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The third volume of The Cambridge History of the Gothic is the first book to provide an in-depth history of Gothic literature, film, television and culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (c. 1896-present). Identifying key historical shifts from the birth of film to the threat of apocalypse, leading international scholars offer comprehensive coverage of the ideas, events, movements and contexts that shaped the Gothic as it entered a dynamic period of diversification across all forms of media. Twenty-three chapters plus an extended introduction provide in-depth accounts of topics including Modernism, war, postcolonialism, psychoanalysis, counterculture, feminism, AIDS, neo-liberalism, globalisation, multiculturalism, the war on terror and environmental crisis. Provocative and cutting edge, this will be an essential reference volume for anyone studying modern and contemporary Gothic culture.
This introductory chapter charts the major directions that the Gothic aesthetic took in Britain, America and Europe over the course of the nineteenth century. Commencing with an account of the critical formation and consolidation of the notion of ‘Gothic literature’ itself, it discusses the critical work of figures such as Nathan Drake, Walter Scott, George Stillman Hillard and Edmund Gosse. Showing the extent to which this literary-historical category was defined against, and in relation to, canonical British Romanticism, it surveys the anti-Gothic rhetoric of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, William Hazlitt and others. Through consideration of the work of Thomas B. Shaw, William John Courthope and Edward Dowden, it tracks the persistence of such Romantic attitudes in the literary historiography of the nineteenth century. Exploring, in its final sections, the volume’s contents, the Introduction situates the chapters that follow in relation to some of the major developments in literary, historiographical and architectural Gothic culture across the nineteenth century.
This chapter investigates the grounds upon which we might address the question of Gothic literature before the publication of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto in late 1764. In line with much criticism, it begins by identifying traces of the Gothic in a selection of earlier texts, including Shakespearean drama and the Graveyard poetry of the 1740s. Proposing that this question is best thought of in historical terms, however, it considers how late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century critics themselves conceptualised the nation’s ‘Gothick’ literary inheritance, surveying, as it does so, such Whig writers as William Temple, John Dennis, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Joseph Addison and Mark Akenside, as well as works by the Tory John Dryden. Having situated Walpole’s fiction alongside contemporary works by Richard Hurd, Thomas Percy and Samuel Johnson, it argues that a self-conscious spirit of ‘Revival’ is crucial to what would later become known as ‘Gothic fiction’. By way of conclusion, the chapter turns to the case of Thomas Leland’s Longsword, Earl of Salisbury (1762), assessing the extent to which it might be described as an example of pre-Walpolean Gothic.