This iconography has haunted various critical representations of the rise of the genre. The emergence of the gothic in the eighteenth-century has also been read as a sign of the resurrection of the need for the sacred and transcendent in a modern enlightened secular world which denies the existence of supernatural forces, or as the rebellion of the imagination against the tyranny of reason. Recent historical studies have positioned the genre more specifically in relation to the rise of the middle class and the novel proper, with which that class has been identified, since Ian Watt especially. In general, the gothic has been associated with a rebellion against a constraining neoclassical aesthetic ideal of order and unity, in order to recover a suppressed primitive and barbaric imaginative freedom.
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This iconography has haunted various critical representations of the rise of the genre. The emergence of the gothic in the eighteenth-century has also been read as a sign of the resurrection of the need for the sacred and transcendent in a modern enlightened secular world which denies the existence of supernatural forces, or as the rebellion of the imagination against the tyranny of reason.
Recent historical studies have positioned the genre more specifically in relation to the rise of the middle class and the novel proper, with which that class has been identified, since Ian Watt especially. In general, the gothic has been associated with a rebellion against a constraining neoclassical aesthetic ideal of order and unity, in order to recover a suppressed primitive and barbaric imaginative freedom.
Until recently, therefore, the gothic novel has often been treated also as a kind of generic missing link between the romance and the novel, a very low road to Scott, whose rise is a deviation in the evolutionary chain that leads from Enlightenment to Romanticism. Like so many of its hero-villains, its development is one of rapid rise and fall, which occurs roughly between and This developmental model plays an important part both in critical discussions of the rise of the gothic and in the novels themselves.
However, one of the factors that makes the gothic so shadowy and nebulous a genre, as challenging to define as any gothic ghost, is that it cannot be seen in abstraction from the other literary forms from whose graves it arises, or from its later descendants who survive after its demise, such as the detective novel and horror movie. While it, therefore, can at times seem hopelessly naive and simple, it is, at its best, a highly wrought, artificial form which is extremely self-conscious of its artificiality and creation out of old material and traditions.
The narratives of Walpole, Radcliffe, Maturin, Stoker, as well as Shelley, thematise their own piecemeal construction, drawing attention to the relation of the story and unfolding of the plot.
Gothic creation thus suggests a view of the imagination not as an originating faculty that creates ex nihilo, but as a power of combination. This is the essential process of the imagination […].
All invention is but new combination. It seems easier to identify a gothic novel by its properties than by an essence, so that analysis of the form often devolves into a cataloguing of stock characters and devices which are simply recycled from one text to the next: conventional settings one castle — preferably in ruins; some gloomy mountains — preferably the Alps; a haunted room that locks only on the outside and characters a passive and persecuted heroine, a sensitive and rather ineffectual hero, a dynamic and tyrannical villain, an evil prioress, talkative servants.
However, this dismemberment of the text seems often justified by narrative incoherence, which has been the subject of much critical complaint, and generally leads to the denigration of the form for its lack of aesthetic unity. Made up of these assorted bits and pieces, gothic novels often seem to disintegrate into fragments, irrelevant digressions, set-pieces of landscape description which never refer back to the central point.
Such a tendency towards dismemberment may be encouraged by the fact that they also often look to lyric poetry and painting as models for their own mode of representation. At times the gothic seems hardly a unified narrative at all, but a series of framed conventions, static moments of extreme emotions — displayed by characters or in the landscape, and reproduced in the reader — which are tenuously strung together in order to be temporised both through and into narrative, but which do not form a coherent and continuous whole.
From its origins, the gothic has been defined in terms of this peculiar and palpable effect upon its audience. As a result, it has also frequently been involved in discussions concerning the relation of art to life, aesthetics to ethics. With its cast of extreme characters, unnatural settings and perverse plots, the gothic played a significant part in late eighteenth-century debates over the moral dangers of reading.
From the seventeenth-century on, with the rise of literacy and the increase of the press, reading became a focal point in debates over authority and self-determination; indeed, it became identified with self-determination. Originating in the Protestant ideal that every man had the right to read the scripture for himself, a right viewed with some concern in the seventeenth-century with the rise of dissenting movements which sometimes even extended that right to women , the idea that to read for oneself was the property of the self-governing individual permeated discussions of both literature and politics.
The spread of literacy, the growth of a largely female and middle-class readership and of the power of the press, increased fears that literature could be a socially subversive influence.
Prose fiction was particularly suspect: romances, for giving readers unrealistic expectations of an idealised life, novels for exposing them to the sordidness of an unidealised reality. As a hybrid between the novel and romance, the gothic was accused on both accounts. The gothic was seen as encouraging a particularly intimate and insidious relationship between text and reader, by making the reader identify with what he or she read. Ideally, this identification served a moral purpose, as it allowed readers to exercise safely and so educate their emotions; the danger was when the means became an end in itself.
