refers in principle to a tribe belonging to the now German territory: the Goths. Later, it was used as a synonym for German, and then applied to an artistic style born in Western Europe characterized by its complexity and abundance of details, widely used in the religious architectural works.

In this context, Horace Walpole, in 1764, wrote “The castle of Otranto, a gothic story with which several repetitive references to the genre began. First of all, the medieval Inspiration, the environmental use of castles, abbeys, and other typically Gothic-style structures. And, on the other hand, the game with light and architecture creating disturbing spaces, very characteristic of that style.

Although the term gothic was more linked to Germany, the gothic narrative had more representative and impact in England, where most of the most important stories of the genre are from. However, it is a style that had representatives throughout Europe and later in America.

Characteristics of Gothic literature

Although Gothic literature is very broad and encompasses other important subgenres, there are characteristics that define the style and paradigms under which we can define its limits.

Medieval locations: atmosphere and setting

Abandoned castles, sinister abbeys, dungeons and gloomy forests, all these towns have been the scenes of the best Gothic stories. The locations are not just presented for their grim evocations, but are painstakingly described creating an effect on the reader, specifically generating anxiety and a sense of lurking evil.

Gothic authors meticulously built a gloomy and creepy setting seeking to create a haunting and melancholic atmosphere. The architectural elements, the locations, the natural surroundings, and even the weather conditions were configured to create an environment conducive to the stories.

On the other hand, not all gothic stories are in medieval settings, too the exotic was included in the equation. Many of the fictions take place in foreign cultures, or the plots revolve around exotic objects. Arab, Egyptian or indigenous culture were some of the settings used to create the ideal suspenseful environment.

stereotypical characters

The lady in distressthe medieval Gothic beauty with a fair complexion, melancholic humor and absent personality, a somewhat sickly and weak countenance. the villain, usually evil nobles who usually keep the damsel kidnapped or restrained in some way. Villains with a tendency to autocracy with supposedly benevolent justifications are classics of these stories. So are the deceitful villains who make the reader fall in love with their charisma and his presence in the first instance and then reveal his true intention.

The heroesfor their part, began by resembling the typical romantics: idealistic, brave and passionate, to later become something more like the antiheroes: imperfect, sinners; but always flaunting an imposing physical presence and a high social rank.

On the other hand, the paranormal presences and ghosts, dark, tormented entities that represent a sinister presence over the protagonist or the damsel.

mystery and fear

Gothic authors believed that literature should create an out-of-body, supra-sensory feeling, something superior to ourselves, and they called it “sublime”. To achieve “the sublime” there had to be some degree of tension, a sense of imminent danger with a hint of hope. The expected result is shock, to arouse a strong feeling in the reader.

The goths understood that one of the feelings most deeply connected to the sensory, and therefore to the sublime, is the fear. A good gothic story should scare and surprise you. Fear, in general, is generated by things that we cannot understand, or are beyond our control, so the favorite way to evoke fear and suspense was supernatural events or characters.

Supernatural and paranormal activity

Inanimate objects, misshapen, mythical or strange creatures, potions or spirits are part of the reliquary of characters and events paranormal that gothic literature takes advantage of for its stories. Gothic fantasy also incorporated fantastic creatures like the vampire, resurrected monsters like Frankenstein, and even the first zombies.

To reinforce paranormal situations, the stories contain omens, spells, and predictive and symbolic elements that help reinforce the atmosphere of tension and mystery.

gothic romance

Being enrolled within the romantic current, the love and death They played important roles within the Gothic narrative. Passionate love, tragedies and intense feelings characterize the fictions of this genre.

the dreamlike

Dreams, especially nightmares, are relevant to Gothic authors. They are used for two important points, first to generate emotional distress in the characters, and also, as premonitory elements.

Nightmares are associated with apparitions, night terrors, and supernatural events. Therefore, the dream could allow the development of many of the characteristics of the literary style and at the same time give it a extenuating to actions and characters.

Nightmares are, likewise, intrinsically linked to distress. Many authors explore the limits between anguish, anxiety and madness, and nightmares help them argue and exacerbate mental states in their characters.

Main authors of gothic literature

Gothic literature was certainly a style that began in the late eighteenth century, but, between the birth of various subgenres and the resurgence of many of its characteristics has always remained current. Let’s get to know some of its greatest exponents.

Matthew Lewis

Initiator and promoter of the style during the first years of the 19th century. He took the Gothic novel to the limits of what was allowed by the censorship of the time. his novel The monk It combined gothic environments, mysteries and terrors, with sacred elements such as the figure of monks and nuns and moral depravities. The horror that it caused in a large part of society gave the genre a definitive push.

Ann Radcliffe

One of the first to develop a variant of the romantic hero that would later be known as the Byronic hero (by the poet Lord Byron). She is known as the main representative of the “early Gothic” with her novel Udolfo’s mysteries. One of the enduring recognitions of Radcliffe’s literature today is the concept of gothic feminism. Raddcliffe’s damsels used feigned weakness to achieve her goals.

mary shelly

Initiating what is known as the “second period”, Mary Shelly established herself as one of the main representatives of the genre by publishing Frankenstein. Generally, this work is considered as science fiction, but the lack of scientific and rational explanations to the origin of the monstrous pushes it more to the paradigm of the gothic. And of course, the main character and the monster are individuals who meet the characteristics of gothic heroes and anti-heroes.

Gustavo Adolfo Becquer

Not all Gothic authors wrote fiction. Poetry also had important representatives in literary history such as Lord Byron and Bécquer. The Rhymes and Legends de Bécquer are fundamental pieces of Spanish literary history. Although little valued in life, the writings of becquer they are today one of the greatest legacies of romantic literature.

Emily Bronte

Representative of what would be known as the “new gothic”. Emily would transport the Gothic style to English rurality in Wuthering Heights. The creation of iconic characters of his as Heathcliff, the typical bad and dangerous Byronic hero; and the atmosphere, hostile and tense, are fundamental qualities of the new gothic.

Edgar Allan Poe

The best known of the American authors of the Gothic style. His importance to the “late gothic” gave him new impetus and made him the innovator of the genre. The works of Allan Poe they originated new literary structures and inspired authors of the new European Gothic generation that would come with the turn of the century. In addition, in America it would serve as a creative catalyst for what would later be announced as the southern gothic with authors such as Harper Lee either Ann Rice.

robert louis stevenson

Towards the end of the 19th century, Gothic authors began to flirt with some characteristics that would later give way to modernism. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde It is one of the first examples of how the look at the supernatural and exotic began to turn on the human psycheand how the terrors and horrors would begin to emerge from the depths of humanity itself, an idea that Modernity would continue.

Other authors of the same stage as Oscar Wilde and his Portrait of Dorian GrayGaston Leroux with The Phantom of the Operaand to a lesser extent Bram Stocker and draculathey would continue with the same psychological and introspective line.

What is GOTHIC literature and its characteristics