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This Introduction seeks to map the history of Gothic scholarship in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries as the academic discipline we might now call Gothic Studies came into being. It draws lines of connection between works through four significant, overlapping stages: the first wave of Gothic criticism between the 1920s and the 1960s; the emergence of Gothic Studies as an academic discipline from the late 1970s to the early 2000s; the increasing understanding of Gothic as a ‘contemporary’ mode in the 1980s and beyond; and finally, what can be seen as the institutionalisation of Gothic in the twenty-first century. In doing so, it argues that Gothic Studies in the twenty-first century is simultaneously at its most fertile and at an impasse, a complex deadlock that Gothic scholars of the future must resolve.
Written by the editors, this essay provides an Introduction to all three volumes of The Cambridge History of the Gothic. It proceeds by casting a self-reflexive glance at the notion of ‘history’ as it is represented in Gothic writing itself, arguing that, since its inception in the eighteenth century, Gothic has always occupied a fraught and complex position in relation to the practice of formal and official historiography. Second, it provides an overview of the volumes to follow, foregrounding the ways in which the essays brought together here, more than simply offering a rigorous ‘history’ of the Gothic, are preoccupied with the ways in which the Gothic has responded to, and been inscribed within, some of the determining historical events of Western civilisation, from the Sacking of Rome in AD 410 to the twenty-first century.
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