Classified in English

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The gothic novel

At the end of the 18th 

century, sensibility’s value was questioned.

The plot of the Gothic novel takes place in a distant time and place.


  • Setting: remote, old castles, cloisters, of the with underground labyrinths
  • Time: the plot is set mostly in the “dark” middle ages or in foreign countries in previous centuries
  • Characters:  strongly typified “flat” black and white characters, clear contras between demonic evil and idealised figures.
  • Plot:  many mysterious supernatural events, suspense, chasing-haunting of the innocent.
  • Narrator:  preference of omniscient narrator.
  • Other factors: ghosts, magic, prophecies, storms, tempest

The Gothic novel challenges the emphasis on reason, control and order:

  • explores the deepest recesses of human psychology (Frankenstein)
  • stresses the macabre, the unusual and fantastic
  • prefers the realities of subjective imagination
  • the worlds depicted represent a clear challenge to the existing order and to rational thought and social organisation
  • the Gothic is a subversive tradition in writing

Best known representatives of the gothic novel:

Horace Walpole - The castle of Otranto

Mary Shelley - Frankenstein

Ann Radcliff – The mysteries of Udolfo

Matthew Lewis – The monk

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