Many people today think that Tim Burton’s works are unique. He brought the beauty in horror, and gave it a romantic touch – they would say. However, those who have read The Raven or Frankenstein are convinced in something quite different. Burton is a genius, but he only gave a new interpretation of the stories that were told centuries ago.
It was Horace Walpole who in 1764 discovered the genre which is crowd-pleasing and modish even now. The Castle of Otranto, A Gothic Story was the first novel which included both horror and romance as central elements. Walpole’s novel included melodrama and parody, which couldn’t be found together in the novels of the previous years.
The authors who followed the ideas of Walpole are numerous. Clara Reeve used some fantastic elements to write The Old English Baron. Ann Radcliffe adapted the Gothic horror to be socially acceptable for the age. Her novels were very popular in the later 18th century. Later on, during the Romantic period, even the poets started to write Gothic novels. Percy Shelley published Zastrozzi in 1810, and his friend Lord Byron was an inspiration for Lady Caroline Lamb to write her Gothic novel Glenarvon. Soon followed one of the most popular novels of the genre, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Decades later, the Gothic novel had its beginnings on the other side of the big pond. Edgar Allan Poe’s theory of terror as the ultimate literary subject made him write about horror stories with romantic elements even in his poetry.
The English Gothic novel led to new novel types in Germany and France – Schauerroman and Roman noir, and it also inspired the Russian novelists. However, the genre can be found in films, as well. The Gothic horror got its first film adaptations in the 19th century through the stories of Frankenstein, Dracula and Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde. This type of literature is also associated with Gothic architecture of the period.
The genre had its return in literature in the previous century. Joyce Carol Oates, Robertson Davies, Alice Munro, Barbara Cowdy, Timothy Findley, Margaret Atwood, and Henry Farrell are all inspired by the Gothic horror classics and use some of the elements in their works. Film is the most popular means of using the genre to get to the public. Mostly, the Gothic horror is used as a form through adaptations of the classics, but the elements of romance and horror blended together are seen in many new stories.
It seems that the genre always finds a way to return in the popular culture since it has originated. The form may be different every time, but the recognizable elements cannot be ignored. Perhaps Poe is right – people love the supernatural and writers have to offer them exactly that.
Palmar, A. (2010).Gothic horror. Slideshare. http://www.slideshare.net/apalmer28/gothic-horror
Mary Shelley. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Shelley
Gothic fiction. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_fiction
The castle of Otranto. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Castle_of_Otranto
Horace Walpole. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horace_Walpole
Photo: Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Frankenstein%27s_monster_(Boris_Karloff).jpg