What is Gothic? (03:33)
During the Renaissance, “Gothic” was used to describe anything that did not come from ancient Greece or Rome. Medieval art and architecture was dismissed as Catholic superstition until the Georgians embraced the Gothic;it spawned new literature, art, and a fascination with the weird and horrific.
Horace Walpole (02:59)
“The Castle of Otranto” by Horace Walpole was the first Gothic novel, published in 1764. Walpole initially published it as a fictional translation and under a pen name, which would become a common practice in Gothic fiction.
Metaphor for Psyche (03:29)
Walpole was part of the establishment but did not receive its full approval. He built himself a large pseudo-castle and was vilified for an inappropriate relationship with his male cousin. He claimed the book came to him in a dream.
Strawberry Hill (02:10)
Walpole's home and "The Castle of Otranto" are playful and subversive despite their Gothic sensibilities. Walpole's home shocked his contemporaries for its outlandish style.
Divided Mainstream (04:04)
The English aristocracy built homes in the classical style, but they were surrounded by their own history. Lord Cobham remodeled his Stowe House to be classical and built a Gothic Temple of Liberty.
Fashion for Follies (02:16)
Powerful aristocrats began building Gothic follies to proclaim their power. In the Midlands, the folly took on the form of an ivy-clad ruin, made to look decayed. The trend renewed interest in real ruins, which fed into a melancholy literary trend.
Dramatic Nature (03:27)
With an increased taste for the Gothic came a greater appreciation for dramatic natural sights, such as the Alps, ravines, and cliff faces. Edmund Burke called this passion for terror-inducing nature the sublime, and it became popular among painters.
Sarcasm of Salvator Rosa (03:16)
Salvator Rosa's "Witches at their Incantations" is among the most Gothic of his paintings, yet it fascinated respectable English gentlemen for decades.
Shakespeare Gothic (02:41)
Gothic passion led to a new appreciation for the almost-forgotten playwright, William Shakespeare. His works are steeped in terror and the old English folklore; the Georgians made him a star. Shakespeare broke many rules and was his own master.
"The Nightmare" (04:39)
Painted in 1781, Henry Fuseli's art fascinated the public. His works combined narrative painting with nightmare visions.
William Beckford (03:28)
Writer William Beckford combined Gothic and Eastern sensibilities in "Vathek: An Arabian Tale." In the novel, a caliph makes a pact with a djinn to allow him to indulge all of his desires.
Fonthill Abbey (02:29)
William Beckford lived out a kind of Gothic fantasy/nightmare when his affair with a teenage boy made him a social pariah. He returned from exile and built a secluded residence, a marvel of Gothic style and scale.
Gothic Fiction (03:06)
Ann Radcliffe was an immensely popular Gothic writer. Gothic novels were seen as salacious and shameful, occupying too much of young women's time. Jane Austen mocked the Gothic novel in "Northanger Abbey."
Terror and Satire (01:59)
To the British, horror seemed all too real as the French Revolution broke out. Caricaturist James Gillray drew on Gothic imagery for his satirical drawings.
Matthew Lewis (02:24)
Junior diplomat Matthew Lewis wrote Gothic horror novel "The Monk" after hearing the experiences of refugees from the French Revolution. The story centers on a virtuous young monk who descends into depravity.
Gothic Subversion (02:59)
"The Monk" was one of the most important Gothic novels of its time, trading terror for horror. It marked the transition of Gothic from an idle plaything to a reflection of real fears in a time of revolution and uncertainty.
Credits: Liberty Diversity Depravity (01:44)
Credits: Liberty Diversity Depravity
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