Edgar Allan Poe's Contribution to American Gothic

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2013

68 Pages, Grade: 5.0




Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three




If we were to ask ourselves who Edgar Allan Poe was, what would we answer? The first answer that would enter our mind would probably be that he was an author of the very first horror books. It is also agreed that he was the father of the detective fiction novels. The second answer would perhaps refer to his complicated bibliographical aspects, where historians could only be supposing, guessing and claiming. Some people search for the truth of Poe’s death. There are various sources claiming that he died of extensive intoxication; the others claim that he was sober and died due to some mysterious factors. Edgar Allan Poe did nothing to sharpen the blurred vision of his life, quite contrarily – he repeated the fictional stories to name but one - that he joined the Greek in their fight for liberty in 1828. Since no headstone was placed over Poe’s grave when he was buried, some have claimed it as to be right of his grandfather, others to the left. As for his burial, both October 8 and 9 have been recorder in various places. No thing can be stated with certainty. Some mysteries connected with Edgar Allan Poe will probably remain unsolved.

What is the horror genre and why do people despise it so often and those who admire such literature are treated as childish? Horror is perhaps the most unfairly maligned of genres, probably due to the fact that it solely seeks to provoke a specific emotional response. Horror is a term which describes an affect. A horror story must make its readers feel horror[1]. Clive Bloom, the author of the essay “Horror Fiction: In Search of a Definition”, provided the basic idea of how complex this issue is, stating that there exists

A multiplicity of apparently substitutable terms to cover the same thing – gothic tale, ghost tale, terror romance, gothic horror […] becomes clear that while “horror” and “gothic” are often interchangeable, there are, of course, gothic tales that are not horror fiction and horror tales that are not gothic.[2]

What is certain is that the horror genre as it exists today is a sprout of the gothic, and that many of its most distinctive settings and patterns had their beginnings in Romanticism and the gothic. That is why, in order to gain some understanding of “horror” we must first explore the genre’s Gothic origins which is the basic intention of my work.

Therefore the third question arises. What in fact is Gothic novel? To what extent did Poe contribute to this genre? And on the other hand, what did he draw from, who was his inspiration or what? As Robert Donald Spector has pointed out “the gothic novel did not originate in a sudden impulse from a single individual”[3]. Rather, the eighteenth century saw a series of related developments in other arts and forms of literature, developments, which both foreshadowed and paralleled the more literary manifestations of the “gothic” impulse. One such development was the new wave of fascination with Gothic architecture. In addition, the early eighteenth century brought about a revival of Spenser and Milton, who were perhaps the earliest poets to explore the Gothic mood, and also saw a fashion for so-called Graveyard Poetry. Common elements of this mode of poetry were:

“[...] a melancholy and subjective tone, vague longings, together with ghosts, chains, tombs […] that fill the reader with terror and set a note of mystery and other-worldliness.”[4]

These elements would be repeated endlessly in much of the Gothic literature to follow. Horace Walpole, more than any other single writer, can be said to be the one who started to the gothic genre. As Varma has said “The Castle of Otranto opened the floodgate of ‘Gothic’ Tales”. “Otranto” gave the ‘Gothic’ tale a form and a fashion by combining historical background with supernatural machinery”[5]. If Walpole can be described as the ‘Father’ of the Gothic, than Anne Radcliffe can be called the ‘Mother’ of the genre, for it was she, more than any other writer, who was responsible for the huge boom in the popularity of the genre that took place during the 1790s. “Radcliffe’s enormous success made the Gothic the most popular, if not the most readable, fiction of the eighteenth century. So who were the main practitioners of the Gothic? What were their achievements and to what extent did they influence modern “horror”? I will ask, what were the mutual influences between the writers of the period as well as the splendid background to their writing. All those aspects will be discussed more broadly in the due course of my work.

