Sensation vs. Gothic

I’ll be teaching a new MA course on Sensation and Gothic fiction at the University of Amsterdam next year, and I would love to hear suggestions about what Victorian novels I should include. I am also hoping the course will help me answer some of the questions I have about the differences between these two genres. A key difference seems to be setting, as sensation novels typically take place in England, with Gothic fiction more often adopting a foreign setting; yet the urban gothic novels of the late-nineteenth century (novels like Dracula, for instance) seem to blur these lines. Is it the element of the supernatural or fantastic that defines a novel as gothic vs. sensationalist?

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Gothic Optics

"Mr. Mansfield." Double-exposure photograph of stage actor Richard Mansfield as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
"Mr. Mansfield." Double-exposure photograph of stage actor Richard Mansfield as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

A couple of weeks ago, I returned from Lancaster, where the International Gothic Association held its Ninth Biannual Conference: Monstrous Media / Spectral Subjects. I couldn’t have found a major conference so perfectly attuned to my interests, and the papers did not disappoint. The shortest route to explaining to friends just what “Gothic Media” might be tends to cut through the flesh-eating-television and killer-cellphone movies we’ve been bombarded with over the past few years, but nineteenth-century technologies were well represented at the conference as well. Continue reading “Gothic Optics”