The Gay and Bisexual Men of Gothic Fiction

As Pride Month draws to a close, I wanted to write a post highlighting a few of the queer writers in the Gothic canon. Gothic literature has been closely associated with taboo sexuality since its inception, and we can see this legacy clearly today in the queerness of modern horror (and in the unexpected adoption of the Babadook as the unofficial mascot of Pride this year). Not all of the LGBTQ representation in Gothic fiction has been particularly positive, as these works often play to society’s anxieties around sexual taboo. But the Gothic was also a place where many queer writers found a home. As is often the case with historical figures, it can be difficult to speak with certainty about the sexualities of authors long dead, especially since most of them lived during a time when “sodomy” was punishable by exile, arrest, and even death. Almost every writer of early Gothic fiction has been accused by enemies or claimed by critics to be part of the LGBTQ community, with varying amounts of evidence. In this post, I will highlight three of the most notorious gay or bisexual writers whose personal and romantic lives have contributed to their fame almost as much as their works have. Continue reading The Gay and Bisexual Men of Gothic Fiction

The Roots of Gothic Literature

The term “Gothic” (with a capital G) refers to an era of literature and its accompanying trend in architecture during the late 18th century and throughout the 19th century. Both the literary and architectural movements were characterized by a return to medieval aesthetics. Fashionable English aristocrats, such as Horace Walpole, began to fill their estates with highly ornamented turrets and towers reminiscent of medieval churches.

Gothic church photo 1
Cathedral of St. John the Divine–a church with Gothic elements

Meanwhile, many authors began to abandon the Enlightenment principles of rationality and reason in favor of exploring the pleasure that can be found in emotions like terror. The original Gothic stories featured Gothic castles, abbeys, and ruins of the sort that were now being recreated and were often set in a vaguely medieval past. They generally included elements of the supernatural in reaction against the recent trend of realism and were characterized by melodrama, mystery, and suspense. Listed below are some of the seminal works of early Gothic fiction. Continue reading The Roots of Gothic Literature