Loading
Apuntes
Study Reminders
Support
Text Version

Set your study reminders

We will email you at these times to remind you to study.
  • Monday

    -

    7am

    +

    Tuesday

    -

    7am

    +

    Wednesday

    -

    7am

    +

    Thursday

    -

    7am

    +

    Friday

    -

    7am

    +

    Saturday

    -

    7am

    +

    Sunday

    -

    7am

    +

our focus on various genres of the English Romantic Period brings us to a key genre that we will talk about today, the Gothic. (Refer Slide Time: 0:27) Influenced by trends in architecture which date back to the 12th century across Europe, Gothicism was a version of the Romantic sensibility, a version of the Romanticism, whose interest lay in what may be called the darker side of human sentiments and passions. Gothic architecture itself may be seen in castles with turrets, labyrinthine passages, spires and dungeons. The architecture has been part of castles but also churches and other buildings. For the Romantics, this was an ideal setting for conspiracies, dark secrets in a family, ghosts and violence. Paranoia, evil and desire became the hallmark of characters in the Gothic novel. Matthew Lewis’ The Monk, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, usually credited as the first Gothic novel and an entire host of works from women authors, Clara Reeve, Maria Edgeworth and Ann Radcliffe. Texts like The Mysteries of Udolpho, Radcliffe’s famous novel, were best sellers in their time. The genre and mode also adopted ideas from the visual arts, most notably from works such as Henry Fuseli’s The Nightmare. (Refer Slide Time: 1:40) Coming up on your slide now, Henry Fuseli: The Nightmare, 1781. The woman in some kind of semi-conscious state, the little gnome-like horrific ugly figure sitting on her, a horse’s head in a corner there and what looks like a bunch of unguents and medical suppliers on the table next to her. The woman may or may not be sleeping, may or may not be dead or unconscious, that is not the subject of our conversation here today. But texts like Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare were key elements in the making of the Gothic tradition. We have three more images for you to look at coming up now on your screen. (Refer Slide Time: 2:19) Fransisco Goya, Yard with Lunatics, 1794; Fransisco Goya, Saturn Devouring his Son; Fransisco Goya, 2nd of May 1808. What is common to all of them? What is common to Henry Fuseli? This one and the three Goyas put up for you on your slide is the obsession with violence but also a clear interest in the states of the mind, paranoia, madness, mental distress. But it is also characterized by an interest in disease. The Gothic as an aesthetic mode is given to certain kinds of depiction of characters, landscape and settings, and a certain view of relationships and social order. It was keen on violence of various kinds, of class tensions on the one hand, familial tensions on the other but also the violence going on in people’s minds. So there is a lot of madness in Gothic text. And if you look at this particular image, Goya’s Yard with Lunatics, you will see this. It is an image of an asylum, of mad… mentally disturbed people crowding together, behaving irrationally. Then there is the violence of 2nd of May, 1808 and Saturn Devouring his Son. (Refer Slide Time: 3:48) The tradition of the Gothic novel is not by the way something restricted to the 18th and early 19th century. In the 20th century, Stephen King, Thomas Herbert, Michael Cunningham, Joyce Carol Oates have all being influenced by the Gothic. The supernatural plays a very important role in the Gothic tale. Magic, vampires, devils and assorted creatures exist. Consequently, time itself is subject to scrutiny and confusion in these texts because ghosts come from the past. So, in labyrinthine passages, in attics and cellars, there are creatures from a different era in these novels. The past catches up as it were and there are prophecies about the future as well. So in some sense the present seems to experience events from the past in an endless cycle of repetition, what is commonly called déjà vu. There is both unrequited and excess desire, but also madness and mental instability. Socially unacceptable desires bordering on incest, rape and violations are a common theme. (Refer Slide Time: 4:50) The settings like I began today’s talk with include dungeons, passages, attics, graveyards, abandoned rooms and spaces. What strikes us first about the Gothic text is the brooding atmosphere and setting. Here is a description coming up on your slide in terms of images. (Refer Slide Time: 5:08) The first image is the York Minster Cathedral which is usually described as an excellent example of the English Gothic. On the other side of the screen is an 18th century painting of Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill villa. Note the terrace, the spiky constructions. (Refer Slide Time: 5:30) Why are these settings important? They are important because characters find themselves trapped in specific places. And these spaces are informed by the state of their minds. Please note what I have just said. Characters in the Gothic novel are trapped within dungeons, cellars, labyrinthine passages but the movement through the passage modifies their mind just as the mind seems to modify the space they are in. Here is a brief description excerpted from Walpole's The Castle of Otranto. Isabella in the castle looking at her setting. Coming up on your slide now. (Refer Slide Time: 6:10) As these thoughts pass rapidly through her mind, she recollected a subterraneous passage which led from the vaults of the castle to the Church of St. Nicholas. Could she reach the altar before she was overtaken? She knew even Manfred’s violence would not dare to profane the sacredness of the place. And she determined if no other means of deliverance offered, to shut herself up forever among the holy virgins whose convent was contiguous. And then she takes a lamp and rushes through the secret passage. So she enters the passage. And here is the description continuing: The lower part of the castle