[Today’s quote comes from the preface of “The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction” of which Jerrold E. Hogle is the editor. Only 52 pages of the book are available through the preview on Google Books, but if you enjoy the reading, you can purchase the full guide directly from Cambridge for $35.*Not sponsored, just supportive of interesting reads.*]
Gothic literature, or Gothic fiction as it is often referred, is one of the most beloved and diverse genres of fiction. Wikipedia labels Gothic literature as “feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of Romantic literary pleasures”. *Applause for wording to whoever wrote that magical line.* Although fans of the genre typically became fans as a result of falling in love with a particular piece of literature and not because of a scholarly approach to the genre, understanding the history and psychological appeal of the genre can be just as interesting.
The History of Gothic Literature
Wikipedia offers an overview of the genre on its Gothic Fiction page including its rise in English, German and Russian literature. A lot of scholars turn their nose up at Wikipedia, but it’s a great source to get an overview of the subject. Once you’ve gotten the basic understanding of the subject, you can expand your knowledge further with more in-depth sources.
John Mullen takes a brief look at the early Gothic fiction releases and their effect on the genre in his article entitled “The origins of the Gothic,” hosted by the British Library. This article begins with “The Castle of Otranto” and ends with Emily and Charlotte Brontë.
One Gothic lit gem I came across is actually intended as a resource for English students at City University of New York (CUNY). The page, entitled “The Gothic Experience“, dates to 2002, but instead of being outdated, it actually serves as a minimalist outline for anyone that wants to learn more about the subject. The page provides a link to a rather detailed history of Gothic lit, but I also recommend checking out the “Terror versus Horror” page, which breaks down the difference between the two. If you’ve never taken a course on Gothic lit but have the desire to do so, I think this page would be a great place to start.