Chris Baldick’s intro to ‘The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales’

In this introductory text for ‘The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales‘, Baldrick establishes his argument for Gothic in literature (I look at how it differs structurally from horror). He historicizes the Gothic and explains its transformations over the years into what we recognize it as today. Therefore he establishes history and defines Gothic:

For the Gothic effect to be attained, a tale should combine a fearful sense of inheritance in a time with a claustrophobic sense of enclosure in space, these two dimensions reinforcing one another to produce an impression of sickening descent into disintegration. p xix

Defines Gothic as three things that inter-relate: 1) tyranny of the past 2) stifles the hopes of the present 3) within dead end physical incarnation.

Old buildings as sites of human decay (mansions).

I ask: so what happens when the horror shift is made away from the Gothic fantasy and moved into our realm of the real, homes and neighborhoods? Horror exists in the (ever) present, gothic looks to the past that has found its way into the present.

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