In their book ‘The Routledge Companion to Gothic’ (2007), Emma McEvoy and Catherine Spooner list what they consider to be the most important geographical areas for the development and diffusion of the Gothic genre: “from America, Scotland and Ireland to the postcolonial landscapes of Australia, Canada, the Indian subcontinent and the Caribbean.”
Howard Phillips Lovecraft was arguably the most significant horror author of the twentieth-century. He links the nineteenth and early twentieth-century authors who were his own influences (Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce, Arthur Machen and Algernon Henry Blackwood) and writers of contemporary horror and fantastic fiction. Robert Albert Bloch, the author of ‘Psycho,’ and Robert Ervin Howard, writer of the ‘Conan’ stories, were both friends of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, and authors as different as Stephen Edwin King, Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges and Joanna Russ have all published Lovecraftian stories.
From the point of view of childhood, modern Western society shows many parallels to the Romantic Age. While the industrial economy of the past caused rapid changes to the landscape and lives of children, forcing millions of them into labour, the informational economy we experience now is similarly having a tremendous impact on children’s lives. Never before has a generation found so much freedom in the virtual world while at the same time having real-life experiences so tightly controlled by parents and society. Some social scientists argue that kids in the West suffer from “Nature Deficit Disorder” and will grow up to be “Alone Together,” while others are starting movements for “Free Range Kids,” encouraging exploration of the physical world around them.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft employed the (somewhat clumsy) term “cosmic indifferentism” to describe his worldview. Humanity, in Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s vision, is falsely convinced of its own importance on a universal scale. Rather than placing humanity at the center of his universe, his fiction takes what Mosig and Tierney term a “cosmo-centric” approach.
As Hannah Crafts astutely notes in her own slave storyline, the slave narrator’s life was extraordinary and innately gothic, needing no fictionalising to augment market appeal. Despite their formulaic tales and determinations to prove their claim that they are not fictionalising or performing an act of “poiesis” but are exercising a “clear-glass, neutral memory that is neither creative nor faulty,” the ex-slave writers, among many others, manage to inscribe gothic formulations within their narrative beyond mere plot. The very life of a slave is also inevitably a gothic existence. The murders, suicides, rapes, entrapment and escape cycles, torture (brutal whippings), and familial secrets (illegitimate births) that make up numerous gothic plots constitute real, daily existence under slavery. Therefore, these writers have recourse to gothic ideological tropes, exercising them as rhetorical asides upon an already gothic plot. Furthermore, as texts such as Incidents in the ‘Life of a Slave Girl’ illustrates, the slave narrative easily transitions, typologically and ideologically, into the gothic novelistic mode.
The contrast between human (homely) and inhuman (alien, hostile) is strongly present in most of Montague Rhodes James’ stories. In the story ‘Casting the Runes,’ the protagonist, Professor Dunning is being slowly but inevitably hunted down — “haunted down” — by unseen demonic forces. He is not yet fully aware of it, but his night in a lonely house is restless. Trying to find a box of matches under his pillow, he suddenly, in complete darkness, touches what he later described as “a mouth, with teeth, and with hair about it, and, he declares, not the mouth of a human being.” It is unclear why Montague Rhodes James had to specify that it was not the mouth of a human being — surely, the presence of such an entity under one’s pillow would not have been less unpleasant if it was human. But the distinction — non-human, alien — is emphasised. Montague Rhodes James connects this encounter with the acute sense of loneliness experienced by Dunning in the scene leading to this episode. “It seemed to him that something ill-defined and impalpable stepped in between him and his fellow-men.” It appears that loneliness makes humans easy prey for the haunting hunters.
The British author Gina Wisker argues that “not everything that is Gothic is horror.” The terminology blurs and contradicts, and particular meanings can be hard to separate. Scholarship struggles with content-based definitions and often subsumes horror within Gothic (or vice versa), depending on the writer’s critical perspective or the medium being discussed.
The folklore related to vampires has a lengthy historical timeline and remains one of great fascination which continues today. Within literary novels of the past like Abraham Stoker’s “Dracula”, to present day books, films, movies and television the theme continues and has woven itself into distinct subcultures. These words and recordings show people through depictions and paintings that even in today’s world images of a ravenous reanimated corpse both frightens and terrifies us. The vampire rises from the grave under cover of night to return to steal the life force from his family, friends or neighbours.