Gothic Literature 1800-1850

By Trevor Arteaga

General Characteristics

· Sublime and overt use of the supernatural

· Individual characters see themselves at the mercy of forces out of their control which they do not understand

· Motif of the "double": an individual with both evil and good characteristics

· Helpless victim

· A powerful victimizer

· Victimizer fascinating his victim

· Atmosphere is mysterious, oppressive

About Gothic Literature

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, both Europe and America witnessed the rise of a new literary movement known as the gothic, or anti-transcendentalist, movement. The American gothic movement came about in reaction to the transcendentalist movement, which strongly supported the idea that everyone has both the ability and opportunity to accomplish and experience greatness. Gothic writers, however, believed that such ideas were too optimistic; they saw life as menacing and tragic, and instead created a new genre that was filled with their own beliefs of the realities of evil and an individual prone to sin and self destruction.

The Gothic creates feelings of gloom, mystery, and suspense and tends to the dramatic and the sensational, like incest, diabolism, and nameless terrors. Most of us immediately recognize the Gothic (even if we don't know the name) when we encounter it in novels, poetry, plays, movies, and TV series. For some, the prospect of safely experiencing dread or horror is thrilling and enjoyable. (The Gothic; page 1)

The Gothic writers explored the culture anxieties and fears of the expanding nation: The “dark side”. These writers addressed such trends as

-westward expansion

-technological and scientific progress


-true womanhood

-slavery and abolition

The Gothic writers critiqued the assumption that America stood as the moral and guiding light of the world. (The Gothic Period in American Literature; slide 7)

Famous Gothic Writers:


"Gothic Literature: A Halloween Post." The Journal Pulp. 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 17 Dec. 2014. <>.

"The Gothic." The Gothic. The Gothic, 22 Oct. 2002. Web. 17 Dec. 2014. <>.

"The Gothic Period in American Literature." The Gothic Period in American Literature. 3 Dec. 2013. Web. 17 Dec. 2014. <>.

"Nathaniel Hawthorne." PBS. PBS. Web. 17 Dec. 2014. <>. A&E Networks Television. Web. 17 Dec. 2014. <>.

"Edgar Allan Poe." Goodreads. Web. 17 Dec. 2014. <>.