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Does anybody know how to classify M.G.Lewis' The Monk historically (in literary...

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jule1202 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 30, 2009 at 10:29 PM via web

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Does anybody know how to classify M.G.Lewis' The Monk historically (in literary terms)?

I am writing an essay about the "school of horror" with special emphasis on M.G.Lewis.

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sagesource | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted May 31, 2009 at 5:43 AM (Answer #1)

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The Monk is a fully developed example of a Gothic novel. The Gothic genre depends on a combination of terror and pleasure, created by situating a complex plot that usually involved elements of the supernatural in dark, terrifying surroundings (the connection with Gothic architecture is obvious). Elements often used to create the required atmosphere include religion (especially its more ominous or exotic manifestations, such as the Spanish Inquisition), dark ruins, dungeons, torture chambers, decay and death, hereditary curses and secrets, perverse expressions of sexuality such as rape and incest, and demonic manifestations, up to and including the Devil himself. Realism and narrative economy take a distinctly secondary place to the creation of a ghastly and gloomy ambiance that the reader can contemplate with pleasure from a safe distance of space and time (there is also a frequent vein of self-parody in Gothic that adds to the spectator's amusement).

The Monk is a classic Gothic production. It has a convoluted plot that aims more at creating an atmosphere than logical development. The monk who is the central character is corrupted and ruined by a demon in the form of a woman who tempts him to sexual transgressions that involve rape and murder -- as an added fillip, it is revealed that the woman he has raped is in fact his own sister. Another woman is tortured by sadistic nuns, and the protagonist sells his soul to the Devil to escape a death penalty from the Inquisition, after which he dies in torment following a final attempt to double-cross Satan. The emphasis on sadistic and murderous clerics and the total corruption of the Catholic Church were relatively novel for Gothic literature at that time, but due to the influence of The Monk they were to become standard features of later Gothic works.

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