29 May 2015
Catherine Spooner, 'Twentieth Century Gothic' in Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination

The Gothic imagination, that dark predilection for horrors and terrors, spectres and sprites, occupies a prominent place in contemporary Western culture.

Gothic literature began as a challenge to the rational certainties of the Enlightenment. By exploring the harsh romance of the medieval past with its ruined castles and abbeys, its wild landscapes and fascination with the supernatural, Gothic writers placed imagination firmly at the heart of their work.

The Gothic has continued to haunt literature, fine art, music, film and fashion ever since its heyday in Britain in the 1790s. This book, which accompanies a major exhibition at the British Library, traces the numerous meanings and manifestations of the Gothic across time, tracking its shifts and mutations from its eighteenth-century origins, through the Victorian period, and into the present day.

Through 150 objects – including manuscripts, paintings, film clips and posters – Terror and Wonder explores all aspects of the Gothic world. Iconic works, including Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the sinister fairy tales of Angela Carter and the modern horrors of Clive Barker, highlight the ways in which contemporary fears have been addressed by successive generations of Gothic writers. Other rare and fascinating exhibits, including hitherto overlooked manuscripts and even a real-life vampire-slaying kit, add colour and drama to the story.

Edited and introduced by Dale Townshend, and with original essays by major scholars of the Gothic, Terror and Wonder provides a compelling and comprehensive overview of the Gothic imagination over the past 250 years.

Full details (British Library)