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Horace Walpole finishes his account of writing The Castle of Otranto (1764) with a wry look at its syntactics, confessing that late one night he “could not hold the pen to finish the sentence, but left Matilda and Isabella talking, in the middle of a paragraph.” A close look at the beginnings, middles, and ends not only of chapters but also of paragraphs and even sentences in this first gothic novel reveals syntactical passages behaving like subterranean passages. As readers, we often don’t know what’s coming until we turn the corner of the sentence and bump into it. The lack of quotation marks to distinguish dialogue (when quotation marks were entering into common use) repeatedly slides the reader down wrong turns; we mistake one speaker for another. Later editions would insert quotation marks, brightly lighting the syntactic interior. But what Walpole initiates for the gothic on the small level of typography and syntax as well as of atmosphere and plot is precisely the uneasiness of boundaries obscured and identities blurred. This chapter tracks the spatial implications of the shapes of sentences and the peculiarities of paragraphs in The Castle of Otranto to uncover a template of syntactical structures enacting gothic structures.
The gap between history and art history is enshrined in the stylistic labels that art historians still use for the subdivisions of their subject. This chapter discusses Romanesque and early Gothic. Romanesque was the creation of a later age. It emerged in the early nineteenth century as the main French candidate in a competition to find an adequate name for the sort of architecture which preceded Gothic. The rise of architecture to parity of esteem with the so-called minor arts, which took place in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, was the truly momentous event in the art history of the middle ages. The image of the church became a compound of all the visual arts. It brought together architecture, sculpture and painting at their highest levels of attainment, and projected them upon the attention of the world at large with the single-mindedness of a marketing exercise.
The Romanesque style dominates in Scandinavian art between circa 1100-50 and circa 1225-75, followed by the early and high Gothic, and finally from around 1375 by the late Gothic. The first signs of the Gothic style appear already in the late twelfth century, though it always takes some time before a new taste is commonly accepted. A survey of Romanesque painting and architecture in Scandinavia should begin with the medieval Danish kingdom, though there are also many and interesting monuments from the Romanesque era in the two other Nordic kingdoms. In Sweden, examples of Romanesque stone sculpture are mostly found in Götaland, especially in Västergötland, and on Gotland. By tradition the art of metal-forging was of great importance in Scandinavia. Although the medieval application of this art does not equal the artistry of the Germanic Iron Age it is worthy of notice, at least in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
The visual culture of thirteenth-century western Europe saw the refinement and spread of the Gothic style throughout much of north-west Europe, and in this sense it consolidated and extended the substantial achievements of the twelfth. Since the late eleventh century, northwestern Europe had experienced what some analysts have called a 'building boom' which benefited monastic establishments and the expanding cities. Though the thirteenth century saw enormous regional variations in the way the great church was conceived, the period was in other ways marked by increasing standardisation. Between 1100 and 1300 urban cathedral churches throughout western Europe became highly centralised buildings, integrating beneath one roof religious practices previously dispersed across the complex of cathedral buildings. In tandem with these changes, the thirteenth century witnessed transformations in the bases of art production and patronage. The concentration of courtly culture at major centres of power like Paris and London served further to galvanise the importance of the urban artistic economy.
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