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  • Whither the Gothic-Romantic Relationship?
  • Jerrold E. Hogle (bio)

It has been wonderful to be a scholar/student of Romantic and Gothic literature, as I have tried to be, over the last fifty years (1970–2020). During that time, the study of British Romantic writing has expanded richly and profoundly beyond its earlier confinement to six white male poets—ultimately offering more revealing interpretations of them—while the Gothic has emerged from academic exile [End Page 122] to be recognized as a major cultural mode of symbolic power from the 1760s on. More recently, a concentrated group of scholars, myself among them, has worked to disentangle the interplay of Gothic and Romantic strains of writing. Michael Gamer's work is particularly exemplary, since he shows how the "high" Romantics openly disparage Gothic fiction and drama derived from Horace Walpole even as they employ Gothic elements in their own works.1

The revelations in these studies have been remarkable, with mine (starting in 2003) providing but one strand among several.2 In Gothic Antiquity (2019), Dale Townshend has shown us how a Foucauldian episteme of assumptions that pervades Gothic-revival architecture and literature from the 1750s to the 1830s underwrites the development of Romanticism and the Walpolean Gothic together.3 Townshend's book builds, in turn, on Tom Duggett's Gothic Romanticism (2010), which highlights Wordsworth's and Coleridge's attempt at "a purified Gothic style" opposed to "that represented by the Gothic novel."4 Over these last twenty-five years, however, other scholars—from Gamer and Anne Williams to Fred Botting and Tilottama Rajan—have exposed how the Romantic often incorporates the Gothic to "draw its energies from the poisons it disavows."5 In this view, the Gothic elements abject unresolved social or psychological conflicts and contending belief-systems into various "combination[s] of new and old modes of mediation" so that the overall work can offer, by contrast, an imaginative vision of human reconciliation and transcendence.6

But none of us has arrived at the last word about this relationship so important especially to the "second generation" of British Romantics, the focus of this journal. So much remains to be worked out in this realm, along with the other issues foregrounded by my fellow [End Page 123] contributors. What authors in the K-SJ's purview have yet to have their Gothic underpinnings thoroughly analyzed? There are helpful recent explanations for the pervasiveness of Gothic in P. B. Shelley (as in the Romantic Circles Praxis collection Shelley and the Delimitations of the Gothic [2015, online]), in Mary Shelley beyond just Frankenstein (as in Angela Wright's Mary Shelley [2018]), and in many works by Byron (with some partial advances in The Gothic Byron collection [2009]). But what of the still-unexplored Gothic in these same authors, in Felicia Hemans, or in Letitia Landon? And what about the Leigh Hunt circle, especially in Keats apart from what has been seen in his "Eve of St. Agnes" and "Lamia"? Far beyond Frankenstein, the Gothic haunts much of Romantic literature with numerous undercurrents of conflict over race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ecological devastation, economic substructures, orientalism and empire, philosophical and religious debate, and even what constitutes historical truth, not to mention the questioning and blurring of generic boundaries. There are hidden reserves, fitting for the Gothic, just waiting to be uncovered, so I invite my younger colleagues over the next fifty years to dig even deeper, right along with the rest of us hopelessly Gothic Romanticists.

Jerrold E. Hogle

Jerrold E. Hogle is Professor Emeritus of English and University Distinguished Professor at the University of Arizona and winner of the Keats-Shelley Association Distinguished Scholar Award for 2013.

Footnotes

1. See especially Michael Gamer's Romanticism and the Gothic: Genre, Reception, and Canon Formation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

2. See Jerrold E. Hogle, "The Gothic-Romantic Relationship: Underground Histories in 'The Eve of St. Agnes,'" European Romantic Review 14.2 (2003), 205–23.

3. See Dale Townshend in Gothic Antiquity: History, Romance, and the Architectural Imagination, 1760-1840 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), esp. 1-44.

4. Tom Duggett, Gothic Romanticism: Architecture, Politics, and Literary Form (New York: Palgrave, 2010...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2328-112X
Print ISSN
0453-4387
Pages
pp. 122-124
Launched on MUSE
2020-10-30
Open Access
No
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