Gothic Before Weird
Do you enjoy the works of China Mieville? What about H.P. Lovecraft? Both of these great authors along with many more have written great stories of dark fiction. As the genre of fiction branches off into Weird or Sublime-backwash we look back to where it started…gothic literature.
In the mid-18th century a new kind of fiction was born. After such romantic pieces were being read in excess a new darker style emerged. The gothic style was mysterious and enticing after such flowery fiction. Gothic literature featured some very frightening elements such as apparitions, ghosts, devils, etc. These tales also included themes of tragedy, death, self-loathing, and guilt. While other pieces included some of these elements the gothic novel used them all together to create a dark and overly passionate story.
New treading emerged as the gothic picked up steam. Soon monsters and mummies became a big part of literature as well as the undead or vampires. The real stories of tragedy were made less painful by the reading of other more horrifying tales. These tales featured monsters even more terrifying than those in real life. They also included ideas that were beyond the social constraints of the time. These tales included love, and fear; danger, and sexuality.
Many stories of the time include the first mention of beings we read about in excess today. In “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge we see mention of a woman of death: “Her lips were red” and ‘Her skin was as white as leprosy,” (line 190 and 192). While earlier in the poem our narrator says, “I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,” (line 160). Clearly these pieces reference some version of vampire. These stories began a style of writing that has changed and reformed through two centuries and continues to do so.
The stories we read today fit into a wide range of style and form, but they all connect back to elements of the gothic. We are now seeing another shift in dark literature as the monsters change so do the stories, and more importantly the storyteller. New elements are brought in as new authors begin trying to make their mark. For those who adore the morose and dark nature of some storytelling today you owe a great deal of gratitude to the authors of the late 1700’s for they began a new trend of writing that goes beyond mere monsters. These tales touch on the extremes of human emotion and take them even father into the abyss of the unknown and unexplainable.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor.“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The Longman Anthology of British Literature. 4th ed. Damrosch, David, and Kevin J.H. Dettmar. New York: Pearson Education Inc., 2010. 634-649. Print .
Lopez, David. “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” April 1, 2011. Photoshop. JPEG.