Contribute to your self-development with the next steps
We've all enjoyed a good spooky story here and there. But I am sure if I ask you how many times you have analysed a Gothic text in class, you will be able to count those occasions on one hand.
To tell you the truth, I don't even remember doing such an exercise until I got to uni.
But then I think of some of my favourite obligatory readings in secondary school and I remember there being a couple of books that could have been analysed more in-depth and mainly along the lines of the Gothic. The benefits of that exercise would have been really enlightening for my teenage me at the time.
In this article, I am going to tell you how to make the most of your Gothic texts by:
Understanding the characteristics of Gothic Literature
Exploring historical contexts
Being aware of the importance of exposure
Identification of psychological elements
Learning Gothic architecture and art
Carrying out a comparative analysis
Being part of literary discussions
NAVIGATING AND APPRECIATING GOTHIC LITERATURE
Not everybody likes scary texts and stories. However, in my experience with my least Gothic and Horror lover students, I can say that even they benefited from exploring Gothic narratives. This is because these narratives are profound, they touch on core problems uncomfortable to address elsewhere and they are daring.
Making the most of your exploration of Gothic texts in order to contribute to your self-development involves a combination of understanding the genre's characteristics, delving into literary analysis, and appreciating the historical and cultural contexts. Here are some tips to help you navigate, appreciate, and grow through Gothic literature:
Understanding the characteristics of Gothic Literature:
We tend to dislike what we don't understand or have a preconceived idea of. When you familiarise yourself with the key features of Gothic literature, such as mysterious settings, supernatural elements, gloomy atmospheres, and heightened emotions, you start connecting with your own deeper feelings.
This familiarity also involves recognising common Gothic motifs, including haunted castles, damsels in distress, tyrannical villains, and the use of the sublime.
Unavoidably that takes us to pay attention to recurring themes, symbols, and other elements within Gothic literature. Some of these common themes include the exploration of the unknown, the supernatural, the duality of human nature, or the consequences of scientific or moral transgressions.
Exploring Historical Contexts:
One of the most boring subjects in college for me was history. I always say that if I had been taught history like they do on the BBC productions documentaries I would have understood better what was going on. Instead, it was all a game of memorisation of names, events, and dates that didn't make any sense to me.
That's why when I was learning about Gothic Literature, I also learned history in a context that was interesting to me. The curiosity I felt when trying to figure out the different periods, people's beliefs, clothes, culture, and mentality, needed a historical exercise which naturally made me want to learn beyond the historical moment I was studying at the moment.
When you investigate the historical context in which Gothic literature emerged (late 18th to early 19th centuries), you understand a lot more things than just a date and a few senseless names. You also learn about societal changes, such as how the Industrial Revolution and political upheavals influenced the themes and anxieties expressed in Gothic texts.
Once you embark on a certain routine, you can replicate it over and over again which will help you understand the evolution of the genre chronologically and holistically, as you will also start analysing what happened in other countries at the same time.
Being aware of the importance of exposure:
The one thing I always drill into my English as a second language students is the importance of exposure to the language. Of course, this means an important amount of time, work, and dedication they might not necessarily want to carry out, but this is crucial.
The same goes for any learning. In the case of the Gothic, this exposure can be done through the exploration of a variety of Gothic texts from different periods and authors. My recommendation here would be to start with The Castle Of Otranto by Horace Walpole as this is considered to be the first Gothic novel, and then chronologically build your library with those Gothic books you have only seen the film version of, or rereading books you didn't know were Gothic and analyse their elements. You can also read more contemporary works inspired by the Gothic tradition to learn about modern issues and worries.
The other thing you can also do is to take a course in the Gothic, like the one I started offering this month, and that I will be running until July which you can access as it is recorded.
Identification of psychological elements:
One of the things I was trying to avoid for a long time, precisely because it is a whole different world and degree, is psychology. But once you are in the literary world, and even more so when you are a linguist, you are drawn to investigate all the texts more in-depth which unavoidably makes you bump into this area, whether you like it or not.
After going around in a big circle for some time, I realised I couldn't avoid the psychological side as it is the best tool to address what goes in the human mind in depth, which was a necessity I already had as a language teacher. That's how my Jungian journey began, as I think is the approach that has not only interesting connections with the Gothic but also because it's the approach that connects better with me at a personal level.
Some of the psychological aspects that Gothic literature addresses are the portrayal of characters' inner turmoil, fears, and different struggles. Analysing how these elements contribute to the overall atmosphere and narrative will bring you a deeper understanding of the texts and also of yourself.
