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A Gothic ReaderThe Gothic Reader: A Critical Anthology, compiled by Martin Myrone (Tate Gallery, 2006)

Compiled to accompany the Tate Gallery's 'Gothic Nightmares' show in 2006, focusing on Fuseli and Blake, this book daunted me at first and it sat on the shelf for over a year before I got around to reading it. When I did, I found that, far from being a dry collection of near-incomprehensible 18th-century writings, it was thoroughly readable and fizzed and crackled with interest. It investigates the crucial epoch when the 'Gothic' sensibility was established through a well-chosen, and very wide-ranging rag-bag of extracts and contemporary comments, sprinkled with images from the exhibition itself, and by doing so traces the links Gothic had with elements already circulating in popular culture (old-fashioned ghost stories, for instance), the theory of the Sublime, and art. All of them combined to produce Georgian horror literature, that great outflowering of Gothic which has defined ever after what the term has meant. The book even makes The Castle of Udolpho and Vathek seem worth picking up and opening again, though I'm not sure I'll manage that. It is of course tied down to the scheme of the exhibition itself, but manages within that to be great fun.

One quibble:  The Gothic Reader seems to have been very roughly proof-read. On one page I counted three typos in a single paragraph. Oops!

 


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