More on Gothic fiction


More on Gothic fiction:

Frankenstein was read as an example of Gothic fiction, which was initiated by Horace Walpole with The Castle of Otranto (1764) and reached the height of its popularity towards the end of the century with such novels as Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and Matthew Lewis' The Monk (1796)

  • Gothic fiction is notable for its use of historical or remote settings to dramatise the ways in which events in the past may affect individuals in the present
  • it uses many of the devices of the modern horror genre, particularly settings such as castle, crypts and dungeons, and often involves stories of torture and persecution the stories often focus on the experiences of a young, vulnerable heroine – it is this characteristic of the genre that Jane Austen parodies in her novel Northanger Abbey (1818)
  • the authors deliberately set out to create tension, fear, a sense of claustrophobia and the anticipation of violence or horror
  • as the genre developed, it began to employ more modern settings, as in The Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794) by Mary Shelley's father, William Godwin
  • as in Godwin's novel and in Frankenstein, the Gothic genre began to explore contemporary philosophical, political and scientific preoccupations
  • also, as well as evoking anticipation and fear in its readers, it began to explore the psychology of terror, guilt and the divided self – all of which play a prominent part in Frankenstein.


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