The word “gothic” in connection with literature is usually associated with the combination of horror and romance. The term is attributed to English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled (in its second edition) “A Gothic Story”. Gothic fiction grew from romantic literature of the second part of the 18th century. So yes, these are mysterious, blood-curding, the-dark-and-stormy-night stories, but they attract the reader brining a strange kind of pleasure for him. Very often we think of them as of fairy-tales for grown-ups. Here’s what a reader can find on the Britich Book Centre shelves:
There are many characteristics in Southern Gothic Literature that relate back to its parent genre of American Gothic and even to European Gothic. American Gothic literature began in the 19th century, with short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe. Nathaniel Hawthorne also writes with a sense of mystery, and his characters are very flawed. There are some supernatural elements to his writings and many questions about the society that they represent. Poe’s short stories usually focus on death, but he tells the tale of death with a dark humor and a desire to expose the complexity of his characters and society.
The genre of Southern gothic literature emerged in the USA in the wake of the Civil War (1861-1865). The Civil War, which brought an end to slavery in the South, left behind it a society that was devastated, economically and socially, by defeat. The Civil War forced Southern writers — many of whom were born in the aftermath of the war — to really think about what it meant to be Southern. So the paradoxical fruits of wars are also the works of literature that come after the wars finish. And here comes Gothic that has nothing to do with a fairy-tale.
The setting of these works are distinctly Southern. Writers from Alabama (Harper Lee), Georgia (Flannery O’Connor), Louisiana (Trumen Capote), Mississipi (Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner) are exploring madness, decay and despair, continuing pressures of the past upon the present, particularly with the lost ideals of a dispossessed Southern aristocracy and continued racial hostilities.
The Southern gothic develops in 80s, 90s, 2000s and 2010s. Many of the events contained in the stories are linked to racism, violence and poverty. One of the characteristics of the genre is the frequent reference to the Bible. All these topics and motifs combine in Toni Morrison’s novels. One more contemporary writer from Mississipi is Donna Tartt. A number of recurring literary themes occur in her novels, including those related to social class and social stratification, guilt, and aesthetic beauty. When talking about contemporary southern gothic, the works of Stephen King are also mentioned. The main trait of them that lets us do it is of course the theme of supernatural. But these books also reflect social problems and show us that the most dangerous creature is a human being.
Those in St.Petersburg can visit our library and borrow the books mentioned in this article. Of course all these writers are more than just these genre, but finding the traits of this genre in their books helps us understand the, better.