Learning Gothic architecture and art:
This is something I haven't explored deeply myself but when I do it brings me a holistic view of the Gothic in all its extensions as it is an exploration beyond literature.
Understanding the visual aspects of the Gothic style can enhance your appreciation of the literary genre as they can help you understand the atmospheric settings commonly found in Gothic literature, where the physical surroundings play a crucial role in creating a sense of foreboding.
Moreover, motifs and symbolic elements such as gargoyles, stained glass windows, and spires are common features in both art forms.
Historically it's also interesting that the Gothic revival in architecture during the 19th century coincided with a resurgence of interest in Gothic literature.
We also see that Gothic architecture often aspires to create a sense of awe and transcendence, seeking to connect with the divine. This parallels the themes of the supernatural and the transcendent often found in Gothic literature. Understanding the architectural pursuit of the sublime can deepen your appreciation for the literary exploration of the mysterious and otherworldly.
It's also interesting to note that both Gothic architecture and literature are influenced by broader cultural and societal trends, which is why studying one can shed light on the aesthetic preferences, fears, and values of the society that produced it. This knowledge can help you contextualise and appreciate the cultural influences that shaped Gothic literature.
Lastly, since Gothic architecture is known for its ability to evoke strong emotions, ranging from fear to awe, understanding how architectural elements contribute to emotional responses can deepen your appreciation for the emotional depth in Gothic literary works.
Carrying out a comparative analysis:
This part might be more complicated if you don't have an academic background but not impossible with the right help. In any case, conducting a comparative analysis of Gothic literature involves examining common themes, styles, narrative structures, characterisations, and elements across different works within the Gothic genre.
This exercise can help you consider how the genre has evolved over time and adapted to different cultural contexts. Some of the things you can start doing are:
Highlight the diversity within the genre in Gothic novels, short stories, or poems from different periods, authors, or cultural backgrounds.
Make a list of common elements such as gloomy settings, mysterious or supernatural occurrences, melodramatic emotions, isolated or decaying settings, and the presence of the supernatural.
Analyse the settings in each work by looking at descriptions of landscapes, buildings, and the overall atmosphere. Pay attention to how the setting contributes to the mood and tone of the narrative. Compare the use of Gothic elements such as castles, haunted houses, or desolate landscapes.
Identify common character archetypes such as the Byronic hero, the innocent maiden, or the villainous antagonist. Examine their motivations, relationships, and how they contribute to the overall Gothic atmosphere.
Explore the themes and motifs such as the duality of human nature, the fear of the unknown, the consequences of forbidden knowledge, and the struggle between good and evil.
Analyse the narrative structures and techniques employed by each author. Look at the use of first-person or third-person narration, unreliable narrators, and framing devices. Consider how these choices contribute to the Gothic atmosphere and enhance the overall storytelling.
Consider the cultural and historical context of each work. Analyse how societal norms, historical events, or cultural movements of the time influenced the portrayal of Gothic elements in the literature.
Review critical analyses and interpretations of each work by examining how scholars and critics have discussed the significance of these works within the Gothic genre. Consider different perspectives and interpretations.
Being part of literary discussions:
It goes without saying, that there's a lot of work you can do on your own, but there are also some things you will benefit from when you participate in discussions, book clubs, or academic forums dedicated to Gothic literature. Engaging with others can provide new perspectives and deepen your understanding of the genre.
By immersing yourself in the historical, literary, and cultural aspects of Gothic texts, you can gain a richer and more nuanced appreciation of this intriguing genre.
I have attended some of these events throughout my life and although it is not always easy to find the right group for you, it is certainly worth doing some research to find the perfect match for you.
If you want some recommendations regarding any of the above, you can contact me privately or book your FREE discovery call with me.
If you feel like this is a big endeavour to carry out on your own as there isn't a program out there for this, and would like to be accompanied by other people like you and me, I have the perfect mentoring course for you called Exploring the Gothic Psyche: Jungian concepts in Gothic Literature. An introspective journey to learn how to connect with your internal figures.
For more information about the course visit the following page:
Making the most of your favorite or unknown Gothic texts is crucial if you are on a journey of embracing yourself fully.
The Gothic has an important and life-changing transformative potential that not everybody talks about and it can be addressed in many different ways. That's why, if this article has resonated with you, I invite you to embark on your journey of self-exploration and share with the world your unique Gothic essence.
By delving into the Gothic within, you will discover a path to personal greatness and authenticity that will even surprise you.
Did you miss my FREE webinar: Exploring the Depths? Click on the following link:
I hope to see you very soon,
Until my next entry,
Stay Gothic, my friend!