Studies in Literature and Culture
The Gothic Space Revisited
← 168 | 169 →Anna Kędra-Kardela
There is no denying that ever since its creation by Horace Walpole in 1764, the Gothic novel has invariably been defined in terms of its setting. Whether it is a medieval castle, steep mountains, a Victorian house, a city or some twentieth-century location, the setting of the novel determines, to a great extent, its generic classification as a Gothic novel. I shall argue that the Gothic quality of the spatial arrangement in the novel is not a constant feature of a text written in this genre but is subject to change.
There are two basic mechanisms of this change: either the familiar space becomes unfamiliar and thus acquires a Gothic quality, or a reverse process can take place, when Gothic space loses its quality as a result of being “appropriated” by the characters (by a woman, in particular) and thus becomes “domesticated.”1
Based on three novels written over a period of two centuries: The Castle of Otranto (1764), Wuthering Heights (1847), Rebecca (1938), and a short story The Bloody Chamber (1979), I claim that both these processes – which I call gothicisation and degothicisation of the space respectively, are characteristic of this generic convention determining the plot patterns in novels labelled as Gothic.
In his study on space in Gothic fiction, Manuel Aguirre (2002, 2008) argues that the Gothic universe of the novel can be perceived in geometrical terms as a two-part space embracing two domains: the rational domain of the understandable and the...
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