Gothic Antiquity, Gothic Architecture, Gothic Romance
This introductory chapter explores the primary concerns of the book. Having provided an account of how the long eighteenth century conceptualized ‘Gothic antiquity’, it explores the perceived links between the antique past, its architectural remains, imaginative response, and eighteenth-century political discourses. Through a reading of Horace Walpole’s confounding of the differences between historiography and romance, it situates the rise of Gothic literature in a liminal space between these two practices. Analysing two competing visual representations of scenes from Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), the discussion introduces a concern that runs throughout the remainder of the book: far from being a monolith, ‘Gothic antiquity’ for the eighteenth century was a divided and politically disputed construct. While conservatives tended to celebrate the Gothic past as a vanished golden age of political stability and great cultural achievement (the ‘white Gothic’), radical writers invoked it as a ‘Dark Age’ of tyranny, violence, and oppression.
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