was hollowed into several intricate cloisters. It was not easy for one under so much anxiety to find the door that opened into the cavern. An awful silence reigned throughout those subterraneous regions, except now and then, some blasts of wind that shook the doors she had passed and which grating on the rusty hinges were re-echoed through that long labyrinth of darkness. Every murmur struck her with new terror, yet more she dreaded to hear the wrathful voice of Manfred urging his domestics to pursue her. Continuing on your next slide, the movement of Isabella through the passage… (Refer Slide Time: 7:31) She trod as softly as impatience would give her leave, yet frequently stopped and listened to hear if she was followed. In one of those moments she thought she heard a sigh. She shuddered, and recoiled a few paces. In a moment, she thought she heard the step of some person. Her blood curdled, she concluded it was Manfred. Every suggestion that horror could inspire rushed into her mind. She condemned her rash flight, which had thus exposed her to his rage in a place where her cries were not likely to come from behind. If Manfred knew where she was, he must have followed her. She was still in one of the cloisters and the steps she had heard were too distinct to proceed from where she had come. Cheered with this reflection and hoping to find a friend in whoever was not the prince, she was going to advance, when a door that stood ajar at some distance to the left was opened gently, but ere her lamp, which she held up, could discover who opened it, the person retreated precipitately on seeing the light. (Refer Slide Time: 8:41) What is this description doing? Note there is a darkness, there is silence. The heroine is uncertain how to proceed, she walking carefully along the corridor. Now as we can see, the mood of the heroine and the mood of the place merge. So it is not a question of having a place that is just out there. In the Gothic novel, the place preys upon the mind and the mind influences the places they are going through. Here is Emily encountering a landscape in The Mysteries of Udolpho coming up on your slide now. (Refer Slide Time: 9:17) This is not oddly enough in a setting such as a building. So, if you recall what we have just read in The Castle of Otranto, the woman, the heroine, Isabella is moving through the castle, through the passages. Here, it is a description of a natural setting: mountains whose shaggy steeps appear to be inaccessible and almost surrounded it. To the east, a vista opened, they exhibited the Apennines in their darkest horrors and the long perspective of retiring summits. As you can see the text displayed on your slide, it is a landscape which is inducing fear. (Refer Slide Time: 9:57) The sun had just sunk low below the top of the mountains she was descending, whose long shadow stretched athwart the valley but sloping rays shooting through an opening of the cliffs touched with a yellow gleam the summits of the forest. And as it proceeds, it tells you: silent, lonely and sublime. So, again there is a solitary woman there. As the twilight deepened, its features became more awful in obscurity. And Emily continued to gaze, till its clustering towers were alone seen, rising over the top of the woods, beneath whose thick shade the carriages soon after began to ascend. The extent and darkness of these tall woods awakened terrific images in her mind and she almost expected to see banditti as part start up from under the trees. (Refer Slide Time: 10:54) What is that passage doing? The heroine here, Emily, expects to see bandits because the setting is almost certainly meant to give her that kind of fear. So, in other words, what we are looking at and the description continues on the slide here. It is anxiety- and awe-inducing but it is primarily about terror. It is not a coincidence that the two-volume work on the history of the Gothic novel is called The Novel of Terror. The heroine besieged, embattled… here is the description of Emily now: She judged the heavy strength and extent of the whole. The gateway before her, leading into the courts was of gigantic size and was defended by two round towers, crowned, overhanging with turrets, embattled where instead of banners, now waved long grass and wild plants, that had taken root among the moldering stones. Emily’s heart, says the passage, sank. She seemed as if she was going into her prison. The gloomy court into which she passed served to confirm the idea and the imagination ever awake to circumstance suggested even more terrors than her reason could justify. (Refer Slide Time: 12:19) Something important here. The Gothic novel invariably had a helpless woman being chased. The undead, the ghost, the vampire are on side but there is also the evil spirit and evil human being that chases the girl. So, the emphasis on the virgin woman being pursued by devils but also by other avuncular creatures from the family such as uncles, central to the documentation of the darker side of human nature. Now, the undead, the ghost and the vampire are regular entrants into the plot. The Gothic showcased horror related to disease and decay. Collapsing bodies, collapsing minds, the fragile mental state in various people. (Refer Slide Time: 13:04) Then there are rotting bodies, rotting houses and rotting minds but also the decaying social order and family relationships. Like I said, if you think in terms of novels, the Gothic novels, you will have avuncular uncle or aunt or father figure who is actually pursuing the innocent, gullible heroine. The heroine’s vulnerability is central to the imagining of the Gothic tale. In other cases, the familial relationships are themselves the cause of much problems. Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer is about the decaying Irish estate of the Melmoths. And in one particular episode, two lovers are locked up in a convent without any food. they starve to death. And the details of how they die, their cannibalism is something documented to us by the monk who has locked them in. Here is Melmoth, the Wanderer slide coming up now. (Refer Slide Time: 14:02) The second day, hunger and darkness had their usual influence. They shrieked for liberation and knocked loud and long at their dungeon door. They exclaimed they were ready to submit to any punishment and the approach of the monks, which they would have dreaded so much the preceding night, they now solicited on their knees. What a jest, after all, are the most awful vicissitudes of human life. They supplicated now for what they would have sacrificed their souls to avert four-and-twenty hours earlier. Then, the agony of hunger increased. They shrunk from the door and groveled apart from each other. Apart! How I watched that? This is the monk who imprisoned the young lovers and they are dying of hunger. Then he documents the deterioration from beings into something else. Please note what I have said. The Gothic is not an exploration only of the destruction of the human mind or of the family. It is also destruction of the social order. Get back to the slide. They were rapidly becoming objects of hostility to each other. Oh, what a feast to me! They could not disguise from each other the revolting circumstances of their mutual sufferings. It is one thing for lovers to sit down to a feast magnificently spread and another for lovers to crouch in darkness and famine, to exchange that appetite which cannot be supported without dainties and flattery, for that which would barter a descended Venus for a morsel of food. The second night they raved and groaned as occurred, and amid their agonies I must do justice to women whom I hate as well as men. The man often accused the female as being the cause of suffering but the woman never reproached him. And then comes the key portion and this is note narrated from the jailor’s point of view, the monk. (Refer Slide Time: 15:47) She never utters a word. The third night… how shall I tell it? But you have bid me to go on. All the horrible and loathsome excruciations of famine had been undergone. The disunion of every tie of the heart, of passion, of nature had commenced. In the agonies of their famished sickness, they loathed each other. They could have cursed each other if they had breath to curse. And then comes the final climactic moment… It was on the fourth night that I heard the shriek of the wretched female. Her lover in the agony of hunger had fastened his teeth in her shoulder. That bosom on which he had so often luxuriated became a meal to him now. Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer. Now this is obviously a particularly graphic description of how two lovers driven by hunger, feast upon each other because there is nothing else to do. This is the collapse of civility, of civilization, of humanity itself. (Refer Slide Time: 16:48) Matthew Lewis’ The Monk gives you another kind of graphic description. And this is the scene of the death of Ambrosio. He is being tied to a rock that feed upon him. (Refer Slide Time: 16:58) The Eagles of the rock tore his flesh piecemeal and dug out his eye-balls with their crooked beaks. A burning thirst tormented him. He heard the river’s murmur as it rolled beside him, but strove in vain to drag himself towards the sound. Blind, maimed, helpless and despairing, venting his rage in blasphemy and curses, execrating his existence, yet dreading the arrival of death destined to yield him up to greater torments, six miserable days did the Villain languish. On the Seventh, a violent storm arose. The winds in fury rent up rocks and forests. The sky was black with clouds sheeted with fire. The rain fell in torrents. They reached the spot where Ambrosio lay and when they abated carried with them into the river the Corse of the despairing Monk. Matthew Lewis. The Monk. (Refer Slide Time: 17:44) Having looked at some graphic descriptions, my apologies for those of you who are squeamish, we will turn to another key theme, secrecy. Secrecy is central to the Gothic. Secret knowledges, secret passages, secret relationships are a common feature. Memories and even fake memories play an important role as well given that it is primarily concerned with the intrusive past. These memories are of course central to how the present is lived. We have already in many ways looked at the gender theme. The heroine protagonist usually is a virgin under threat and you have numerous such stereotypes. The women’s sexuality and her socially valuable chastity merge with questions of inheritance and property in many Gothic texts. Ellen Moers, famously described a female Gothic as early as 1976, and subsequent work has unpacked the sexist-patriarchal subtexts to these. (Refer Slide Time: 18:35) But the Gothic is also hybrid genre. It has combined within itself science and superstition. A good example of the Gothic which partakes of science would be Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Patriarchal tyranny making it a gender-specific novel is there in practically all instances that we have looked at. Urban gothic has appeared in the Victorian England, little after the period we are looking at. In the 20th century, we have variations called cybergothic which are set in technologically advanced and dystopian ages. (Refer Slide Time: 19:09) So there are clearly subgenres in the gothic. Some of you might be aware of Rudyard Kipling’s stories such as “The Phantom Rickshaw” set in India which are another variant of the Gothic genre. So what does the Gothic teach us? The gothic is an exploration of psychology in terms of anxiety, fear, unacceptable desires. The gothic is an exploration of settings such as the wild landscape but also labyrinths, attics, cellars. There is a mutual correlation between the state of the mind and the setting. The mood determines the place and the place determines the mood. There is unacceptable unlawful behavior, incest, violence, the threat of rape. There is unacceptable social behavior such as cannibalism that we looked at. There is inherent violence in all families that we see here. So the Gothic as a genre is a key moment in the Romantic age exploration or sensibility and sentiment. It is more violent exploration and it is an exploration with darker side of human nature. Thank you.