The Connection between Buildings and Bodies in the Gothic Tradition

Settings and appearance make an important part of Gothic style. Descriptions of different places possess such an important function in the gothic genre that sometimes the settings take the place of the character. Usually the characters of gothic movies and novels have typical appearance. They have a tendency to dark sound and special mode of dress. Victorian and Renaissance clothing styles is often used in Gothic genre. In Gothic genre bodies and buildings serve as manifestation of ideas. They not only help the authors to pass their ideas to the readers but also serve as ideas themselves. “In Gothic fiction the reader passes from the reasoned order of the everyday world into a dark region governed by supernatural beings, a region that inspires dread and horror, where decay abounds and death is always at hand” (Botting, 196). Originally Gothic style appeared in architecture. Medieval Gothic ruins and buildings of the 18th century encouraged the writers to create their gothic romances and stories.

The setting usually takes place in an old house, castle or in ruins and that is the main feature of gothic romances and stories. This castle must be surrounded by a dark horrible forest. The castle or the house may be abandoned or deserved and it necessarily has long staircases, different secret passages or tramps. Such descriptions of the place are aimed to cause reader’s alarm, have claustrophobic feelings or feel the mystery. Another feature of gothic romance is the unexpected denouement. The story usually begins in the middle of adventure and the end is sudden and abrupt at a climactic moment.  Sometimes the story ends even in the middle of the sentence.

Settings possess an extremely important function in Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole. This novel is one of the first examples of the Gothic genre. The novel tells a story of the Manfired family. The head of the family and the owner of the castle is worried that his family line will stop because his only son dies before his own wedding. Lord Manfired is worried because of the ancient prophesy which states:  “That the castle and lordship of Otranto should pass from the present family, whenever the real owner should be grown too large to inhabit it” (Walpole, 36). The castle and its descriptions have an important function in the novel. They help to create necessary atmosphere of suspense. Different parts of the setting often become symbols and artistic details in the novel because they help to create necessary effect of fear and mystery. In some moments is seems that settings cease to posses its secondary function in the novel and become  one of the characters. Castle of Otranto lives its own life and people who dwell in it have to count with this “character”. Different supernatural events which happen in the castle become symbols which help the author to develop the plot and influence his characters. The settings creates necessaries effects and impact on the audience.

The Exorcist is a perfect example of horror and gothic movie. The scheme of the movie is dark and colorless. The movie tells a story of a possessed girl whose mother tries to save her. Linda Blair’s appearance is typical for gothic genre. Her pale face is covered with scars and cuts. Scenes of exorcism itself are shot in the church. Settings perfectly serve to the main purpose of the movie ”“ creating dark and gloomy mood and making people feel strong emotions. Different mysterious and horror scenes represent the classics of the genre. Scenes include inviting of the demon, moving of objects, shaking of bad and other furniture, levitation, inhuman looks and voice of the protagonist, self-appearing cuts and so on.

As King stated, the Exorcist became the first crack in the Apollonian world.  Originally division to Apollonian and Dionysian was introduced and described by Nietzsche.  Nietzsche uses terms Apollonian and Dionysian to define and contrast two main principles of the Greek culture. Apollo is the god of the Sun and the representative of light, clarity and well-defined form. Apollonian distinguishes everything analytical, unique and individual. Forms and shapes belong to Apollonian type as the are strictly structuralized and give the pattern of the established order. Everything Apollonian corresponds to  Schopenhauer’s “principle of individuation”.  Sculpture was the incarnation of everything Apollonian as it was a mere form and  influenced spectators through the form and build. So, everything rational, analytical, external and well-structured was defined as Apollonian by Nietzsche. The Exorcist appears as Dionysian in its worst part. The Dionysian is a notion, opposing the Apollonian. Dionysus is a Greek god of wine, frivolity, madness, feast and bacchanalia. Drunkenness and madness, enthusiasm and ecstasy belong to Dionysian also, as they present the personality without rational control and outer limitations. The Exorcist shows how rational side and God or Apollo are shadowed by the image of devil. Setting of the movie illustrates this idea. Colors and furniture of the room  do not allow light to enter the soul of the protagonist. All the landscapes of the movie are dark and gloomy and help the authors to transmit their message to the audience.

Popular culture has influenced Goth subculture despite it did it best to defend itself from external influence. Since it becomes more and more popular, more people become the part of this subculture. Media often attributes it to the representatives of other subcultures not having enough knowledge about peculiarities of this subculture. This was usually done because of similarities in appearance and style rather than philosophical ideas and musical genre. The term “Goth” has become extended with the flow of time and gradually has come to its frequent usage. “As time went on, the term was extended further in popular usage, sometimes to define groups that had neither musical nor fashion similarities to the original gothic subculture“(Baddeley 15). Modern media creates a close connection between Goth subculture and horror genre in literature and movie. Such connection has become a common cliché widely popularized by the media. Goths often appear in different horror novels and movies. The Crow, for example is completely based on Goth music and style of life. A famous by Rice film The Vampire Chronicles also has specific gothic motifs.

In general, big role of settings is a common feature of all gothic novels. The authors use different descriptions of dark, gloomy places as one of the main components of Gothic genre. Old castles make very common settings of the Gothic novels and the Castle f Otranto is a perfect example of such a use. In the novel by Walpole the role of settings is extremely important. Same happens to the movie Exorcism. In both works of art settings becomes more than a background but posses the function of live individual which delivers the message of the authors, creates necessary atmosphere and influences the feelings of the audience.

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