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  1. Many Romantic poems have elements of the Gothic without being wholly Gothic works. Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (NAEL 8, 2.430) and Christabel (NAEL 8, 2.449), Byron's Manfred (NAEL 8, 2.635), and Keats's The Eve of St. Agnes (NAEL 8, 2.888) are prime examples. What elements of the Gothic do you detect in any particular instance? What effects does the writer achieve by using them? What artistic (or other) purpose is accomplished by connecting the work with Gothic tradition?
  2. From its inception, the Gothic tale invited both flattering imitation and critical parody, and indeed the two are not always easy to distinguish. Furthermore, the first Gothic tale — The Castle of Otranto — itself seems rather like a parody of the genre it in fact inaugurates.
    1. What is it in the style or plot of the Gothic tale that invites these kinds of imitation? How is it that the reader is invited to become the writer?
    2. What place for individuality of plot or of style is left? How, given this emphasis on recycling and repetition, has it been possible for the genre to change over time?
  3. In the Gothic novel, interiors are linked with danger. Threats come from within the house, within the family, and within the self. The ever-mounting sense of danger that characterizes the genre depends on the continual revelation of unsuspected depths.
    1. How do the selections in this topic suggest and exploit associations among these different kinds of interior?
    2. To what extent does the "Gothic" effect rely on the constant contrast between the familiar and the exotic?
  4. The explicit treatment of sexuality among other factors has made the Gothic a genre of interest for psychoanalytic critics. You can see a sampling of these points of view, along with passages from many of the novels that are sampled here, gathered on the Web site Architecture of the Mind.
    1. How do you see the ideas about fantasy (discussed by Holland and Sherman) and repression (discussed by Brooks) reflected in the texts?
    2. Does the selection by Max Byrd, with its attention to real-world institutions like the madhouse and the brothel, explain more than can be explained by purely psychological readings of the texts?
  5. Gothic architecture is one of the major elements of the opium dreams described by Thomas De Quincey in The Pains of Opium (NAEL 8, 2.560–66). How do the nightmare cities that haunt De Quincey in his dreams echo — or contradict — what is terrifying in the architecture of the Gothic novel?
  6. Edmund Burke's Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful has relevance to the Gothic tale as well as to landscape. But whereas the Romantic idea of landscape locates the sublime in nature, the Gothic emphasizes the supernatural and the human.
    1. While the sublimity of the landscape is associated with male writers and characters, women (writers and characters) encounter the sublime within the confines of the Gothic. How does this pattern affect your understanding of Burke's analysis, especially of the place of power in the sublime?
    2. As suggested by Vathek, the Gothic's atmosphere of horror often slips into the realm of camp. Why do you think the dignity and majesty of the sublime prove so hard to sustain within the Gothic tale?
  7. Although Catherine Morland tells Henry Tilney that she "should be too much frightened to do any such thing," the heroines of Gothic novels are characterized by the courage they reveal as well as by the terror they constantly experience.
    1. What resources do Adeline in The Romance of the Forest and Emily in The Mysteries of Udolpho find to push them forward in their adventures and to prevent their collapse into terror when under threat?
    2. In the Gothic, terror and courage are experienced by men as well as women, and by the guilty as well as the innocent. How do Walpole's Manfred and Lewis's Monk respond to the horror they feel, and what drives them on?
    3. Do these comparisons suggest deeper affinities between the female heroines and male villains of the Gothic? How does this complicate the apparently polarized moral universe of these novels?
  8. In chapter 4 of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (NAEL 8, 2.189–95), Mary Wollstonecraft denounces the cultivation of women "brimful of sensibility, and teeming with capricious fancies." Their "fear is cherished," even though "ever restless and anxious, their over exercised sensibility not only renders them uncomfortable themselves, but troublesome . . . to others."
    1. How do Radcliffe's heroines exemplify Wollstonecraft's complaints? How does what Wollstonecraft presents of real women's lives help to account for the Gothic's attractions to women as both readers and writers?
    2. Peacock's Nightmare Abbey casts a cynical eye on matters of sexual pursuit. How does his satire replicate or differ from Wollstonecraft's complaints?
  9. Gothic tales, both in English and in German, were a dominant force in the late-eighteenth-century literary marketplace and were read by all the major Romantic poets. At the same time, with the notable exception of Byron, none of the poets garnered anything like the novelists' readership. Details about the poets' reading of and opinions about the Gothic tale are gathered on Professor Douglass Thomson's site Gothic Literature: What the Romantic Writers Read. Briefly survey the site and then choose one poet to focus on in particular. What common points of praise or blame appear? What inconsistencies? How do you see the poet's reading of the Gothic reflected in his poetry?

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