Monday, September 25, 2006

Reference Point

Useful Resources

What constitutes a Gothic Tale? Or even a scary ghost story? I'm pretty sure it's not just the weather.

For the purposes of the R.I.P. Reading Challenge , I thought it would be useful to have a reference point as to what constitutes a gothic tale, or what characterizes the Gothic Tale.

  • Elements of the Gothic - basically good basic rendition. However, most of the elements specified here don't really emerge as characteristics of the books and short stories I've already read. For example, the basic rendition here doesn't mention the curse or the "doom" that gets pronounced upon the ultimate victim (as in Poor Clare and Doom of the Griffiths in Gaskell's tales).
  • The Gothic Experience - Actually I like this site, most particularly for its booklist and syllabus as well as the definition of keyterms provided.
  • The Literary Gothic offers a number of useful tools including study aids for some titles. For example, they offer an annotated version of Elizabeth Gaskell's "The Old Nurse's Tale" but many of the PDFs on this site can't be printed out.
  • This site entitled simply Gothic Literature offers a really wonderful powerpoint presentation that outlines a number of elements found in the Gothic tale. I think this one is wonderfully useful.

That last bulleted site above - the one w/ the powerpoint - references the following as Elements of the Gothic

(a) Second self or alternate identity

- opposing forces in hman nature; our own dual natures

(b) Monster/Satanic Hero/Fallen Man

- fallen hero becomes a monster or confronts a monster who is his double

- Like Satan, defies the rules of God's Universe

(c) Spirits, demons, devils, witches, angels

- representing conflicting forces in the human soul

(d) Magic Talismans sympolize supernatural forces or forces in the hero's personality

(e) Dreams, visions, reveal hidden truths of the unconscious mind

(f) Graveyards, churches, ruins suggest human confrontation w/ the infinite

(g) Haunted castle, house reflects hero's psychological character

(h) Multiple narratives (secret ms, letters, narrative spirals inwardly to the truth)

(i) Madness reflects realities beyond normal comprehension; speaks truths we deny

(j) Blood reflects the paradox of human condition (guilt/innocence)

Note that I'm paraphrasing the original source above and therefore may not be entirely correct in taking the instructor's meaning.

With regard to the previous titles in the RIP challenge, Gaskell's Gothic Tales encompasses the dual identities, haunted castles/homes, fallen man (as in The Doom of the Griffiths) and although it doesn't appear in the listing above, the curses that ring down the years and impact on subsequent generations. In Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau, he focuses on the idea of the monster/fallen man idea and the idea of blood and its taste. That was one of the things Moreau had forbidden his creatures - the taste of blood.

Put that way, everything's very dark and Gothic in tone.