Don’t be an oxymoron. Know your literary terms.
Over 200 literary terms, Shmooped to perfection.
- Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto was published in 1765 and is sometimes cited as one of the first gothic novels.
- Anne Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho was published in 1794.
- Jane Austen parodies the gothic genre in her 1818 novel Northanger Abbey.
Okay, okay, so what is gothic literature? First and foremost, it's a genre known for its spookiness. Think bats, cobwebbed castles, and nasty old tyrants holding good folks captive in towers. In other words, there's a lot of paranormal activity going down.
Gothic authors are also often really into concepts like the sublime. No, not the '90s band. In literature, the term refers to a kind of out of this world experience that someone has in nature. And in gothic literature, it's closely linked with, well, sheer terror—all because the sublime is so awe-inspiring.
And what would any good genre be without its subgenres? (Probably just a genre, but that's beside the point.) Variations on the gothic genre include the Southern gothic, which is kind of like the regular gothic, but set in the American South. Faulkner and Flannery were fans. Plus, you know, True Blood.
Then there's Gothic-Romanticism, which is technically a subgenre of Romanticism, but we're thinking it goes both ways. Romanticism was a movement that rebelled against the stuffy old Enlightenment by valuing emotions over reason. What emotions does Gothic-Romanticism value over reason? Oh, you know, the usual: horror, dread, and sheer terror.