Several more aspects such as - what is the psychological background to this genre and who was the finest figure researching this subject, should be tackled too. During my gathering the information one, very prominent name emerged and it was Sigmund Freud. In fact, Freud, in his essay took part of a literary critic who tried to explain the effect of a certain kind of literature on human behaviour; he was concerned with literary reception. He began his analysis with philological considerations: the meaning of the word “uncanny” - unheimlich, its etymology, history, historical development, general use, etc. The uncanny is the subject of aesthetics because it has to do with a certain kind of feelings or sensations, with human’s emotional impulses. The actual definition from the Literary Dictionary says that the Uncanny comes from the Old Norman and means “know”, kunna.[6] It was supposed to be strange and weird emotion. The uncanny refers, in the definition of fantastic literature, to descriptions of unnatural events which can ultimately be ascribed to the psychological state of those who have witnessed the events, be the characters or the narrator of the story. The worse is that the reader is supposed to be aware of the fact that they are all delusions, dreams or mistakes, but these don’t make them less fearful. But in general Aesthetics has neglected to study the nature of the uncanny, preferring to concentrate on beauty and, in general, on more positive emotions such as the sublime. The uncanny is something fearful and frightening, and as such it has been constantly neglected in the history. Eventually, Modernism marks a great return towards fascination with the ugly as well as the grotesque: a kind of “negative” aesthetics. Freud’s essay - Das Unheimliche - or the “Uncanny” makes a finest contribution to this supplement to the aesthetics of the “beautiful” by examining what we might call the aesthetics of the “fearful”, tackling the aesthetics of anxiety. In the first chapter of my work I will be discussing this matter broadly, seeking Freud’s theory’s traces in the pages of Poe’s novels.

Therefore, my paper shall have the following order:

The first chapter will answer the general question – What the Gothic is as well as what are its main components such as the sublime, the uncanny, the aspect of transgression and perversion. I want to introduce the essay of Sigmund Freud, referring to the nature of the uncanny in order to present how deeply Edgar Allan Poe was “soaked” with this spirit of “uncanny”. The Gothic tradition will be also one of my leading subjects in this chapter.

Chapter two will present the main practitioners of the Gothic, both those classical ones as well as those modern – who were the descendant of the finest past. I would also like to highlight the differences between the European and the American Gothic, explaining the factors which took part in the shaping of both “gothics”

Chapter three is going to be solely devoted to Edgar Allan Poe. I will ask the question – how did he use the tradition of the Gothic, how does he fits into this tradition and did he contribute and in what way to it?

Chapter One

In order to give a solid, believable picture of the aspect known as “Gothic”, we must first of all answer the question – is it solely a literary term? As I have already mentioned in the Introduction to my work, gothic arise on the basis of various, complex happenings, taking place in literature, human nature, meaning, society and also art and architecture.

First of all, we have to realise that literature was the reaction to the surrounding – the environment which shaped the trends. In the mid eighteenth century, with the rise of Romanticism, an increased interest and awareness of the Middle Ages among some influential connoisseurs created a more appreciative approach to selected medieval arts, beginning with church architecture, the tomb monuments of royal and noble personages, stained glass, and late Gothic illuminated manuscripts. Other Gothic arts continued to be disregarded as barbaric and crude, to name but some tapestries and metalwork. Europeans began to appreciate the picturesque character of ruins, creating a new aesthetic quality which Horace Walpole admired and gave vent in the “Gothick” details of his Twickenham villa, “Strawberry Hill”. It strongly appealed to the rococo tastes of the time, and by the 1770s, thoroughly neoclassical architects such as Robert Adam and James Wyatt were prepared to provide Gothic details in drawing-rooms, libraries, and chapels, for a romantic vision of a Gothic abbey. The “Gothick” style was an architectural manifestation of the artificial “picturesque” seen elsewhere in the arts: these ornamental temples and summer-houses ignored the structural logic of true Gothic buildings and were effectively Palladian buildings with pointed arches. In 1817, Thomas Rickman wrote “a text-book for the architectural student to name and define the sequence of Gothic styles in English ecclesiastical architecture. Its long title is extremely descriptive:

Attempt to discriminate the styles of English architecture from the Conquest to the Reformation; preceded by a sketch of the Grecian and Roman orders, with notices of nearly five hundred English buildings.

It went through numerous editions and was still being republished in 1881. There is so much of the Gothic architecture, which might leave a scent of slight doubt.

