Few people realize that there is
any connection at all between the great medieval French cathedrals of Chartres
and Mont St. Michel, the neoclassical landscapes and fake ruins of William Kent
and Capability Brown, the paintings of Salvatore Rosa and Francisco Goya, the
classic horror stories of Frankenstein and Dracula, the films of director David
Lynch, the postmodern theories of Michel Foucault and Jean Baudrillard, and
the goth pop artists Poppy Z. Brite and The Cure! What connects them is something
called “gothic,” a term that has had many embodiments and meanings over the
last one thousand years, but which came into its own in the Enlightenment, and
still has a life of its own. You probably know some goths; you might even be
In general the gothic might be said to invoke a universal fascination with human transgression, retribution and salvation – or the absence thereof. The gothic has generally been a versatile mode of imagination, usually coming into existence in response to moments of high cultural achievement and confidence, by inventing visions of dystopia – invoking terror, mystery, despair, malignity, human smallness and isolation – all of which have, since the “gothic revival” in the seventeenth century, gratified, chilled or distressed consumers of paintings, ornaments, buildings, literature, cinema, music and clothes.
This course will sketch in some of the main formal and historic characteristics of the gothic, from medieval times to the present. But it will focus on the high water marks of the gothic revival in the European Enlightenment and its main transformations in the culture of modern Britain and America. It will thereby hope to teach you something about the past, the present, and about readings texts of different kinds, whether linguistic, pictorial, or filmic. Our material will come from fictions, paintings, architecture, film, theory, and music. The course will center on our discussions of required texts, incorporate small group and independent research work, and involve various forms of writing and presentations.
INSTRUCTOR: Greg Clingham
This course fulfills the following