Romantic Readings of the Gothic

A List of Gothic Works of Literature Read by the Canonical Romantic Writers



Last Revised 14 April 2013.


The Nature and Purpose of the List
With the ongoing reappraisal of the relationship between the Gothic and the Romantic, it seems desirable to have a list of Gothic works read by the major writers of the period 1780-1830. At times this reappraisal has ignored an important warning voice issued some years ago by F. L. Hart, who, in the wake of the controversy generated by Robert Hume's PMLA article "Gothic Versus Romantic," complained of too much "generic essentiallizing" in regards to such a diverse and multifarious literary phenomena as the Gothic. Too often the term "Gothic" appears as a catch-all term pitted against or aligned with some aspect of the Romantic, without attention to specific works or to the evolving nature of the genre. Thus, a "who read what list" can provide some historical grounding for these investigations. I've begun with the Gothic readings of the canonical British Romantic writers:  Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, the Shelleys, and Keats and will add others (De Quincey is next up) as the list develops. The indexes of Gothic texts read by the Romantics are very much a work in progress and make no claim to be the complete record of those readings. 

Hopefully the list will spark some lively debate about our understanding of just what constitutes the Gothic--always a wonderfully vexatious issue—and (at this stage) the significance of the major poets' reading of specific Gothic literary works. An electronic text is the perfect medium for such a resource and for such a debate because it allows for, indeed encourages, corrections, additions, and all kinds of revisions. For the Gothic novel I've begun with such standard references as Summers' A Gothic Bibliography, Frank's Guides to the Gothic, Spector's The English Gothic, McNutt's The Eighteenth Century Gothic Novel, and Tracy's The Gothic Novel: 1790-1830 for a working canon from which to compile lists of those works of fiction read by the poets. At this stage in its compilation, I have included very few works of Gothic drama--primarily Lewis's smash-hit the Castle Spectre and Maturins's plays; more work needs to be done in this area for sure. But while I have tried to remain fairly conservative in my selection of what constitutes the Gothic for this "first pass," I have included some works that cannot easily be categorized as Gothic but which seem to me important for an understanding of the issue (for example Collin's influential "Ode to Fear, " Schiller's The Robbers, and Bürger's ballads). For errata, additions, deletions, revisions and comments of all kinds, contact me through e-mail. I'll make and credit revisions as they come along.

For each entry I have supplied some evidence for making the claim of the poet's having read the work. This evidence ranges from the reliable to the conjectural, and for especially dicey attributions I have employed a (?) designation. Some of the entries include links, and more will be added as our discipline's electronic resources grow.

One final note that might suggest the kind of challenge faced in the compilation of this list: I was puzzled to find no evidence of any of the poets' having read novels of two of the most popular and formative writers of Gothic fiction, Clara Reeve and Charlotte Smith. As names left somewhat marginalized by the main literary traditions, I'm left wondering if the biographies, bibliographies, and other sources consulted have overlooked them--or if the poets did. Hopefully, we'll see as this list develops.

THE READING LISTS

 


COMMENTS ABOUT THE LIST

  • "This is an excellent website. Together with Jack Voller's pages, the Gothic now has its own grand grotto in cyberspace." --Frederick Frank, Editor of Guide to the Gothic: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism 

  • "This is great! I am just about to begin a seminar on the Gothic novel, and because we live on the quarter system, I haven't even tried to tie the novels in with so-called "high" Romanticism (except by adding FRANKENSTEIN to the syllabus and an hour or so on Wordsworth when I do "the sublime") because there just isn't time: the entire focus of my course is on the novels themselves and on theorizing "Gothic." This will be very helpful in pointing my students toward the poets' relation to all they are reading. Thanks!"-- Marlene Longenecker, Ohio State University 

  • "I just wanted to tell you how immensely helpful your site has been to me. i am an english major and just finished a class in the gothic/fantastic novel. the information provided on your site about the poets helped me make some really meaningful connections, both in my papers and presentations,and also in my own mind. thank you so much!"-- Holly Young 


This page is maintained by Douglass Thomson, Professor of English at Georgia Southern University. Send comments and queries to dhthom@georgiasouthern.edu