If we were to get back to purely literary aspect of the Gothic, we would have to define what Gothic is. The encyclopaedic entry from the Companion to the literature in English gives as such a definition on “gothic fiction”:

A type of novel or romance popular in the late 18th and early 19th century. The word “Gothic” had come to mean ‘wild’, ‘barbarous’ and ‘crude’, qualities which writers found it attractive to cultivate in reaction against the sedate neoclassicism of earlier 18th-century culture. Gothic novels were usually set in the past (most often the medieval past) and in foreign countries (particularly the Catholic countries of southern Europe); they took place in monasteries, castles, dungeons and mountainous landscapes. The plots hinged on suspense and mystery, involving the fantastic and the supernatural.[...][7]

At first gothic was perceived in many [8] aspects, such as: style of art, the form of novels, paintings, or architecture; nowadays it even refers to a certain type of the music and its fans. What it originally meant was of course its relation to, and resemblance of the Goths, their civilization, or their language. It took centuries before the word “gothic” started to mean something again. During the Renaissance, Europeans rediscovered Greco-Roman culture and began to regard a particular type of architecture, mainly the one built in the Middle Ages, as gothic while so-called Uomo Universale[9] considered these buildings barbaric and not in a Classical style so much.

Centuries more passed before “gothic” came to describe a certain type of novels. Lilianna Sikorska claims that most of the events of the stories took as their background haunted castles, graveyards, ruins and wild picturesque landscapes.[10] As Ann B. Tracy writes in her novel The Gothic Novel 1790-1830 Plot Summaries and Index to Motifs, the Gothic novel could have been the description of a fallen world. On the other hand, Sikorska states that whereas gothic originally referred to the “medieval”, its meaning was changed and shifted more towards macabre and fantastic of the “wild” and “crude”. Where could we find the roots of this comparison between Gothic and barbarous or wild? It might stem from the simple historical point of view – Roman civilization and the barbarian embodied in Vandals or Goths. Reading further in An Outline History of English Literature, we can find division of the term “Gothic” into three separate aspects, each bearing completely different implications: the first is said to be connected with primitivism of barbarian tribes who arrived in England from East Germania – people called Goths and it is nothing more but a synonym of their barbaric attitude towards the world they conquered. The second, rather medieval in its perception, praised the chivalry times and knighthood deeds, it was this time, connected with setting of the action in a castle, abbey or a temple. The world in such a novel was an idealized one, created on a the basis of authors desire to seek in the medievalism more than the factual state of the Middle Ages. The final – third one term, involved the aspects I briefly discussed in the first part of my work – it deals with the supernatural, sublime, mysterious, unknown and fearful. Such a typical novel was based on the suspension and the fantastic, scary situations, often involving ghosts and other supernatural beings.[11] While the eighteenth century grew more interested in the ancient times as well as national cultures of the past, scholars provided people with information about the traditions and beliefs of an ancient nations as Celts or Icelanders. The writers of the last type of the “gothic” used dark and dreadful places as old monasteries, dungeons and decaying castles as the scenery for their stories. What is more, trying to manifest against the Classical tendency of beauty and harmony, they began praising the macabre, showing how much beauty can be found in fear. Andrew Sanders quotes in his Short Oxford History of English Literature Edmund Burke who argued that pain and terror are capable of producing delight.[12] The atmosphere of the Gothic novel has indeed combined the beautiful with the so-called sublime. The sublime, the awareness of which could be experienced by contemplation of nature, especially wild, dangerous, mountains, was capable of evoking in the observer the feeling of complete astonishment, “a sort of tranquility with terror”.[13]

Edmund Burke published his Philosophical [14] Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful in 1757, trying to distinguish between the beauty and the sublime. In his opinion both were available to the reader if being confronted with brightness, smoothness and smallness in first case and with infinite, solitude, emptiness, darkness and horror in the latter. He also claimed that the sublime mind is so completely filled with the object in its scope that there is no place for any other feelings or emotions, while they are incomparable to anything else. Therefore one’s mind was simply driven to the limits of transcendent perception.[15] In order to experience something close to what scholars theorized upon, some of the richer, who could afford such fancy, decided to make the journey seeking the sublime experiences. Anthony Ashley Cooper, third earl of Shaftesbury, John Dennis and Joseph Addison's - all three Englishmen, had, within the span of several years, made the journey across the Alps and commented in their writings on the horrors and harmony of the experience, expressing a contrast of aesthetic qualities.That is why the main and perhaps favorite setting of the Gothic novel depicts the highest mountains, the deepest sees or the darkest caverns. All those aspects concluded in a point where the phenomenon of death started to be treated as ultimate and sublime – indeed, fear of that could have been breath taking… The death and where the sublime set the boundaries will be discussed in the course of this chapter.

