The word “Gothic” can apply to any literature, art or architecture which attempts to disturb or unsettle the orderly, “civilized” course of society. Gothic works probe the dark side of humanity or unveil socio-cultural anxieties.
The gothic movement originated in the 19th century in response to the rapid social changes occurring in the nation. These changes caused anxiety in America, nurturing a gothic sensibility in literature.
Nineteenth century gothic writers challenged the cheery political assumptions of their time by the staging of characters and situations that seem impossible or out of place in an America of autonomy, optimism, and freedom.
Such cheery assumptions stemmed from Emerson’s belief that man is good and that he is the keeper oftruth.
Gothic writers also challenged the belief in humanity’s limitless potential and focus on the present and future
These gothic writers urge us to ask:
To what extent does it seem within our power to realize American ideals of the pursuit of happiness, freedom, equality and justice?
What power, if any, rules us?
How much are we in control of ourselves?
How well do we even know ourselves?
To what extent can we ever be sure of anything?
Is truth ever attainable?
American gothic writers question and analyzerather than offer helpful answers. Many challenge the assumption that America stands as the unique moral and social guiding light for the world.
Gothic writers addressed key nineteenth-century cultural trends, such as westward expansion, technological and scientific progress, romantic individualism, the cult of true womanhood, and the debate over slavery and abolition.
Gothic writers explore and critique the ideas of rationality, self-reliance, free will, and the self-made man expressed by Franklin and Emerson
Characteristics, conventions and elements of the gothic:
Hero- usually mysterious, though not "good" in the conventional sense, he is usually charismatic.
Setting- often isolated, bleak, and grandiose; employs castles, secret passageways, decaying places; landscapes usually signify cultural realities or psychological and emotional states of being.
Action- dramatic, disturbing, sinister, even violent.
Mood- of decay, doom and gloom.
Language- suggestive, exaggerated, emotional.
Plot and Atmosphere- emphasized over character development.
Supernatural- uses elements of the supernatural; delights in the mysterious and unexplainable.
Gothic object- the work may include a "gothic object" that becomes all consuming for the character. Gothic objects can range from a scarlet letter A, to an eye, to a tarn
Subject matter- may be concerned with sadistic, masochistic impulses, obsessions and the such.
The Past- often, gothic literature is concerned with the past and family genealogy.
Representation of the human body- the human body is often depicted vulnerable and/or monstrous.
Allegory: a narrative in which the persons, objects, or actions of the story have meaning outside of the narrative itself. They are symbols of abstract qualities
Ambiguity: doubtfulness or uncertainness of interpretation;
This describes most gothic literature because it rarely presents a clear moral or message; instead it seems intended to be open to multiple meanings
Doppelganger/double: a living person who is the exact replica of an individual;
Its existence reflects the gothic believe that we play a double role in life – one role is the true self (natural) while the other self is that which we show society (culture)
Dramatic monologue: a composition, oral or written, presenting the discourse of one speaker only; this technique is good for showing psychological disintegration
First person narrative: narratives told from the perspective of the speaker
Gothic Gothic tale: a literature that conveys a general mood of decay and that probes the dark side of humanity
Grotesque: the representation of unusual things, bizarre, unnatural, and freakish; depicts the world as distanced from everyday reality
Interior monologue: a discourse that records the internal, emotional experience of the character/narrator
Verbal: a discrepancy between what the speaker says and what he means
Dramatic: a discrepancy between what the speaker says and what the writer means
Situational: a discrepancy between what the speaker/character expected and what actually happens
Persona: a literary mask, meaning a “second self” created by the author for telling a story
Pseudonym: meaning fake name; it refers to the pen name of a write
Unreliable narrator: a narrator who may be in error in his understanding or report of things and who consequently leaves the reader without guidelines essential for making judgments about characters and actions with the assurance that his conclusions are those intended y the author
Impunity = without punishment or consequences
Connoisseur = an expert from experience
Motley = varied patterns and colors
Amontillado = specialized Spanish sherry
Roquelaire = cloak with hood
Catacomb = burial ground
Immolation = sacrifice
Redress (unredressed) = avenge (unavenged)
Fancy = imagination
Sentience = inanimate objects that have a conscious
Salem = the end result of Puritan belief; the worst that can happen
-Associated with witch trials and recalls the horror of Puritan history
The story is a criticism of Puritan ideas
Young Goodman Brown has made an appointment with the devil. His wife Faith begs him to not go, but he tells her that saying her prayers will make sure she’s safe. When the devil sees him, he said that he’s late.
He’s hypocritical- he doesn’t think he’s as bad as the others, but he wanted to meet the devil
He believes that going through the motions will save him
He believes his family would never sin, but the devil tells him that he used to meet them all the time. The devil says he is also been there all along with many others in town. For example, Goody Cloyse is a witch and her broomstick isn’t working. The minister and the deacon float around and talk about a woman and man who are going to be initiated.
Everybody has an interior life that Brown didn’t expect.
Goodman Brown starts to doubt his faith, but still has faith that faith will carry him.
He loses his faith when he sees Faith’s pink ribbon (implies Faith is flying). He runs around the woods and he is the scariest and the most horrific one.
He goes to the initiation ceremony and sees the whole town there.
**Every individual is a sinner**
The devil says: everyone is here, everyone you thought was good and holier that you. You will see sin everywhere and root it out. Man is depraved.
When he died, nobody had anything nice to say
Whether he experienced it or not is irrelevant, the impact is important.
Everything becomes evil – he can only see the evil, not the good.
This makes him become a miserable, isolated person without the companionship, trust, joy, and intimacy of life.
He cannot accept a more complex view of human nature.
Criticism of Puritan faith
Criticizing the narrow, simplistic Puritan view
Doesn’t equip you with what you need to face a complex world
The Cask of Amontillado: Edgar Allan Poe
Carnival season: party, frenzy; before Lent when we’re reminded that we’re mortal and we will die
Italian catacombs: burial places underground
Montresor wants revenge on Fortunato
He cannot get caught (if he pays the price for his own revenge, then he hasn’t really gotten revenge on Fortunato)
Fortunato must know that it is Montresor who is getting revenge on him
Unreliable narrator: the narrator’s stated motive is not authentic
He says he wants revenge because Fortunato insulted him
Clues: Confederate graves, the “Colonel” is from the Old South
The colonel forgives her taxes when her father dies. Her father was a dominating man who didn’t approve of anyone to marry her, so when he died she was alone. The town pities her because she became more human in their eyes.
The colonel passed a law requiring black women to wear aprons conveys that they are still servants in a hierarchy that still exists
Miss Emily is a mystery to us – we know she killed Homer, but we don’t know why. We can guess that he might’ve been trying to leave her and she didn’t want him to, but we don’t know her motives.
Miss Emily = her house
Surrounded by new modern stuff South is becoming modern: gas pumps
Both are the last remaining symbols of old values
She was part of a class that was separate, privileged, and superior
Miss Emily = a fallen monument
Monuments are for remembering, honoring, glorifying
They feel a hereditary duty to take care of Emily
Just like Emily, it had its prime, but that’s over It has fallen
Miss Emily = Old South
Just like Emily, the Old South is a burden, but they must honor it because it’s an inherited tradition that they feel obligated to honor
It looms large as they are trying to modernize
They also feel ambivalent about the Old South they’re afraid of it but they also revere it
Emily and the Old South are both proud, arrogant, and stubborn and refuse to change with the times
Miss Emily = idol
Idols instill fear (just like Emily and the Old South)
Idols are revered, worshipped, respected, and removed (Just like the Old South and Emily)