Caroline Franklin, Ed. the Longman Anthology of Gothic Verse

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Caroline Franklin, ed. The Longman Anthology of Gothic Verse. Harlow: Longman, 2011.

The Longman Anthology of Gothic Verse is a significant contribution to the field of Gothic literature. This volume is not merely an anthology, but an intervention in the studies of Gothic verse, an area that has occupied an inconspicuous place in the academy vis-a-vis the Romantic canon. Moreover, the anthology not only highlights the importance of poetry in Gothic literature, but also reinstates the formative role it has in Romantic poetry and English poetry in general. The anthology incorporates an array of verse forms from the mid-18th century until the end of the 19th century, including subvariants, such as "graveyard poetry" and "vampire poetry," verse dramas, fairytales, as well as a number of ballads among which translations of two influential German ballads. Historical and biographical details that situate verses within the context of English literature provide the thematic and formal insights needed to study them. A series of black and white engravings and colour paintings contained in the anthology underlines the Gothic's pervasive presence in cultural history, as well as the obvious ties between literature and visual culture.

As noted in the "Preface," the anthology challenges conventional categories of Romantic and Victorian verse and the distinctions between "high" and "low" by including popular verses from the period alongside poetry from canonical authors (xii). Given the recognition of popular culture as a serious object of study in recent scholarship, this inclusion is indeed overdue. In fact, the tension between "high" and "low" is a productive one in understanding Gothic poetry and its critical reception. After all, the common explorations of mental processes, the sublime and nature that high Romantic poetry shares with Gothic poetry forces poets to push their formal and stylistic experiments further in order to make their poetry distinctive. In this sense, Lyrical Ballads, the seminal poetry anthology of Wordsworth and Coleridge "was a Romantic response to popular Gothic. Rather than using the supernatural to merely thrill the reader, or recoiling from it into sterile rationalism, they attempted to explore those subjective states which created an alternative reality to that of the quotidian". (256) Moreover, the volume's editor, Caroline Franklin, attempts to contextualise the strategies of poets like Wordsworth, who explicitly denounces the popular Gothic, even though in his "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads he justifies the use of language of common man (146), thereby setting in place the "high" and "low." In the introduction to the volume, Franklin notes that by the end of the 18th century, the public was already infatuated with the Gothic and poets such as Coleridge and Wordsworth (whose works are also included in the volume) were cautious of the sensationalism of the supernatural (8). …