SF/F Genre Glossary

What is Gothic Fiction?

This is a continuation of the Speculative Fiction Genre Glossary Project posts. For the complete genre index click here.

University Main Building by Henrik Sundholm

What is Gothic Fiction?

Also known as gothic horror, the genre mixes terror and romance. Atmosphere and heightened emotions are emphasized. Setting is used to create a sense of unease, fear, or revulsion . Gothic stories are often set in decaying castles, crumbling mansions, haunted houses, and previous eras.

Gothic conventions include: ghosts, madness, secrets, decay, romance, superstitions, passions, family secrets, mysteries, the supernatural, the Byronic hero, the grotesque.

Literary Examples:

  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
  • Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

I scare too easily to read too much horror, but this is one subgenre I can sometimes handle. Do you enjoy gothic?

19 Comments

    1. T.S. Bazelli Author

      Gorgeous map! I like the way things flow and twist together. I can certainly see elements of gothic in fantasy, horror, and sci-fi. I kinda want that as a poster for my wall 🙂

    1. T.S. Bazelli Author

      Jane Eyre still has some elements of horror: a mad woman locked away in the attic, suicide, mysterious happenings, and a Byronic hero (Rochester). I’ve always thought it was kinda scary hehe.

  1. I read a lot of Edgar Allen Poe years ago, as I found his stories so freaky and haunting. Disturbing, actually. But he made use of the Byronic hero (Romanticism) as well.

    I think today, many contemporary books (particularly urban paranormal romance) borrows many elements, especially setting and mood, from Goth Lit.

    1. T.S. Bazelli Author

      I’ve noticed the resurgence of gothic tropes in paranormal and urban fantasy: ghosts, vampires, dark alleyways, all very gothic even if they’re set in a contemporary world.

      I’ve always enjoyed Poe, but yes, the images he paints and the emotions he calls up, can be disturbing.

  2. I’m reading Wuthering Heights right now. I think it’s pretty gothic! What do you think? And what about Their Eyes Were Watching God? I heard someone once classified it as Southern Gothic. Yeah, I like this genre – want to contribute to it! Frankenstein (read it last year) was SOOO different than I expected. Definitely hair-raising. 🙂 Interview with a Vampire is next. I’m looking forward to it!

    Thanks for this glossary. super cool.

    1. T.S. Bazelli Author

      Wuthering heights yes: ghosts, sordid histories, and tumultuous passions. I’ve never read “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” but southern gothic definitely gives me the creeps. I would never have thought gothic and the southern USA would pair so well, but they do. Lots of southern gothic horror movies – interview with the vampire probably could fit it too 🙂

  3. I’ve read Frankenstein and could deal with that level of horror. I’m one who can let my imagination get the better of me in a dark room, so that usually encourages me away from horror. But you have a point that this is probably an area that I would be able to handle.

  4. Love gothic lit. Saw an awesome production of Frankenstein recently – National Theatre video-linked to the cinema – really focused on the monster – very much from his point of view. Captured that theme perfectly.

    1. I’m a bit ashamed to say I haven’t actually read Frankenstein, just know the story. I should pick it up from the library one of these days. Sounds like a great production!

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