As I have mentioned, for Burke, the sublime was an external part for the human-being, each and every one of us could experience the greatness of terror if appropriate conditions were fulfilled. In 1781 someone opposed this idea and decided that the sublime is the internal predisposition of the given person and there are people who are able to “see” and experience much more than the others. In his Critique of Judgment, Kant investigated the sublime, stating “We call that sublime which is absolutely great”[16]. He considered both the beautiful and the sublime as “indefinite” concepts. For Kant, one's inability to grasp the enormity of a sublime event such as an earthquake demonstrates the inadequacy of one's sensibility and imagination.

Sanders states that so-called “Delightful horror”, chose as its settings ruins and as its target to scare and disgust people to death. The closing years of the century proposed Gothic fiction which was “essential reaction against comfort and security, against political stability and commercial progress. Above all, it resists the rule of reason.”[17] And in fact – yes, the literature of the times was full of lengthy descriptions of torture and terror, necromancy, necrophilia, as well as sudden death, and haunting. This phenomena is called a transgression and it refers to the complete breaking of all existing rules, both social and moral-ones, moving even towards what I have just described and what is called perversion, meaning – violating the natural order of world. Perversion observes totally repressed feelings and emotions. The characters of the Gothic novels were domineered by the feeling of utmost terror und uncertainty. The question of why we are afraid or why heroes should feel fear was broadly discussed until the beginning of the twentieth century.

In 1919, Freud published his famous treatise Das Unheimliche - or the “Uncanny” exploring the possible psychological ancestry of the eerie and terrible, or more precisely - as his title says - of what he named the “uncanny”. Having appreciated this concept, it soon became apparent that the Gothic genre seems to rely overwhelmingly on this particular feeling; indeed, its ties to the Gothic genre appear so close that one might suggest the genesis of the one depends on the other. One of the first observations made by Freud is the distinction between the feeling of the uncanny and that of terror, horror and other members of that paradigm. He regards the uncanny as a distinct emotion from which the latter may spring, but maintains its psychological differentiation from these. Freud was luring the reader with the following words:

The German word 'unheimlich' is obviously the opposite of 'heimlich' ['homely'], 'heimisch' ['native'] the opposite of what is familiar; and we are tempted to conclude that what is 'uncanny' is frightening precisely because it is not known and familiar. Naturally not everything that is new and unfamiliar is frightening, however;[18]

Freud divided the potential for the uncanny into two closely related main classes: those generated by repression and those caused by the apparent demonstration of the truth of “officially” surmounted beliefs. Both have the roots in a childhood. He also provided us with many examples of the “uncannies” to study and tried to explain what might be the historical and psychological root of the fear within them. As one of the first, Freud presented the nature of the double.:

[...] the phenomenon of the ‘double’, which appears in every shape and in every degree of development. Thus we have characters who are to be considered identical because they look alike. This relation is accentuated by mental processes leaping from one of these characters to another — by what we should call telepathy —, so that the one possesses knowledge, feelings and experience in common with the other. […] In other words, there is a doubling, dividing and interchanging of the self. And finally there is the constant recurrence of the same thing — the repetition of the same features or character-traits or vicissitudes, of the same crimes, or even the same names through several consecutive generations. The theme of the ‘double’ has been very thoroughly treated by Otto Rank (1914). He has gone into the connections which the ‘double’ has with reflections in mirrors, with shadows, with guardian spirits, with the belief in the soul and with the fear of death;[19]

To most people, the experience of involuntary repetition is indeed, very uncanny. As prime examples of this category, counts the feeling of déjà vu, an often experienced theme of the double and the doppelgänger. We might also add rhetorical devices such as phonetic or verbal repetition which fit into this category, enabling literature to exploit this branch of the uncanny; Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven consists of the continuous alliterations and might be the most prominent example of this. Freud explains our uneasiness about the recurrent and the double in terms of the previously mentioned questioning of surmounting beliefs. In this case, he argues, what has happened is a reversal of an original, childish notion that through the double, one was able to preserve oneself - one was indestructible. The repetition, he states does not have to create the uncanny in everyone of us and in every single situation. The connection of the repetition or the doubling which arouses unpleasant excitement can be provoked by certain factors such as mist, loneliness, secrecy or complete silence. We might than – experience fear but not before experiencing those.

