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The Cambridge History of the Gothic The Cambridge History of the Gothic
Volume 3: Gothic in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries
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3.1 - Gothic and Silent Cinema

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 July 2021

Catherine Spooner
Affiliation:
Lancaster University
Dale Townshend
Affiliation:
Manchester Metropolitan University
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Summary

This chapter reassesses the relationship between the Gothic and the cinematic experience within the silent cinema era. At its birth in 1895, the very medium of cinema itself was perceived as inherently Gothic. Maxim Gorky’s famous allusion to a ‘kingdom of shadows’ full of grey, silent figures that filled him with ‘breathless horror’ evoked the spectre of the uncanny that underpins the Gothic experience. Yet, this chapter demonstrates that if one examines the history of the Gothic in the silent era, the Gothic changes from being an intrinsic part of the cinema experience to becoming a series of narrative and stylistic elements that ultimately form part of a kind of proto-horror, a mise-en-scène in search of a genre. By focusing not upon story elements but rather upon the ongoing association between the Gothic and the cinematographic through the use of cinematic techniques to convey subjective states of being, this chapter examines how the Gothic potential of the cinematic experience that was fundamental to the era of cinema’s birth did not disappear but rather remained, and continues to remain, embedded within cinema itself.

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The Cambridge History of the Gothic
Volume 3: Gothic in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries
, pp. 22 - 42
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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