chapter  2
3 Pages

GOTHIC TRADITIONS

ByEmma McEvoy

In this section we are interested in the chronology of the Gothic, its origins, the contexts in which it originated, and its development from its beginnings to the present day. The discussion of Gothic in terms of chronology yields a number of insights. Most obviously, it foregrounds the development and adaptation of Gothic motifs. Gothic, though it is implicated within numerous other intellectual discourses, is somewhat disturbingly discrete, possessed of a number of recurring motifs, set characters and typical plots, and it is this conventional aspect of the Gothic that has been responsible for much of the critical denigration it has received from the late eighteenth century to the late twentieth. One of the things that the authors in this section are interested in is the constant new inflection of Gothic material. Various stalwarts of the eighteenth-century plot (persecuted heroines, labyrinthine castles, young heroes) persist, as do certain structural relations, most notably, as Chris Baldick points out, the relation of the past to the present and the relation between history and geography (Baldick 1992: xix). However, Gothic is also dynamic and endlessly reinvents itself. In her essay Emma McEvoy discusses the development of the Gothic villain and the addition of new Gothic figures – Frankenstein’s monster and the vampire, for example – during the Romantic period. Alexandra Warwick considers the course of Gothic in the Victorian era, following it into the confines of the bourgeois home, into the metropolis, and, in terms of its generic expeditions, into the forms of the sensation novel and detective fiction. Dickens, she argues, is crucial to the development of the Gothic in the period, his contribution lying ‘not, however, simply in the emptying of the form, but in the construction of new possibilities for it’.