The factor of the repetition of the same thing will perhaps not appeal to everyone as a source of uncanny feeling. From what I have observed, this phenomenon does undoubtedly, subject to certain conditions and combined with certain circumstances, arouse an uncanny feeling, which, furthermore, recalls the sense of helplessness experienced in some dream-states.[20]

Another uncanny theme related to repetition is that of automatism - a kind of repetition that deepens the difference between the mechanical and the intellectual idea of the human. To this class belongs also the effect of, for instance, mental disorders and epilepsy. Most people, seeing a person talking in sleep or sitting up, appearing wide awake but in an entirely different world, is perhaps very strange and unnerving experience. This theme has been exploited in the Gothic tradition, like the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which would probably fit perfectly to this category. Freud also uses E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Der Sandmann as the exemplifying foundation of his essay. In this tale, an acutely uncanny application of the theme of automata is found in the protagonist Nathaniel's zealous love towards Olympia who turns out to be a mechanical doll. The uncanniness of this category, Freud suggests, bears strong implication derived from the childhood. Dolls are splendid examples of the category of automata while they do not become uncanny to us before repression has taken place. In fact, children are perfectly at ease with them, whereas most adults seem to find, for instance, wax figures somewhat uncanny. Children may even wish and fancy their dolls to be alive; this fact has inspired Freud to suggest that some of the uncanniness connected with dolls could, thus, also derive from an childish wish, rather than a directly repressed fear. So-called animism and anthropomorphism can both be the reason for the fear; similar - the loss of the vision. Quoting the story of Nathaniel, Freud explains that fear of sight-loss is that compared to fear of castration, and consequently it again – stems in childhood.

Having examined some of the most common manifestations of the uncanny, we can – following Freud, derive the conclusion that there are two factors of what brings dread upon us. These are: uneasiness about being confronted with beliefs and modes, including childhood instincts and behaviour and also encountering the projections created by the repression of these surmounted beliefs.

This was a psychological approach to the “Gothic” in the view of the future, but at that times it was not discussed or exemplified – people simply treated the matter as fashion - it was good to feel dread, it was modern to be petrified. Moreover, as Sikorska states,

[…]we delight in ‘seeing things, we respond to pain and terror when they are no immediate danger to us. Hence, sublime art produces delight.[21]

The Gothic novel formulated the boundaries within which its characters had to be fit in. The Gothic hero became a sort of archetype as we find the pattern to characterization. The typical character of Gothic fiction had to include an innocent and virtuous young woman in distress, who was usually isolated and left without help. Then there was the villain, who is the epitome of evil, either by his own fall from grace, or by some implicit malevolence. Sikorska also mentions “a talkative and superstitious servant, as well as supernatural appartitions.”[22] The plot itself mirrored the ruined and decaying world in its dealings with a protagonist's fall from grace as she succumbs to temptation from a villain. In the end, the protagonist must be saved through a reunion with a loved one, while the pure love could have only been the salvation.

And what was the prevailing philosophy of the times? If we look at the attitude towards life in the eighteenth century, we may guess that the philosophy was not one of the most cheerful and supportive. And we will not be mistaken. One of the trends in philosophy at the times was existentialism, which probably was developed in this grotesque period. Existentialism was a philosophical movement in which individual human beings were understood as having full responsibility for creating the meanings of their own lives. It was a reaction against more traditional philosophies, such as rationalism and empiricism, which sought to discover an ultimate order in metaphysical principles or in the structure of the observed world.[23] Moreover, Gothic human-being was constantly confronted with the death in order to make him possible of estimation what is the value of the life he or she possesses. The rejection of reason as the source of meaning was a common theme of existentialist thought, as was the focus on the feelings of anxiety and dread that we feel in the face of our own radical freedom and our awareness of death.[24] Life in the “Gothic” time was definitely not the one which would promote happiness.

Sanders gives us a brief description of somewhat funny in the view of those grim and dim atmosphere, picture of the very first author of the Gothic in England – Horace Walpole and his beginnings with the Gothic trend.[25] Horace was the third son of the Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole and due to his ancestry he was able to fulfill his wishes towards being up-to-date with trends. In 1749, on western fringes of London, at Strawberry Hill, he began creating a mock castle for himself. Walpole and two friends, including an architect, Chute, and draftsman, Bentley, called themselves a “Committee of Taste” which would modify the architecture of the building. They looked at many examples of architecture in England and in other countries, using such works as the chapel at Westminster Abbey built by Henry VII for inspiration for the fan vaulting of the gallery, while the bays, recesses, and mirrors refer to Robert Adam’s interiors. He incorporated many of the exterior details of cathedrals into the interior of the house. From the outside there were two predominant styles, which seemed to be ‘mixed’, a style based on castles with turrets and battlements, and a style based on Gothic cathedrals with arched windows and stained glass. The building evolved similarly to how a medieval cathedral often evolved over time, there was no fixed plan from the beginning. Walpole added new features over a thirty-year period, as he saw fit.

