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2.1 - Gothic Romanticism and the Summer of 1816

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2020

Catherine Spooner
Affiliation:
Lancaster University
Dale Townshend
Affiliation:
Manchester Metropolitan University
Angela Wright
Affiliation:
University of Sheffield
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Summary

This chapter surveys the literary achievements of the group of writers who gathered together on the banks of Lake Geneva in the Summer of 1816: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley; Percy Bysshe Shelley; John Polidori; and Lord Byron. Beginning with the famous ghost storytelling competition proposed by Byron, it considers the extent to which Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, while located in the earlier tradition of Radcliffean romance, forged new directions for the Gothic mode through its graphic realisation of corporeal and textual monstrosity. While it forces us to reconsider notions of origin and influence among the group, Polidori’s The Vampyre, the chapter argues, bequeathed to the Gothic its own ‘monstrous progeny’. Engaging with, and thoroughly revising, the earlier poetry of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Shelley and Byron, for their part, set in place some of the distinctive features of second-generation Romanticism, even if the works that they produced during this period force us to interrogate the critical distinction between the ‘Romantic’ and the ‘Gothic’ itself.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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