Edited By Agnieszka Lowczanin and Dorota Wisniewska
E. Nesbit and the Gothic Mode in Children’s Fiction
Although the “Gothic” as a literary tradition starts to develop in the eighteenth century England in opposition to the predominant rationalism of the Enlightenment, its penetration into the fiction written purposefully for the young audience is prolonged and gradual. The cluster of conventions that came to be identified as Gothic first appeared in 1764 (though it relied on earlier literary and cultural developments) in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (subtitled A Gothic Story in the second edition), which set a fashion for the so called Gothic romance or novel. In time the initial genre variant underwent so many transformations and exerted such a pervasive influence in various spheres of literature, that it transcended generic barriers and became a supragenological phenomenon which may be called a Gothic mode.1
In spite of its widespread popularity, the Gothic mode was slow to penetrate literary productions aimed at the children’s audience. Although episodic employment of elements belonging to the Gothic configuration can be found in children’s texts already in the eighteenth century, it seems that the Gothic mode begins to shape children’s fiction only in the beginning of the twentieth century. In my opinion it was E. Nesbit (1858-1924), a children’s writer and author of popular horror stories,2 who was the first to employ motifs, plot patterns, settings and, most importantly, the world model characteristic of the Gothic mode in her books for children. Nesbit can be seen as a precursor of the...
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