Friday, 31 October 2014
The last blog post found me in London, and a few weeks ago I returned to attend the Writers' and Artists' Breaking the Rules: Writing YA Fiction masterclass. This was in the evening, so I had the afternoon free to visit Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination at the British Library.
This is a must for fans of Gothic literature. The exhibition takes you through a seemless tour of its history: Gothic Beginnings, A Taste of Terror, Victorian Monstrosity, Decadence and Degeneration, Modern Horrors, and A Weekend in Whitby. I spent a fabulous two hours wondering in the dimlit spaces absorbing every word and image.
My favourite Gothic novel is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It was wonderful to see edited pages of her manuscript. Another highlight included the display case housing the vampire slaying kit alongside Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Gothic literature evolved from the medieval past, drawing from sublime architecture and landscapes before moving to the terror created by humans and monsters, closing in on towns and homes, and tapping into the human psyche. Supernatural will always hold a place in the heart of literature and film fans with their ever increasing demand for witches, vampires and zombies. They are never far from us.
I couldn't come away from the shop without the first Gothic novel written in 1764, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. The story was inspired by a vivid dream he had at his house, which he transformed into a Gothic wonder, a house he renamed Strawberry Hill.
Some useful resources.
The BBC have been running an excellent series of programmes - The Art of Gothic presented by Andrew Graham-Dixon - which links to this exhibition. You can watch them here for a limited period and other programmes here.
Chris Priestley's top ten tips for Gothic writing here.
Do you like Gothic? What's you favourite Gothic novel or film? I mentioned Frankenstein earlier. Film-wise, it would have to be The Wicker Man.