Essay on The Gothic Genre and What it Entails

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"The invaluable works of our elder writers re driven into neglect by frantic novels, sickly and stupid German Tragedies, and deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse. The human mind is capable of being excited without the application of gross and violent stimulants.."

William Wordsworth, Preface to The Lyrical Ballads, 1802.

"..Phantasmagoric kind of fiction, whatever one may think of it, is not without merit: 'twas the inevitable result of revolutionary shocks throughout Europe thus to compose works of interest, one had to call on the aid of Hell itself, and to find things familiar in the world of make believe.."

Marquis (Donatien Alphonse) de Sade, "Reflections on the Novel.",
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It was not until around 1960 that academics like Robert Hume rose to its defence. (Maybe its renewed popularity was something to do with the very unique socio-political situation in the 1960s echoing a the unique situation of the late eighteenth century, the heyday of the genre.) Since then there has been a deluge of commentary which has elevated the genre to a critical and scholarly favourite.

It is often said that one of the unifying features of Romanticism is its intentional political relevance. Much of the canonical Romantic literature is inspired or informed by socio-political events. We need only look at Blake's work or key poems by "second generation" Romantics like Shelley's Ode to the West Wind or The Mask of Anarchy to verify this.

The same is true of Romantic Gothic which arose around that unique period in European history posthumously defined by the French Revolution but significant for its trans-European massive cultural and social upheaval indicated in part by repeated rioting in Britain (Lowe, vii) and a widespread clamour for various reforms. Victor Sage writes, "English Gothick of the eighteenth century is seen as a collective symptom of political pressure felt all over Europe."

The Marquis de Sade in his "Idees sur le romans" ("Reflections on the Novel) - quoted above - was one of the first
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