Encyclopedia of Gothic Literature: The Essential Guide to the Lives and Works of Gothic Writers (Literary Movements): The Essential Guide to the Lives and Works of Gothic Writers – Mary Ellen Snodgrass

Encyclopedia of Gothic Literature: The Essential Guide to the Lives and Works of Gothic Writers (Literary Movements): The Essential Guide to the Lives and Works of Gothic Writers (Literary Movements)

Gothic literature is synonymous with supernatural, grotesque and the sinister triumphant of fantasy over logic. My initial step in this electrifying medieval paraphernalia came through Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Occurrences of confinement, ostracism, verbal abuse, evil spells, enchantment, misogyny, cannibalism and gruesome perils of life brought sheer excitement luring me to a world of murky chaos; contrasting my stern and shielded upbringing. The idea of exploring aggression between trepidation and lust, formulates the essence of gothic scriptures.

Horace Walpole’s ‘The Castle of Otranto’ (1764), which I consider one of the most authentic gothic tale besides ‘The Sicilian Romance’, epitomizes the idyllic caricature of loathsome villain Manfred and his deranged obsession to find an heir to the castle. Gothic mode popularized in the late 18th century and the beginning of 19th with the infusion sinister romance through Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’; adhering to certain elements or criteria in the scriptures.

Archetypal basics of Gothic Fiction:-

1. An atmosphere of mystery and suspense that is enhanced by a plot which seeks to discover the secrets lying within the supernaturally charged environment.
2. A ghostly legend, an unexplainable occurrence, or a story about a horrible death or murder that took place at the family estate in question.
3. Omens, foreshadowing, and dreams usually play a large role in the mysterious air that is created within the story.
4. Tales include highly charged emotional states like: terror, a feeling that one is on the brink of insanity, anger, agitation, an exaggerated feeling of some impending doom, and obsessive love.
5. Supernatural events: ghosts, doors that open themselves, unexplained sounds, etc.
6. Damsels in distress are frequent. Women who are frightened and confused, wandering around lost, or dying due to a slow and unexplainable ailment.
8. Words designed to evoke images of gloom and doom: dark, foreboding, forbidding, ghostly, etc.
9. Romantic themes often involve the death of a man or woman in the throes of some great passion, the obsessive nature of a man or woman in love, or excessive grief one feels upon the loss of a loved one.

The encyclopedia has more than 400 entries on authors, books and stories. The assortment includes one or two paragraphs or a full page in length. Each entry includes numerous cross-references to related articles and ends with a short bibliography of books and articles. The encyclopedia also has a list of major gothic works by title and then by author, a time line of gothic literature, a list of film noir and gothic films, and bibliographies of primary and secondary sources.

This book deficiently fails to capture the essence of Gothic writers and their works. Although it does boast of a meticulous list of authors, yet the analysis of the peculiarities that make the listed ‘gothic writers’ is shoddy making one wonder on what criteria the categorization is based. The inclusion of Laura Esquivel’s ‘Like Water for Chocolate’- emphasizing the value of occult during the Mexican Revolution amid a torrid and disgruntled romance is plausible however, The Handmaid’s Tale by the pre-dominant sci-fi feminist writer Margaret Atwood muddies the sense of the ideal gothic characters. The one and only assisting quality is spotting lesser-known authors like Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Margaret Oliphant Percy Bysshe Shelly and Charlotte Smith are given short biographical sketches, and their best works are briefly analyzed for gothic themes.

3/5****

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