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April 10th, 2008, 12:38
Originally Posted by magerette View Post
I commend your literary perseverance in working through Otranto—I can't make myself slog through the purple prose, gasps and swoons;-pretty over the top stuff- and as the equivalent of the modern bodice-ripper, extremely demeaning to the intelligence of the female of the species —but also very seminal in the formation of the genre we now call horror. Lovecraft and even Poe himself can be a little thick to read at times.
You should read it. Otranto is, I freely admit that, not a particularly interesting story - at least not from a modern perspective. What makes The Castle of Otranto outstanding is that it is the first of its kind (at least it's usually credited to be the first one - some critics will throw in Tobia's Smollett's Ferdinand Count Fathom). It contains all the elements of the so called Terror Gothic that you will later on find in Radcliff's novels which I can also recommend. The Mysteries of Udolpho is pretty much a must. She was the dominating figure of the 1790's when it comes to Gothic fiction and one should have really read something from her. Also recommendable is Matthew Lewis' The Monk - a subversive masterpiece that marks the turn from Terror Gothic to Horror Gothic… not entirely serious, it IS transgressive even today. You have incest, matricide, blasphemy and excessive violence.
Another one which you should read is Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer, again a rather subversive novel which picks up the legend of the wandering jew, a story which you can find in almost every western community.
And then there are of course Mary Shelly, Bram Stoker and Poe… but I guess, you've read all of them.

I admit that it is sometimes hard work to "dig" through these old works, but I really think that it always pays out in the end. If you watch "Event Horizon" on TV you'll be surprised how much it resembles the pattern that was laid down by Walpole and others. Sometimes it also helps to read some literary criticism to make things more interesting for you. Dracula which is often seen as the climax of late Victorian pop culture is certainly much more than that. But to fully understand the novel one simply needs some knowledge on Stoker and the Victorian period.

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