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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Gothic Histories: The Taste for Terror, 1764 to the Present

Gothic Histories: The Taste for Terror, 1764 to the Present

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Clive Bloom

This is a comprehensive guide to the history of Gothic from the eighteenth century to the present day that includes original research. In the middle of the eighteenth century, the Gothic became the universal language of architecture, painting and literature, … see full wiki

Author: Clive Bloom
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Continuum
1 review about Gothic Histories: The Taste for Terror,...

Why we're enchanted by the dangers of darkness

  • Jun 15, 2010
Rating:
+3
The product description sums up the scope of this handy introduction to 250 years of death-haunted fright, dreadfully immured incarcerations, body-destroying invasions, and spirit-petrifying terrors. It's an accessible study that avoids academic jargon, and while footnoted and with a reading list, concentrates with generous excerpts on demonstrating the appeal of the scary. I understood after finishing Professor Bloom's survey what my literature courses taken that dabbled in this field had not conveyed: the gothic genre anticipates in its exploration of inner torments the findings of psychology that would only emerge at the end of the 19th century.

Bloom moves rapidly through British origins, often with females under duress, into the Germanic variety that triumphed as its elements of graveyards, the occult, possession, violation, and penetration invert the release of the supernatural into the suppression of the possibility of escape from the natural order. Death and the undead appealed to an audience learning to despair, and to work out their fears by releasing them in entertainment. Fears of revolution, secularism, and technology incorporate themselves into the tales of the Romantic era; Bloom regards "Frankenstein" as embodying, literally, a modern reaction to the loss of God and our despair at being created.

Later 19c versions domesticated the terror, and popularized it, as Poe, the Brontes, and Dickens did. Cliches weakened the impact of its stock characters and situations, but ghosts fueled by the spiritualist craze and the vaudeville thrills on stages served to perpetuate the mood. The 20c with film allowed theatrical elements to turn twisted and distorted on screen, and today's books, fashions, music (he stints here on this element), sexual identities, role-playing all prepare for video games. Here, Bloom concludes, the player can enter the realm and lose him or herself in a gothic setting far more detailed than even what print can provide.

I found this a thoughtful book. I think later sections were compressed too much, perhaps for editorial reasons, and the final section on contemporary culture deserved much more detail. Sexuality and music get touched upon, but not enough. Vampires, he finds, increasingly allow a largely female audience to enjoy both male domination and female empowerment, and he finds the shift from ghosts to monsters to the vampires indicative of a type of gothic figure who can blend in far more in bars and clubs-- and high school!

Such insights, however telegraphed, make this a recommended work for any reader eager to learn about the long pedigree of today's gothic obsessions. It would make a fine text for a course, or for a student wishing to learn more about the influences that make gothic themes so enduring. Bloom enjoys his subject and his enthusiasm enlivens the dark shadows of the figures he conjures and the corners he illuminates.

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August 10, 2010
This sounds great because the Gothic period has often been under-represented in literary classes or "updated" to focus on the horror genre. Thank you for this insightful review.
August 10, 2010
Bloom accounts for the horror emphasis as our attempts to overcome modernism's terrors and the loss of control over our environment despite the promises of science. I agree, SM, his scope widens beyond the cliches.
 
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