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The Gothic

A Reader

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Edited By Simon Bacon

What is the Gothic?

From ghosts to vampires, from ruined castles to steampunk fashion, the Gothic is a term that evokes all things strange, haunted and sinister.

This volume offers a new look at the world of the Gothic, from its origins in the eighteenth century to its reemergence today. Each short essay is dedicated to a single text – a novel, a film, a comic book series, a festival – that serves as a lens to explore the genre. Original readings of classics like The Mysteries of Udolpho (Ann Radcliffe) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (Joan Lindsay) are combined with unique insights into contemporary examples like the music of Mexican rock band Caifanes, the novels Annihilation (Jeff VanderMeer), Goth (Otsuichi) and The Paying Guests (Sarah Waters), and the films Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro) and Ex Machina (Alex Garland).

Together the essays provide innovative ways of understanding key texts in terms of their Gothic elements. Invaluable for students, teachers and fans alike, the book’s accessible style allows for an engaging look at the spectral and uncanny nature of the Gothic.

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Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House (1749) – Architectural Gothic (Peter N. Lindfield)

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Peter N. Lindfield

Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House (1749)

Gothic architecture emerged out of the simpler, more robust Romanesque style in both France and England, and this new mode flourished in these countries and elsewhere from the early twelfth century through to the late sixteenth century especially in ecclesiastical and fortified contexts (Wilson 2004). The style developed in a way that dissolved masonry into a filigree web of architectural ornament, decorating its façades and rooflines, as well as internal elevations and additions, such as chantry chapels and tombs. These ornate additions combined with increasingly large windows allowing as much light as possible into churches – light was thought to represent the divine at the time – resulting in the great cathedrals, such as Beauvais, Picardy, developing an extensive exoskeletal framework of piers and flying buttresses to keep the structure intact and direct the outward thrusts of the high vault downwards.

Sir Howard Colvin notes that English masons continued to work in the Gothic tradition even during the early eighteenth century (Colvin 1999: 221). There was a significant shift, however, when ‘professional’ architects and designers began to work in the Gothic style in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Britain. Figures such as Sir Christopher Wren and William Kent worked more typically in the Classical style – Gothic was a ‘foreign’ mode that they were not trained in (Lindfield 2016: 7–80). Walpole’s construction – a self-consciously styled Gothic villa presented as the castle of his ancestors – was...

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