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Terror and Wonder edited by Dale TownshendTerror and Wonder, edited by Dale Townshend (British Library, 2014)

Terror and Wonder isn’t a catalogue of the exhibition of the same name at the British Library, but accompanies it. However, although it stands alone as an account of the development of the Gothic imagination, it very naturally follows the outline of the exhibition in that the focus is on how Gothic is expressed in narrative form, whether literature (most of the time) or film, with other material brought in as support and illustration. That means that, for the most part, we’ve heard the story before, although there are lots of unfamiliar examples (the ludicrous ‘Quintilia the Quadrigamist’, pp.122-3, is delightful) and, as one would hope from the calibre of the contributors, the writing is very good. The kaleidoscopic meanings of Gothic are deftly teased out, and one of the most valuable contributions this collection of essays makes is to try to identify the various anxieties Gothic has expressed at different times. Catherine Spooner’s examination of the book as Gothic artefact in contemporary fiction is particular fun. As in the exhibition itself, the photo-essay on Goths at Whitby is appended a bit awkwardly and more context would have been welcome.


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