Monday, September 17, 2007
In reaction to Enlightenment's cult of Reason, Romanticism highly prized the supernatural, tradition and imagination, together with the age in which they were supposed to rule - Middle Ages. These traits readily borrowed traditional elements of the fantastic. The Romantics invoked the medieval romance as justification for the works they wanted to produce, in distinction from the realistic pressure of the Enlightenment; these were not always fantastic, sometimes being merely unlikely to happen, but the justification was used even from fantasy.
One of the first literary results of this fascinations was Gothic novel, a literary genre that began in Britain with The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole. It is the predecessor to both modern fantasy and modern horror fiction and, above all, has led to the common definition of "gothic" as being connected to the dark and horrific. Prominent features of gothic novels included terror, mystery, the supernatural, ghosts, haunted buildings, castles, trapdoors, doom, death, decay, madness, hereditary curses, and so on. The fanastic, dream-like atmosphere pervaded the genre at this point. Gothic tales permited, but did not require, an element of the supernatural. Some stories appeared to contain such elements and then explained them away. The genre straddled the border between fantasy and non-fantasy, but many elements from it, particularly the houses of particular import, being ancient, owned by nobles, and often endowed with legends, were incorporated in modern fantasy.
Of particular importance to the development of the genre was that the Gothic writers used novelistic techniques, such as Defoe was using, rather than the literary style of the romance, and also began to use the landscape for purposes of expressing the characters' moods.