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The Influence And Meaning Of Gothic Literature

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The Influence and Meaning of Gothic Literature

Gothic is termed in the dictionary with crude and barbaric, this definition coincides with gothic literature. Gothic literature was said to be born in 1764 when Horace Walpole published The Castle of Otranto, which is considered to be the first gothic novel ever written. Gothic literature explores the aggression between what we fear and what we lust. The setting of these gothic stories were usually in some kind of castle or old building that showed human decay and created an atmosphere of mystery and suspense. The words chosen in these novels and short stories were very descriptive they tended to "blend the idea of the exotic and the familiar" (The Balkans, 75).Supernatural and unexplainable events are crucial to the plot of a gothic story. Often, they act as the backbone of the plot and many of the circumstances and coincidences rest upon them. After reading Goldworthy's piece and Stokers Dracula I intend to prove that the setting and the idea of a supernatural being are the most crucial parts to a gothic story.

Most of the settings choose in gothic tales tended to be in the Eastern half of Europe, because the Eastern part of Europe was unknown to most of the people living in Europe. Due to the fact that the people knew little information about Eastern Europe the fear of the unknown was prevalent. Eastern Europe can be considered gothic because of the relevance of the fear of the unknown. . In Stokers novel Dracula Jonathan Harker began to explain the differences that existed between the East and West in his journal. "It seems the farther you go east the more unpunctual are the trains, what ought they be in China" (Dracula, 2). This is suggesting the fact that the people in the West are more punctual and set in their ways. The Western part of Europe was not so creepy, people knew about the West. Western Europe was civilized unlike Eastern Europe. According to Goldworthy's piece the Eastern portion of Europe "The Balkans" was considered a constant threat to the European status quo, in Charles Woods piece The Danger Zone of Europe he observed the fact that the near East has constantly been the reason and the scene for numerous wars. This disease spreading east was the ideal setting for writers of the Gothic genre.

Bram Stoker choose his setting for the novel Dracula in the Eastern half of Europe, he choose Transylvania (the land beyond the forest). However this was not his first choice for the setting of the novel, his first choice was Syria. The first choice of Syria was influenced by the story Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu(mentioned on page 74 in Goldworthy's piece). The setting in Carmilla was typical of the gothic genre; the family inhabited a castle which was surrounded by forest fifteen miles to the right, and twelve to the left. "The road, very old and narrow, passes in front of its drawbridge, never raised in my time, and its moat, stocked with perch, and sailed over many swans, and floating on its surface white fleets of water-lilies. Over all this the schloss shows its many-windowed front; its towers, and its Gothic chapel" (Carmilla, 1. But this setting and the legend behind it was not enough for Stoker, he needed something more horrifying and more historically suspenseful.

According to Goldworthy's text however we find out that it is because of "Transylvanian Superstitions" published in July 1885 and written by Emily Gerard , which Stoker heavily researched, is the reason why he choose Transylvania as the setting to his story. "Nowhere else, does this crooked plant of delusion flourish as persistently and in such bewildering variety" (Transylvanian superstitions). In Dracula, Jonathan Harker notes with a similar attitude "I read that every known superstition in the world is gathered into the horseshoe of the Carpathians, as if it were the centre of some sort of imaginative whirlpool." These quotations both bring about the fear of the unknown and the idea of the fear of the other, creating an ideal setting for a gothic novel. Gerard's article also provided Stoker with some of the folklore surrounding Dracula and his castle: St. George's Day, "the eve of which is still frequently kept by occult meetings taking place at night in lonely caverns or within ruined walls"; hidden treasures and "the light they give forth, described as a bluish flame"; and the wolf that "continues to haunt the Transylvanian forests" (Transylvanian superstitions). Gerard was not the only influence on Stoker choosing Transylvania as his setting some other influences were a collection of tales by Alexandre Dumas (pÐ"Ёre), Les Mille et un Fantomes (1849), includes a story about a vampire who haunts the Carpathians; in "The Mysterious Stranger" (anonymous, 1860), a vampire Count terrorizes a family in this area. Best-known may be Jules Verne's romantic adventure,



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