Gothic Imagination


There are times when I wish trains were cheaper, and now might be one of them. There’s an exhibition on at the British Library called

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination

that I really would like to see. I might have to take a trip down to London on one of my ‘four-off’s in November or December. I wonder whether I can go there and back in a day without completely exhausting myself? And I’d need to find fairly cheap train tickets, but still, it might be possible.

I’ve just finished reading a book called ‘The Gothic Subculture’ which covers architecture, art, films, music and fashion, and the development of ‘gothic’ genres and ‘goth’ culture. The Ostrogoths and Visigoths were Germanic tribes who migrating south during the late Roman empire caused mayhem. It was the Ostrogoths, led by Theodoric the Great,  who invaded and sacked Rome before settling down and enjoying Roman ‘civilisation’. Later the term ‘gothic’ was applied to the elaborate architecture of fourteenth century onward cathedrals and palaces. These buildings were unusually large and light for their time, with many an ornate flying buttress and huge stained glass windows. Hieronymous Bosch, an artist of the fantastical, portrayed sin and monstrous humans and other creatures.



Artwork of this style has been described as gothic; it has the same sort of aesthetic as the great cathedrals. It is laden with symbolism and complex meaning.

Gothic Revivalism, a product of Victorian fear of change and yearning for the simpler, more moral (according to them) middle ages, when everyone went to church and nobody questioned authority (ha ha). A fine example of Gothic Revivalism is the Palace of Westminster, rebuilt to the plans of Charles Barry after it burnt down in 1834. The style is known as Perpendicular Gothic. I don’t know why but I’m guessing it has to do with all the perpendicular lines and Gothic inspired design. How these terms for an architectural and artistic style came to apply to the wide range of areas it does today – from literature to fashion – is a question the book didn’t answer.

The British Library exhibition covers Gothic literature. Perhaps it’ll answer the question. There is a book to go with the exhibition; if I can’t get down to London I might treat myself to the book, to see if I can make understand this puzzle.


It would be nice to see the Frankenstein manuscript though…


Best be off, got some embroidery to do.




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