chapter  8
9 Pages

GOTHIC CITIES

ByRobert Mighall

The term ‘urban Gothic’ should be a contradiction in terms. For the first generation of Gothic novels it would have been. The Gothic depicted what the city (civilisation) banished or refused to acknowledge, except in the form of thrilling fictions. As Victor Sage explains, the ‘paradigm of the horror-plot is the journey from the capital to the provinces’ (Sage 1988: 8). The sublime, rugged landscapes of southern France, Italy or Spain, the deep forests or craggy peaks of Germany, were at the furthest remove from London or Bath; and were therefore the sanctioned preserve of terrors. Even when an incident takes place in Rome or Madrid, the Protestant mind assumed that such cities institutionalised unreason. Whilst Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian opens just outside Naples around the date of publication (1797), the first scene dramatises the outrage felt by an English tourist who discovers that the law of ‘sanctuary’ (the protection of criminals on sanctified ground) still operates in this age of general reason.