Article: Gothic and Great

Vintage GothicIt is said all great works stand on the shoulders of giants. Of course, modern horror owes a huge debt to gothic fiction. Fingerprints of the gothic remain in retellings of haunted houses that are more than settings but characters in their own rights and in madness visiting even the most unlikely characters.
Horace Walpole’s 1764 “The Castle of Otranto” is credited as the first gothic novel. Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Gregory Lewis, and Christian Heinrich Spiess wrote great gothic tales in the 1700’s. The Victorians embraced the writing style, immortalized by such greats as Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and the Bronte sisters. Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” and myriad works by Edgar Allan Poe continue to inspire film makers, readers, and writers and even land on reading lists for lucky high schoolers.
Some “stock” characters that appear in gothic literature. First and foremost, the virtuous maiden, a lady who often harbors a mysterious past and with whom men fall in love, presides over the action. Her hero overcomes odds and sometimes the supernatural to rescue her, should she land in the hands or a villain, tyrant, or ruffians. Usually, there is some comic relief provided by stupid servants or buffoons. Clergy members often factor in as well, but many are weak and sometimes evil. Certainly, never to be forgotten are the settings themselves. Dark, often medieval settings like crumbling castles, fog-enshrouded graveyards, and haunted woods, places with disturbing histories peopled with archetypical characters define the genre.
Often embraced plot devises include night journeys and looming deadlines, miraculous survivals and supernatural powers, all inevitably blanketed with psychological implications including fear and madness. Gothic fiction explores conflicting feelings through classic good versus evil, sometimes with surprising outcomes.

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