To many early concerned critics, gothic novels were the unlicensed indulgence of an amoral imagination that was a socially subversive force. The possibility that the gothic represented simply a fairy-tale world created by an imagination, an artistic aesthetic realm that was completely irrelevant and detached from the social order and norms, made it more, rather than less, threatening.
The art that is completely fanciful, an autonomous creation that does not refer to reality, offers a tempting alternative to the mundaneness of everyday life. Imagination and appetite are too closely connected, and reading itself a way of feeding destructive and anti-social desires. Some of the most powerful critiques of the force of the gothic appear within the gothic, which internalised external criticism, both in stories such as those described above, and in tales of works of art that take on lives of their own.
It, therefore, seems also to denounce precisely the transgressive qualities with which it was associated. In the Radcliffean model, especially, the imagination is indulged through suspense, only to be ultimately contained, imprisoned by the final authority of morality, in which the good and bad are separated out by a poetically just system of rewards and punishments.
The gothic thus both represents in the story of its heroine and offers to its readers a momentary subversion of order that is followed by the restoration of a norm, which, after the experience of terror, now seems immensely desirable. Reading is thus a dangerously conservative substitute for political and social action, offering an illusory transformation to impede real change by making women content with their lot, and keeping them at home — reading. Like the carnivalesque, the gothic appears to be a transgressive rebellion against norms which yet ends up reinstating them, an eruption of unlicensed desire that is fully controlled by governing systems of limitation.
It delights in rebellion, while finally punishing it, often with death or damnation, and the reaffirmation of a system of moral and social order. However, the fact that the endings are often, as Robert Keily notes, unsatisfactory when compared to the delicious experience of the middle of the text, might in itself suggest a radical, antiteleological, model for reading, in which closure, which necessarily involves some restabilisation of categories, is deprivileged.
The dissatisfaction of the moral at the end, in fact, forces us to focus on the aesthetic pleasure of the middle. The female gothic itself is not a ratification but an expose of domesticity and the family, through the technique of estrangement or romantic defamiliarisation: by cloaking familiar images of domesticity in gothic forms, it enables us to see that the home is a prison, in which the helpless female is at the mercy of ominous patriarchal authorities.
It challenged fundamental notions of aesthetics and psychology. Their fiction is both exploratory and fearful. They are not always totally in control of their fantasies, for having opened up new areas of awareness which complicate life enormously, they then retreat from their insights back into conventionality with the rescue of a heroine into happy marriage and the horrible death of a villain.
Terry Lovell argues further that its irresolution exposes the conflicts within a bourgeois ideology that it is supposed to hide, a conflict between morality and aesthetics, work and pleasure. Similarly, for Wylie Sypher, the ambiguity of the gothic is created by a tension between its reactionary moral and revolutionary aesthetic values, both of which, however, are bourgeois creations.
Its ambiguity reflects tensions it cannot solve. In her rejection of such recent assumptions that the form is deep and significant, which she connects to a current post-romantic idealisation of fragmentation, Napier argues, however, that the gothic represents a flight from meaning into a quest for sensations.
The gothic seems a puzzling contradiction, denounced and now celebrated for its radical imaginative lawlessness, feared for its encouragement of readers to expect more from life than is realistic, and also for its inculcation of social obedience and passivity.
Revolutionary or reactionary? An incoherent mess or a self-conscious critique of repressive concepts of coherence and order? Apolitical or a direct product and artistic equivalent of the French Revolution?
Transgressive and lawless or conformist and meekly law-abiding? Psychologically deep in its representation of characters or motives, or totally superficial in its interest in mere appearances and coverings? Share on facebook.
The Rise of the Gothic Novel
It is interesting to think about how the Waverley novels depend on the parable of progress— the claim that economic growth will settle the conflicting claims of commutative and distributive justice. See if you have enough points for this item. Matylda Tyler rated it it was ok Jul 20, The chief problem with the way Kaufmann writes literary history is that, as he foregrounds the interrelations of the novel and economics, he frames his materials so that individual novels resemble each other much more often than they challenge one another. An impressive and highly original study, The Rise of the Gothic Novel is an invaluable contribution to the continuing literary debates which surround this influential genre. Your display name should be at least 2 characters long. One of the central images conjured up by the gothic novel is that of a shadowy spectre slowly rising from a mysterious abyss. Rozhin marked it as to-read Sep 14, Romantic Autobiography in England.
‘The Rise of the Gothic Novel’ and the Nature of Gothic
MAGGIE KILGOUR THE RISE OF THE GOTHIC NOVEL PDF