In our first blog of a new mini series, we take a look at the first gothic horror stories. We'll cover the origins, influences, and most significant figures in the genre, casting light into one of the darkest fiction genres out there.
Fantasy & Gothic Blog
It's fair to say Matthew Lewis's 1796 novel is a challenging read. Even for a book so old, it's not so much the language that is hard to digest but the shocking detail in which Lewis paints a saintly figure's fall into depravity. Though religion has come be to inexorably tied to gothic fiction, The Monk is really one of the first novels that didn't shy away from the often disturbing elements of faith, and the shocking repercussions of straying from such a strict path. That is what is so interesting and compelling about this book: how religion, a universal and identifiable part of many people's lives, can be manipulated and exploited into a tale that transports us away from the security of what we know, and land us into a terrifying world of desire and bloodshed.
Oscar Wilde’s sole novel The Picture of Dorian Gray remains to this day a classic example of gothic horror. While initially rejected by a morally-rigid Victorian England, the novel has lived on and been elevated so that it, as well as Oscar Wilde himself, have become mainstays of the English canon. We celebrate Wilde and his work, and mourn the injustices he suffered in his life. While many called this novel obscene, the opposite is true. As Wilde put it, while the work presented moral issues it never demonstrated a morality itself. Instead, Wilde's goal was to depict and not to judge.
While Bram Stoker was not the first to write a novel about vampires, an idea which can be traced all the way back to Mesopotamia, he definitely established the modern concept of vampires with his novel Dracula.
The film season Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film kicked off recently, including amongst its first screenings, Dracula (1958) – an absolute classic! You can't go wrong with a film based on one of the most famous gothic horror novels of all time, and actually Christopher Lee doesn't hurt either.