In a discussion with his friend, Walpole made his intentions clear: I am going to build a little Gothic castle at Strawberry Hill, and he asked his friends for any fragments of old painted glass, armour, or anything.[26] He spent the rest of his life in this pursuit, in writing gossipy waspish letters, histories, and founding a printing press there in 1757. His gothic novel, "The Castle of Otranto" was not printed there, being published anonymously in London in 1764. By this time he had increased the five acre property to an estate of 46 acres. Horace’s new residence was constantly being filled with an eclectic and extraordinary collection of objets d’ art.[27]

Extending the house along its axis,[28] Walpole built himself a library, an armoury, a gallery, a “star chamber”, a “tribune” also a sort of shrine, a china closet, bedrooms in several colours, and an oratory. There were towers, battlements, and stained glass rescued from demolished buildings. The house is often quoted as a major stimulant to the Gothic Revival.[29]

The whole secret of life is to be interested in one thing profoundly and in a thousand things well.[30]

Gothic, Gothicism, Walpole, Freud, uncanny, sublime, transgression. These aspects were discussed in this chapter. Its main point was to provide various information, regarding the main concept together with main components of the Gothic. As we could observe, most of the aspects connoted as the “Gothic” were simply the ones with hidden suffix stating “revival”. And in fact, the eighteenth century interest in the medieval times, the classical knight-hero and gloomy atmosphere, dramatized for the purpose of adding thrill to people’s life was nothing else but imitation of the past greatness. First generations which came after the Middle Ages were triumphing over the ”Dark Ages”, whereas eighteen century modern attitude sought for malevolence of the past terror and tragedies.

The same situation was with so-called the Gothic Revival which was an architectural movement, originating in mid-eighteenth century England. In the nineteenth century, increasingly serious and learned neo-Gothic styles sought to – again - revive medieval forms, in distinction to the classical styles which were prevalent at the time. The movement had significant influence throughout the United Kingdom as well as in Europe and North America, and perhaps more Gothic architecture was built in nineteenth and twentieth centuries than had originally ever been built.

So much can be said to the idea of Gothic. So far I was discussing only the basic concepts and ideas referring to the states and situations, without involving the personae. As each literary period, so the Gothic offers wide range of the practitioners – the authors who were creating the air of their epoch. So who were those practitioners? What did they write and of what quality were their creations? Chapter Two shall provide the reader with some answers.

Chapter Two

The main practitioners of the Gothic – who were they and what was their influence on other writers of the coming ages? This chapter will delve into the portraits of particular Gothic writers – both the British and the American.

The authors whom I have chosen to base on – Liliana Sikorska and Andrew Sanders, both state that the very first writer who created the book full of mysticism, being too scary for the readers of the age was Horace Walpole – the owner of a mock castle at Strawberry Hills. The book was titled The Castle of Otranto and as Sikorska claims it was condemned for its pseudo-medieval extravaganza.[31] It is worth mentioning that Walpole claimed – as Sanders states, that the novel was a simple translation of an old Italian tale in Medieval Apulia. However some years later, Walpole admitted that what he wanted to do was to blend two kinds of romance – the ancient and the modern.[32] Reading the Preface to the second edition of The Castle of Otranto, one can come across an explanation what was the difference between the ancient and the modern:

In the former, all was imagination and improbability; in the latter, nature is always intended to be, and sometimes has been, copied with success.[33]

If we were to refer to what was said in the previous chapter, the characteristic of the Gothic and Gothicism, it easy to trace all those aspects that were described as those which shape this genre. The story of the novel - The Castle of Otranto is indeed placed in the early Medieval and additionally European country – Italy. The action takes place in a decaying, mysterious but overwhelming by its size – castle. The castle – what only added to horror, is linked to the nearby monastery by a mysterious underground passage, full of dead-end by ways and trap-doors. Secondly, the mood and the scenery – Sikorska states that Walpole introduces terror mainly through surprise and that supernatural mixed with the natural forces. Whatever we may say, the dreading atmosphere is getting thicker and thicker the longer we read the novel. Having read about Edmund Burke’s theory referring to the sublime, we can state that anybody is able to experience the horror if only there are appropriate conditions. In the Castle of Otranto the reader finds whatever he needs to be scared to death – the solitude, darkness, emptiness and terror. The best example of the rising dread can be presented in the fragment of the first chapter:

