This page was created by Carissa Rodenbiker.  The last update was by Erika Strandjord.

Star of the Sea : A Postcolonial/Postmodern Voyage into the Irish Famine

History of the Gothic

Early Definitions of Gothic

The origin of Gothicism traces back to the Gothic Revival, which stemmed from the fascination people had in the first half of the eighteenth century with the barbarism of the Germanic Goths. This definition of Gothic evolved and became synonymous with the Middle Ages, "a period which was in disfavor because it was perceived as chaotic, unenlightened, and superstitious" ("The Gothic"). The Gothic quickly became an expression of a larger aesthetic revaluation in response to the Age of Enlightenment (Miles 443). The Gothic genre values tradition, feelings, sensibility. It allows readers to revel in emotions, fantasies, fear, and thrill, without requiring reason.

The Origins of Gothic Literature

The Castle of Otranto written by Horace Walpole in 1764, is widely regarded as the first Gothic novel. The novel was a catalyst for Gothic literature, founding the literary elements that we now know to be characteristics of the Gothic. Another author who had a great amount of influence on those following him was Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Known as the creator of the female vampire, Le Fanu also wrote many ghost stories. His use of Irish myth and grotesque actions advanced many Gothic themes that became prevalent in the Gothic genre during the Victorian era (“Le Fanu”).

The Gothic Today

After Walpole introduced his novel to the world, the Gothic genre continued into the eras following the eighteenth century and quickly developed by incorporating new characteristics, forms, and other modes of media. This expansion includes Gothic poetry, plays, art, magazines, movies, etc.  The Gothic has taken root in almost ever literary movement since the Age of Enlightenment, staying true to its foundations while exploring new ways to convey a Gothic atmosphere. The Gothic is more than just a scary story with ghosts or demons; it forces readers to abandon reason, discover the secrets of human nature, question the unknown, and experience heightened emotions. 


“...for the general trend towards an aesthetic more fully in touch with feeling and emotion was profound and real. Widespread awareness that overreliance on reason could rob human experience of its essential flavour was increasingly characteristic of the age”

-Stevens pg. 10

Works Cited

"The Gothic." The Gothic. 24 Oct. 2002. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.

Miles, Robert. “The Gothic.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. Ed. David Scott Kastan. Vol. 2. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. 443-446. Print.

Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. "Gothic Literature." Encyclopedia of Gothic Literature. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2005. Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. "Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan." Encyclopedia of Gothic Literature. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2005. Bloom's Literature. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.

Stevens, David. The Gothic Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. Print.
Researcher/Writer: Sarah Swansen
Technical Designers: Carissa Rodenbiker & Krystal Jamison

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