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The Face at the Window

In: English and Literature

Submitted By rachaelNella
Words 478
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“The face at the window”
Journal article by Heather Neilson

Item description: The Gothic novel is characterised by several established features: the supernatural, passion, violence and fear. In this article Heather Neilson examines the predominate characteristics of a genre which emerged as a response to a period of instability in personal, social and political life.

Whether conservatively defined as referring to a group of novels written by English authors between the 1760s and the 1820s- a definition which would include Frankenstein, but not Wuthering Heights or The Turn of the Screw- or more liberally as a genre still vital and evolving, the Gothic novel is characterised by several established features. The predominant characteristic is an emphasis on fear: stories in the Gothic mode are overtly affective in intent, concerned with eliciting as well as portraying extremes of emotion. Also generally found in the Gothic novel re a prominent use of the supernatural ( even phenomena have been logically explained away by the tale), an archaic setting, the depiction of violence and passion, and stereotyped characters.

It is a commonplace that the Gothic is essentially a middle-class genre, having first emerged in a period of instability in personal, social and political realities. In the Gothic novel there a precarious oscillation between anxiety an reassurance, as regards the alien or disruptive, a sustained tension between the expression and repression or irrational or unwholesome desires. While Gothic fiction seems ostensibly to uphold prevailing social structures and mores, implicit in the genre is a social critique, which may be directed, as for example in the three novels under discussion, against public institutions such as the church or the Law, whose efficacy is implicitly questioned. There is a correlative exploration of the issue of personal…...

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