The Gothic: What is it?
Some gothic conventions that can appear in different combinations:
Confronting the past:  Readers caught between the attractions/terrors of a past once controlled by aristocrats or priests, and the forces of change that would reject such a past yet still remain held by aspects of it (including desires for aristocratic or superhuman powers). The gothic as a means of confronting what is psychologically buried in individuals and groups; the gothic as a haunting of deep-seated social/historical dilemmas.

The female gothic:  Though the gothic is often about the “son” who wants to kill/strive to become the “father,” women have used the gothic to create gothic heroines who seek to appease/free themselves from male/patriarchal dominance (ie, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (1847). Women are the figures most fearfully trapped between contradictory pressures and impulses, in gothic circumstances–caught in a labyrinth of darkness full of cloisters underground and hesitant about what course to take there, fearing the pursuit of a domineering and lascivious patriarch who wants to use her womb as a repository for seed that may help him preserve his property and wealth (but if she flees she may be trapped by another man, who knows who?

--from Hogle, Jerrold. “Introduction: the Gothic in western culture.” The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction. Ed. Jerrold Hogle. Cambridge UP, 2002:  1-20.

The Sublime
--From Trott, Nicola. “The Picturesque, the Beautiful, and the Sublime.” A Companion to Romanticism. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers, 1998: 72-90.

Notes from Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful

“Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain and danger, that is to say whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling” (499).

“the torments which we may be made to suffer , are much greater in their effect on the body and mind, than any pleasures which the most learned voluptuary could suggest, or than the liveliest imagination, and the most sound and exquisitely sensible body, could enjoy” (599).

“When pain and danger press too nearby, they are incapable of giving any delight, and are simply terrible; but at certain distances, and with certain modifications, they may be, and they are delightful, as we every day experience” (500).

Sources of Sublime:
Sources of the Beautiful:


How is the female body represented in Burke’s writing? Do you get the impression that the sublime is gendered as masculine?  If so, what are the implications of the binaries that Burke is describing?

How are elements of the sublime and the beautiful – and the gothic – present in Christabel and/or other poems like Lines Writen Above Tintern Abbey?

Where do you see sexual imagery in Christabel – and how is this sexual imagery being used by Coleridge?

In what ways is Christabel like the Albatross?

Women writers:  How is nature described in Mary Robinson’s "The Haunted Beach" (p. 221), Charlotte Smith’s “Far on the Sands” (pg. 50-51) and Joanna Baillie’s “Thunder” (pp. 317-319)? Do these poems draw upon the ideas of the sublime and/or the gothic? How do these female authors use romantic conventions, in comparison with the male romantic writers we’ve read so far?