Gothic romance

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Gothic romance

Gothic romance, type of novel that flourished in the late 18th and early 19th cent. in England. Gothic romances were mysteries, often involving the supernatural and heavily tinged with horror, and they were usually set against dark backgrounds of medieval ruins and haunted castles. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole was the forerunner of the type, which included the works of Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Gregory Lewis, and Charles R. Maturin, and the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey satirizes Gothic romances. The influence of the genre can be found in some works of Coleridge, Le Fanu, Poe, and the Brontës. During the 1960s so-called Gothic novels became enormously popular in England and the United States. Seemingly modeled on Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre and Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, these novels usually concern spirited young women, either governesses or new brides, who go to live in large gloomy mansions populated by peculiar servants and precocious children and presided over by darkly handsome men with mysterious pasts. Popular practitioners of this genre are Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Catherine Cookson, and Dorothy Eden.

See studies by T. M. Harwell (4 vol., 1985) and D. P. Varma (1987).

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