What is gothic literature?

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Stephanie Gregg | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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English Gothic literature began in 1765 with Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, which contains all of the characteristics now thought to encompass the genre.  A work does not have to contain all the following elements to be viewed as gothic, but it must have a healthy combination of them:

-horrifying events or the threat of such
-a castle, preferably haunted (in the case of "Mariner," feel free to substitute a boat)
-dungeons, catacombs, crypts, etc.
-labyrinths, dark corridors
-extreme weather and/or landscapes
-a hero whose hidden identity is not revealed until the end
-magic/the supernatural/curses
-a heroine who needs rescued alot
-shadows/moonbeams/strange sources of light

A sub-genre known as Southern gothic also deserves to be mentioned, with many of the same characteristics transposed to Old South settings, but I assume by your reference to "Mariner" that you will be dealing with the English gothic.

Hope this helps!

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