The Contemporary Gothic: Why We Need It
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My title suggests a rather straightforward enterprise: I want to account for the enormous popularity of the Gothic - both novels and films - since the Second World War. However, the title proposes more questions than it answers. First, what exactly counts as “the contemporary Gothic”? Since its inception in 1764, with Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, the Gothic has always played with chronology, looking back to moments in an imaginary history, pining for a social stability that never existed, mourning a chivalry that belonged more to the fairy tale than to reality. And contemporary Gothic does not break with this tradition: Stephen King's IT (1987) and Anne Rice's vampire narratives (begun in the 1970s) weave in and out of the distant past in order to comment on the state of contemporary American culture, while other narratives foreground their reliance on prior, historically distant narratives.