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Chapter Eleven - The Devil’s in It: The Bible as Gothic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 February 2022

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Summary

In the first chapter of this volume, I recounted a history of Gothicism and neo-Gothicism and mentioned some of the key theorists who have written on the genre. There has a been a prolific outpouring of Gothic texts and renditions from the fourth century to the present, but if we can equate Gothicism with horror and terror, then true Gothicism—by any other name—begins with the biblical narrative when Satan rebelled against God, became evil incarnate, vied for power over and against God and brought death and sin into the world. That is when the horrors of life became the text of human life. The first written Gothic tale made it into the early writing scrolls, letters and accounts that would later be canonized into the Holy Bible.

Subsequent to Satan's inclination to become God, we have had Gothic narratives. More recently they have ignited myriad criticism and analysis of the genre, running from disdain to enthusiasm to revelation and insight into the human condition. Nearly every theoretical tool has been used to interpret Gothicism, from psychoanalysis to historicism to Marxism to postcolonialism to structuralism and so forth. Although there is a plethora of literary commentary on Gothicism—whether it be pre-Gothic, old Gothic, new (Victorian) Gothic or neo-Gothic—and although the word “demonic” is thrown about as well as a nod or two made about the Gothic theme of good versus evil, there is very little biblical contextualization of the Gothic. Alison Milbank was astute in placing “God” in the Gothic (in her 2018 God and the Gothic), and she mentions Satan/Devil/demons several times but mostly in reference to Faust. Before Milbank, Victor Sage wrote Horror Fiction in the Protestant Tradition (1988), addressing religion but saying very little about the devil and his legions.

If, rather, literary scholars insist that the genesis of Gothicism is Walpole's work, then they might concur with Fred Botting that the purpose of eighteenth-century Gothic literature was to “inculcate a sense of morality and rational understanding and thus educate readers in the discrimination of virtue and vice” (1996, 22). “Despite being associated with literary and moral impropriety,” he adds, “many Gothic novels set out to vindicate morality, virtue and reason.

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Neo-Gothic Narratives
Illusory Allusions from the Past
, pp. 169 - 186
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2020

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