The gates of the castle she knew were locked, and guards placed in the court. Should she, as her heart prompted her, go and prepare Hippolita for the cruel destiny that awaited her, she did not doubt but Manfred would seek her there, and that his violence would incite him to double the injury he meditated, without leaving room for them to avoid the impetuosity of his passions. Delay might give him time to reflect on the horrid measures he had conceived, or produce some circumstance in her favour, if she could, for that night at least, avoid his odious purpose.[34]


[1] Bernice Murphy, Trinity College, Dublin. "Horror." The Literary Encyclopedia. 17 Sep. 2004. The Literary Dictionary Company. 21 March 2007. http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=trueUID=518>

[2] Bloom, Clive, Horror Fiction: In Search of a Definition, 2002, p.13

[3] Spector, Donald, The English Gothic, p. 6

[4] Varma, Devendra, The Gothic Flame, p. 28

[5] Varma, Devendra, The Gothic Flame, p. 39

[6] Gray, M., A Dictionary of Literary Terms, Longmann York Press, Harlow, 1992, p. 296

[7] Ousby, Ian, Companion to Literature In English, Wordsworth Reference, 1992, p. 379

[8] The typical scenery of the Gothic novel, downloaded from earth.subetha.dk/.../uni/projects/gothnov.htm

[9] "Renaissance Man" Britannica Online.http://www.eb.com:180/cgi-bin/g?DocF=micro/206/79.html

[10] Sikorska, Liliana, An Outline History of English, Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 2002, p. 221

[11] Sikorska, Liliana, An Outline History of English, Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 2002, p. 222

[12] Sanders, Andrew, The Short Oxford History of English Literature, OUP, 2000, p. 342

[13] Sanders, Andrew, The Short Oxford History of English Literature, OUP, 2000, p. 342

[14] Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich1817, Romantic artists during the 19th century used the epic of nature as an expression of the sublime, downloaded from www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/friedrich/

[15] Sikorska, Liliana, An Outline History of English, Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 2002, p. 222

[16] Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgment. Trans. J.H. Bernard. Macmillan, 1951

[17] Sanders, Andrew, The Short Oxford History of English Literature, OUP, 200, p. 343

[18] THE UNCANNY - Sigmund Freud,This translation was originally made available for Mark Taylor's course on the Psychology of Religion [http://www.williams.edu/go/Religion/courses/Rel301/reading/text/uncanny.html]

[19] ibid... Chapter II

[20] ibid...

[21] Sikorska, Liliana, An Outline History of English, Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 2002, p. 223

[22] Sikorska, Liliana, An Outline History of English, Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 2002, p.222

[23] Gray, M., A Dictionary of Literary Terms, Longmann York Press, Harlow, 1992, p. 112

[24] Existentialism notes downloaded from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism

[25] Sanders, Andrew, The Short Oxford History of English Literature, OUP, 200, p. 343

[26] John Iddon, Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill, a History Guide, 1996, p. 23

[27] Sanders, Andrew, The Short Oxford History of English Literature, OUP, 200, p. 343

[28] Horace Walpole's gothic mansion at Strawberry Hill, downloaded from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Strawberryhill.jpg

[29] Paul Baines, University of Liverpool. "Horace Walpole." The Literary Encyclopedia. 21 Mar. 2002. The Literary Dictionary Company. 22 March 2007. http://www.litencyc.com/php/speople.php?rec=trueUID=4587

[30] Horace Walpole on life, downloaded from http://www.online-literature.com/horace-walpole/

[31] Sikorska, Liliana, An Outline History of English, Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 2002, p.223

[32] Sanders, Andrew, The Short Oxford History of English Literature, OUP, 200, p. 343

[33] Bibliomania – Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto free online reading - http://www.bibliomania.com/0/0/331/2422/frameset.html - Preface to Second Edition

[34] Bibliomania – Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto free online reading - http://www.bibliomania.com/0/0/331/2422/frameset.html

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Edgar Allan Poe's Contribution to American Gothic
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Edgar Allan Poe, American Gothic, gothic, literature, sublime, uncanny, the double, horror
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MA Marta Zapała-Kraj (Author), 2013, Edgar Allan Poe's Contribution to American Gothic, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/288323


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