Beyond Literary Landscapes—The Gothic Novel

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week’s column is the final part of my three-part series on the Gothic literary genre.  Be sure to check out parts one and two focusing on American Gothic and Southern Gothic novels and short stories.

The Gothic novel can be defined as novels which “generally challenged Enlightenment principles by giving voice to irrational, horrific, and transgressive thoughts, desires, and impulses, thereby conjuring an angst-ridden world of violence, sex, terror, and death.”

Beginning in the 18th century in the United Kingdom, the genre evolved into the American Gothic and Southern Gothic sub-genres in the United States during the 19th century.


Some examples of Gothic novels include The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Other notable examples include The Strange Case of Dr.  Jekyll and Mr.  Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.


These novels take place throughout the United Kingdom.


These novels take place in the 18th century.


Gothic novels may be of interest to AU learners who would like to learn about the original genre that evolved into various sub-genres, including American Gothic and Southern Gothic.  Students may also be interested in looking into more contemporary works, in what has been termed Southern Ontario Gothic.  (Some examples include select works of Alice Munroe and Margaret Atwood).


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to the Gothic Novel are available in a variety of disciplines, including ones that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning about this topic may consider enrolling in ENGL 395: The Nineteenth-Century English Novel, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “introduces the student to some of the major English novels of the nineteenth century.”  (Please note that this course requires ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays as prerequisites).

In addition, AU students interested in learning more about various Gothic sub-genres may enroll in ENGL 344: American Literature I, ENGL 345: American Literature II, and ENGL 361: Literature of the Harlem Renaissance.  (Please take note of the various prerequisites for these courses, including ENGL 211 and ENGL 212, as well as ENGL 344 or ENGL 345 for ENGL 361).  Happy reading!