Critical Essays (Literary Movements for Students)
Gothic literature has elicited spirited critical debate from its earliest days. According to Botting in his book, The Gothic:
Between 1790 and 1810, critics were almost univocal in their condemnation of what was seem as an unending torrent of popular trashy novels. Intensified by fears of radicalism and revolution, the challenge to aesthetic values was framed in terms of social transgression: virtue, property and domestic order were considered to be under threat. Such reactions from critics are not surprising. The aesthetic values of the eighteenth century included order, proportion, and decorum, based largely on classical models from the Greeks and Romans. Works of art (including literature and architecture) that flouted these conventions and took shape from the medieval past were looked upon as inferior, so much so that the term “Gothic” was applied to anything that seemed barbarous or hideous. However, while Gothic literature may have been scorned by the intelligentsia and literary critics of the day, it found rapid and overwhelming popularity with the reading public. That the reading public included growing numbers of women and middle-class readers may suggest a reason for the widespread popularity of the genre. It is also likely that the shift in readership offered a threat to established scholars and writers of the day, making their response to Gothic literature vitriolic in the extreme.
Contemporary criticism was not entirely...
(The entire section is 642 words.)
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