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British Gothic Literature 101: Birth of the Gothic Genre Exploring the Doppelgänger


The British Gothic Literature 101 series aims to offer an in-depth analysis of the literary conventions recurrently encompassing most British novels written between 1760-1900. It will draw on spiritual insights and psychological themes correlated with the Gothic psyche to reveal that there is more subtext in Gothic fiction than meets the reading eye. The British Gothic Literature 101 series aspires to pinpoint the defining elements of its genre, in order to provide a vehicle for the reading audience to explore considerations of the darker side of human nature with greater ease. Another reason it will strive to break down the literary tropes is to offer a breeding ground of inspiration to the modern aspiring writers of the genre.

British Gothic Literature 101 will be divided into the following table of contents:

  1. British Gothic Literature 101: Birth of the Gothic Genre Exploring the Doppelgänger

  2. British Gothic Literature 101: Aesthetics of Horror & Terror

  3. British Gothic Literature 101: Exploring Sublimity

  4. British Gothic Literature 101: Representations of the Supernatural

  5. British Gothic Literature 101: Female Agency of the Damsel in Distress

  6. British Gothic Literature 101: Emergence of the Elusive Antihero as Social Critique

British Gothic Literature 101: Birth of the Gothic Genre Exploring the Doppelgänger

The influence of ancient Germanic tribes such as the Goths, Visigoths, and Ostrogoths on Western civilisation has been vastly underestimated. Although their impact is often relegated to a small portion of world history texts, researchers such as Fischer (2019) strongly assert that the modern world would not be the same without their contributions. Despite their frequent demonisation for their barbaric nature, it is essential to consider the context in which they acted. The Goths were polytheists in a Roman empire that had already converted to Christianity, with an economy based on pillage and piracy. They were most famously known for their invasions of Rome in 238 CE and its Visigoth sacking in 410 CE, which significantly weakened the western Roman Empire and led to its eventual collapse (Fischer, 2019). It can be argued that the Goths acted out of fear, as the Holy Roman Empire and Christianity threatened their way of life, providing insight into the struggles of pagans who fought, and ultimately lost, their right to religious and cultural freedom (Fischer, 2019).

Despite their significant role in history, the term “Gothic” has no direct connection to the art of the Goths. The term was coined after a judgment by Giorgio Vasari, an artist and writer on art, who used the word “Goths” in a derogatory sense to describe all the populations beyond the Alps. Vasari considered European architecture of the 12th and 14th centuries to be “monstrous and barbaric,” and thus incomprehensible and uncivilised from a classicist’s perspective, though, as in Encyclopedia Britannica:

“The term retained its derogatory overtones until the 19th century, at which time a positive critical revaluation of Gothic architecture took place. Although modern scholars have long realised that Gothic art has nothing in truth to do with the Goths, the term Gothic remains a standard one in the study of art history” (“Gothic”, n.d.).

As historian Steven Carver (2003) states in The Gothic Revival, as Germanic invaders, Goths were largely blamed for this culturally catastrophic interregnum. This view