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Abstract:The gothic novel is a genre that has been extensively studied by research since the early 1980s. However, all of these monographs and articles on the genre have only a very limited readership. A much larger readership gets its picture of the genre from stories in English literature, which are popular because of their overview and introductory character. The present work examines these literary histories and their broadly effective image (or images) of the genre - however, literary stories from the period before 1980 are also taken into account (more precisely: since around 1850), as they were always influential. Various aspects of the genre are considered: genre names, the genre corpus, the characteristics assigned to the genre, narrative or literary historiographical possibilities of the genre construction, the evaluation of the genre, the contextualization of the genre in literary history, the treatment of important topics of genre research. Here mainly English literary stories from Great Britain are examined. Only in the last chapter are English literary stories from the USA and Germany considered for comparison. The generic names show that the term terror dominated until the 1960s, followed by the term gothic. When it comes to the genre corpus, literary stories are based on previous literary historiographical works. Therefore, despite the many gothic novelists (of the 18th and early 19th centuries, to whom the work is limited) mostly the same few are thematized. The dominant characteristics of the genre are terror, supernatural and medieval references. Since the genre is often only vaguely established through the characteristics, some literary histories postulate an imitation relationship between the genre founder Horace Walpole and later gothic novelists and only in this way produce an (exaggerated) homogeneous and sharply delineated genre. The evaluation of the genre shows a strong appreciation of the genus in the 20th century, insofar as it is discussed much more intensively than in the 19th century. However, there is no change from aesthetic negative to aesthetic positive evaluations. The contextualization of the genre occurs primarily through the context of the romantic era and the context of the genre of the novel. The former shows that the genre is no longer regarded as a deficient representative of Romanticism in recent literary histories. In the latter case, the genre often shows up as an innovative moment in the history of the novel. There are three perspectives on the genre that frequently appear in genre research: the historical, the psychological and the feminist or gender-theoretically inspired. From a historical perspective, it can be stated in literary historiography that nostalgic and escapist interpretations of the genre occur more frequently than those that are critical of the past. Psychological interpretations of the genus have become more detailed and varied in the second half of the 20th century. Feminist and gender-theoretically inspired approaches have slowly and rudimentarily found their way into literary histories in recent decades. The comparison of the English literary histories from Great Britain with those from the USA and Germany reveals essential similarities (e.g. in the genre corpus and in the genre characteristics) as well as essential differences (e.g. lower appreciation of the genre in the USA and belated in Germany).
Research on the gothic novel has been very extensive since the beginning of the 1980s. However, these books and articles about the genre only have a quite limited readership. A much larger readership obtains its image of the genre from histories of English literature which are very popular because of their introductory character. This dissertation examines these literary histories and their influential image (or images) of the genre. The relevant literary histories will not only be those written since 1980 but also those written since approx. 1850, which is due to the fact that literary histories have always been influential. This dissertation examines different aspects of the representation of the genre: names given to the genre, the corpus of the genre, the features identified as characteristic of the genre, narrative or historiographical possibilities of genre construction, the evaluation of the genre, the contextualization of the genre in literary history, the relevance of important topics in genre research. All these aspects are primarily examined in literary histories from Great Britain. Only in a final chapter will I - for reasons of comparison - examine histories of English literature from the USA and from Germany. Concerning the names given to genre, it turns out that the term "terror" is dominant until the 1960s and that the term "gothic" is dominant after that. The choice of authors discussed in a literary history is strongly influenced by earlier literary histories. Because of this it is mostly the same few authors that are discussed - despite the many gothic novelists of the 18th and early 19th century (the time the dissertation focuses upon). The dominant features of the genre are terror, supernaturalism and medievalism. Since the naming of features often establishes the genre only vaguely, some literary histories postulate a relationship of imitation between Horace Walpole (the founder of the genre) and later gothic novelists. Only this produces an (exaggeratedly) homogeneous and strictly detached genre. The evaluations of the genre exhibit a significant increase in value in the 20th century, in so far as these literary histories discuss the genre in much greater detail than those of the 19th century. A change from negative to positive aesthetic evaluations, however, cannot be observed. Concerning the contextualization of the genre, two contexts are especially important in literary histories: the period context of romanticism and the genre context of the novel. In the case of the former, it is striking that more recent literary histories no longer perceive the genre as being deficiently romantic. In the case of the latter, the genre is often portrayed as an innovative element in the history of the novel. Three types of approaches to the genre are especially popular in research: historical, psychological and feminist or gender-theoretical approaches. In the historical approaches nostalgic and escapist interpretations are more popular in literary historiography than interpretations that regard the genre as critical of the past. Psychological interpretations have become more refined in the second half of the 20th century. Feminist and gender-theoretical approaches have slowly and rudimentarily been gaining access to literary histories during the past decades. Comparing literary histories from Great Britain with those from the USA and from Germany reveals significant correspondences (eg concerning the corpus of the genre or the genre features) as well as significant differences (eg the genre experiences a less significant increase in value in the USA and a belated increase in value in Germany).