The earlier responses describe the origin of Gothic literature and its key components. It is perhaps useful to know, too, that there are two key groups of Gothic texts in English, representing the original Gothic period and the so-called "Gothic revival." Gothic is notoriously overblown and dramatic in its tone...
The earlier responses describe the origin of Gothic literature and its key components. It is perhaps useful to know, too, that there are two key groups of Gothic texts in English, representing the original Gothic period and the so-called "Gothic revival." Gothic is notoriously overblown and dramatic in its tone and storylines, but it also tends to reflect the concerns and uncertainties of society at the time of writing. Thus, the Gothic literature born out of Romanticism in the early nineteenth century is different to the texts from the fin-de-siècle (turn of the twentieth century) which demonstrate shifting social preoccupations.
Consider, for example, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, also a progenitor of science fiction. Frankenstein is a reaction to the Enlightenment, the spread of science; many at this time began to fear that science would displace religion or that men would take it upon themselves to play God, with catastrophic results. This was a key fear in society at that time. In fin-de-siècle texts, religious uncertainty had ceased to be such a prevailing issue. Instead, we see strong evidence in Gothic literature of fear of the self. Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray, Stephenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,and Stoker's Dracula all play on the idea that there is a corruption lurking underneath the veneer of a polite society. In Victorian London, rigid structures of gentility hid an underbelly of crime and scandal, workhouses and child prostitution. So, a handsome young man may have a portrait in the attic on which his sins are written, while a respectable doctor may transform at night into a murderous villain. Ultimately, in both cases, the villainy is the victor. In Stoker's Dracula, the mysterious and fearful "other" slowly penetrates and damages even the most innocent of characters, male and female alike, and transforms them into something like itself.
The Gothic, and the function of the Gothic, does not end with the fin-de-siècle group of novels. There are stories written today which are still consciously Gothic, with all its trappings (isolation, the haunted house, the lone woman, the dark, the pathetic fallacy, etc.). We might better look to science fiction, however, to see the key concerns of the Gothic represented: as society shifts, we now are more likely to see our current fears—alienation; the rise of robotics; artificial intelligence—represented in sci-fi novels and television programs, the true descendants of the Gothic.