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The Cambridge History of the Gothic The Cambridge History of the Gothic
Volume 1: Gothic in the Long Eighteenth Century
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1.7 - Reassessing the Gothic/Classical Relationship

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 July 2020

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

This chapter examines in three stages the surprisingly vital place of the Classical literatures of Greece and Rome in the development of the Gothic. First, Horace Walpole and his contemporaries Edward Young and Richard Hurd irreverently reimagined Classical antiquity not as a model of propriety and decorum, but as a grotesque realm of monsters and ghosts. Second, Clara Reeve challenged the social prejudice that accorded prestige to the masculine zone of Classical texts but not to popular literature; The Old English Baron blends a Gothic narrative with motifs from Classical historiography in order to challenge the artificial hierarchy separating the two modes. Third, writers of the Romantic age presented Rome as a haunted city, recasting the influence of Greece and Rome in spectral terms. The Gothic, it shows, is no simple departure from the Classical. Rather, the tension between the two is sustained throughout the history of the genre as one of its basic elements, and we need to restore a sense of that tension in order to understand the full force of the Gothic in the literary and aesthetic consciousness of the long eighteenth century.

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The Cambridge History of the Gothic
Volume 1: Gothic in the Long Eighteenth Century
, pp. 161 - 179
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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