Is the Gothic Romantic Novel Dead? Gothic literature has some element of horror in it, something terrifying, spooky, or horrific. It also often has mysterious elements, sometimes supernatural or dream-like qualities. These stories often take place in a spooky, dark, confined space like an ancient castle or empty manor house, a crypt, or a damp cellar. The themes of guilt and sin repeatedly appear in gothic literature, usually in reference to some crime committed or secrets kept. Popular gothic authors include Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Brockden Brown, Mary Shelley, Ann Radcliffe, and William Beckford. Other famous examples of Gothic literature include The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Dracula. Since the Gothic novel has branched off into numerous sub-genres, I am speaking of the Gothic in English literature ( classic texts) that created the building blocks for what we know as Gothic today. My personal favorite (as well as Dracula) is Jane Eyre, In this example, we discover the Gothic can also refer to stories involving strange and troubling events that, while they have logical, natural explanations, seem to originate from unexpected forces. Charlotte Bronte employs this element of the Gothic in Jane Eyre, published in 1847. While living in Thornfield Hall as a governess, Jane frequently hears strange noises and laughter coming from the third story of the mansion that no one will explain, and odd things keep happening in the dead of night, such as her master Mr. Rochester’s bed catching fire, and the attack on a guest. We later discover the force behind these events is his insane wife.
Characteristics of the Gothic Novel
The term Gothic novel broadly refers to stories that combine elements from horror and romanticism. The Gothic novel often deals with supernatural events, or events occurring in nature that cannot be easily explained or over which man has no control, and it typically follows a plot of suspense and mystery.
Here is a list of some common elements found in Gothic novels:
Gloomy, decaying setting (haunted houses or castles with secret passages, trapdoors, and other mysterious architecture)
Supernatural beings or monsters (ghosts, vampires, zombies, giants)
Curses or prophecies
Damsels in distress
Today, however, there are also a ‘new’ brand of Gothic Novels. Southern Gothic is a subgenre of the gothic novel, unique to American literature. Southern Gothic is like its parent genre in that it relies on supernatural, ironic, or unusual events to guide the plot. It is unlike its parent genre in that it uses these tools not solely for the sake of suspense, but also to explore social issues and reveal the cultural character of the American South. The Wilderness Gothic, Suburban Gothic, Space Gothic, and Fantasy Gothic sub genres are also finding a place under the umbrella of 21st century Gothic stories, novels and novellas . As a long time member of OCC/RWA, I am published in contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and YA historical sweet romance. However, I am also the president of RWA Gothic Chapter (GothRom) of Romance Writers. If you’d like to learn more about this romantic genre please visit one or more of these links: http://www.bbc.co.uk/timelines/zyp72hv A time line and more information about Gothic Literature via BBC. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_fiction Thank you for stopping by to visit my blog post here At “A Slice of Orange“. Connie Vines To learn more about writing a Gothic Romance (the perfect October blog topic), please visit the GothRom Chapter of RWA.