Elements of Gothic Literature Background on Edgar Allen Poe Comprehension of “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Raven” Literary Elements: Allegory, Archetypes, Allusion, Symbolism, Unreliable Narrator Vocabulary Connecting historical plagues and current events with the “Red Death” Summary, Making Connections, Note-Taking
What makes a work Gothic is a combination of at least some of these elements: a castle, ruined or intact, haunted or not; ruined buildings which are sinister or which arouse a pleasing melancholy; dungeons, underground passages, crypts, and catacombs which, in modern houses, become spooky basements or attics;
labyrinths, dark corridors, and winding stairs, shadows, a beam of moonlight in the blackness, a flickering candle, or the only source of light failing (a candle blown out or an electric failure), extreme landscapes, like rugged mountains, thick forests, or icy wastes, and extreme weather, omens and ancestral curses,
magic, supernatural manifestations, or the suggestion of the supernatural, a passion-driven, willful villain-hero or villain, a curious heroine with a tendency to faint and a need to be rescued–frequently, a hero whose true identity is revealed by the end of the novel, horrifying (or terrifying) events or the threat of such happenings.
“For some of us--and I include myself, the prospect of safely experiencing dread or horror is thrilling and enjoyable.” Lilia Melani
"I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity." — Edgar Allan Poe 19 th Century Genius 1809-1849 Edgar Allan Poe
Biological Parents: The Poes – David—drank heavily – Elizabeth—deserted by husband and died at young age – Edgar was left an orphan Adopted Parents: The Allans – John—became Edgar’s guardian and provided for his education, but never supported his decisions – Francis—adored Edgar, but never legally adopted him – Edgar took Allan as his middle name, wanted to feel like he belonged
Most known for his Gothic writings Gothic-a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance. Nicknamed “The Father of the Detective Story ” Most respected for his career as an essayist and editor of the Southern Literary Messenger
Most prestigious poem—”The Raven” Other detective stories “The Purloined Letter” “The Fall of the House of Usher” “The Cask of Amontillado” “The Tell-Tale Heart”
Lived with his Aunt, Maria Clemm, during times of financial hardship Fell in love and married Clemm’s daughter, Virginia, when she was 13 Virginia was Poe’s cousin
Many people close to Poe died. Mrs. Poe-tuberculosis Mrs. Allan-tuberculosis Virginia-tuberculosis Much of his life was lived in poverty. He was never able to provide for his wife.
Found half-dead in an alley in Baltimore. Died 4 days later in a hospital. Cause of death was unknown, but could be attributed to alcoholism, drugs, or other illness.
Poe always wore black— reinforcing the Gothic theme. Always spoke in a whisper or low tones, even in a violent discussion. Wrote a short story about travelling to the moon.
Began in Sicily in 1347 Carried on ships from the East Carriers were rats/fleas! Trading ships carried the plague inland to Italy Conditions in the cities was perfect for the plague No regulated garbage collections Refuse accumulated in piles in the streets Rushes were used instead of rugs—creating a breeding ground for vermin No running water—no regular bathing
Precautions: Isolation “play today for we die tomorrow” Flee! Result: Bodies piled up in the streets and were removed with carts Mass burials in ditches Fleas on Rats
The east (directional not cultural) Beginnings Birth “unknown”- (Bolt out of the blue.) Sin: Lust Nature: water It can also mean: peace, tranquility, calm, stability, harmony, unity, trust, truth, confidence, order, security, cleanliness, loyalty, cold, technology, depression.
Combination of blue (birth) and red (life/intensity) Beginnings of growth A period of life when something was accomplished Sin: Pride Nature: animals It can also mean: royalty, spirituality, nobility, ceremony, mystery, transformation, wisdom, enlightenment, cruelty, arrogance, mourning.
“spring of life”- (In the prime of his years) Youth Sin: Envy Nature: plants It can also mean: nature, environment, health, good luck, renewal, youth, vigor, spring, envy, generosity, jealousy, inexperience
Summer/autumn of life- (beyond his prime but not yet old) “The harvest or fulfillment of human labor and ambition.” - Kermit Vanderbilt Sin: Gluttony Nature: energy/ Balance – Sun It can also mean: energy, balance, warmth, enthusiasm, vibrancy, expansiveness, flamboyance, demands for attention, often worn by the self- sacrificing hero, worn by Buddhist monk
Suggests age White hair Bones Decomposition- approaching death Nature: The Sun It can also mean: reverence, purity, simplicity, cleanliness, peace, humility, precision, innocence, youth, birth, winter, snow, good, marriage (in Western cultures), cold, death (in Eastern cultures)
Combination of purple/blue or purple/grey Shadowy color Represents gravity, chastity, somberness- the dignity of old age
DEATH!!! The west (directional not cultural) Nature: primordial void It can also mean: power, sophistication, formality, elegance, wealth, mystery, fear, evil, depth, anonymity, unhappiness, style, sadness, remorse, anger, underground, mourning, death
East Life Beginnings Sunrise West Death Endings Sunset
Gothic literature: genre of literature that combines both horror and romance Unreliable narrator: narrator who may not always know the whole truth or may purposely choose to deceive the reader. Allusion: a reference to another body of work which acts like a kind of shorthand, bringing additional meaning and emotional impact to a story, like the use of the terms “Achilles’ heel” (Watch for this as we read!)
…is an extended metaphor that is carried throughout an story or novel. It features a set of recognizable symbols whose meanings combine to convey a message. An allegory always operates on two levels of meaning: the literal elements of the plot (the colors of the rooms, for example) and their symbolic counterparts, which often involve large philosophical concepts (such as life and death). The underlying meaning has moral, social, religious, or political significance, and characters are often personifications of abstract ideas as charity, greed, or envy.
Rich and powerful people often build huge houses. They build high walls around their estates so that they can block out the upsetting parts of life, just like Prince Prospero. If you were Prince Prospero and could hide from your fears, what would you hide from? Would you hide? Or would you face your fear?