Study Guide

Gothic Literature Texts

Gothic Literature Resources

Primary Resources

Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (1764)
Walpole was writing about Gothic castles and damsels in distress before it was cool.

Clara Reeve, The Old English Baron (1778)
How is this at all different from Walpole's novel? Well, the supernatural events are less crazy. Do you think that'll make people more likely to think they're true?

William Beckford, The History of Caliph Vathek (1786)
Does it count as Gothic if the events take place in a fictionalized Arabia instead of a post-Medieval landscape? Yes. Just this once.

Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
It's got all the supernatural stuff—it just also gives you a semi-plausible reason to believe it.

Mathew Gregory Lewis, The Monk (1796)
Lewis just wanted to see how far he could push the boundaries of common 18th-century decency. Shockingly, he didn't push that hard. The people liked it.

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (1818)
I'm Cathy and I think the things I read in Gothic novels are real.

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
Here's a classic work of Gothic-Romanticism—and no, Frankenstein's monster isn't green.

Thomas Love Peacock, Nightmare Abbey (1818)
Northanger Abbey is a parody; Nightmare Abbey is a satire. Totally different.

John William Polidori, The Vampyre (1819)
Remember that ghost story contest that created Frankenstein? This here's another text to come out of that same contest. Less popular; more vampires.

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)
Jane's just trying to do the right thing—it's not her fault there's a mad woman in the attic.

Charlotte Brontë, Villette (1853)
Yep, Char was a queen of the Gothic.

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847)
Sisters! Brontë #2 was also into the Gothic game.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables (1851)
Don't cross Colonel Pyncheon—he'll cut a witch.

Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (1859)
Who is that woman in white? Why does she look so familiar? And how can we save her?

Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (1868)
I'm a mystery story without a detective—pretty interesting, eh?

Robert Luis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)
Jekyll/Hyde has a few identity issues in this one. How very…Gothic.

H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896)
The guy just wanted to make animals that looked like people and people that looked like animals. Is that so bad?

Bram Stoker, Dracula (1897)
The O.G. Cullen.

Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (1898)
I'm just a very good governess doing a very good job. It's the children; look at what the children are doing. I think they know something we don't.

Secondary Resources

Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Idea of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757)
That painting? Sure, it's beautiful, nicely formed, pretty pleasing…but does it overpower and control you? Does it have the power to completely mess you up? Now, that's what Burke calls sublime.

Ann Radcliffe, "On the Supernatural in Poetry" (1826)
What's the difference between terror and horror? Sit a spell and Radcliff will tell you.

Jerrod E. Hogle, The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction (2002)
Essays from the early years of Gothic (1760s) all the way to the end of the 20th century. If you don't get it, this book is here to try to explain it.