O.Wilde, Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

The artist is the creator of beautiful things. (...)
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.
They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. (...)

No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything. (...)
All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.
When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself...

O. Wilde (1854-1900),
Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ann Radcliffe, the Gothic Novel

Ann Radcliffe                          


English  author
& pioneer of the Gothic novel

‘The Château into which my valet had ventured to make forcible entrance…
was one of those piles of commingled gloom and grandeur
which have so long frowned among the Apennines,
no less in fact than in the fancy
of Mrs. Radcliffe.’
                                                                                  'The Oval Portrait', by E.A. Poe

Little is known about Ann Radcliffe's life as she never appeared in public. Christina Rossetti attempted to write a biography about her life, but she had to abandon it for lack of information. And, unfortunately, there are no images available of Ann Radcliffe. The one you see on this page is just a stock image circulating on the internet.
Even if other writers had preceded her in writing Gothic novels, she is considered the founder of Gothic literature as she was the one that legitimized that genre thanks to her technique
Throughout her life, Ann Radcliffe published six novels and a book of poetry. In these works her style is romantic for her vivid descriptions of landscapes and of long travel scenes, yet it is mingled with numerous Gothic elements, such as her settings and  her use of the supernatural. Moreover, in her stories she always gives a final revelation of inexplicable phenomena. It was just this method of ‘explained Gothicism’ that helped the Gothic novel achieve respectability in the 1790s.
One of his most famous novels is ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’ (probably the best example of Gothic romance), later parodied by Jane Austen in ‘Northanger Abbey’.
Set in 1584 in southern France and northern Italy, this story is full of physical and psychological terror; of remote and terrifying buidings; of seemingly supernatural events; with a bad and scheming villain (an Italian brigand!); and with a poor, orphaned and persecuted heroine suffering imprisonment in the castle Udolpho.  
Castle Udolpho by James Nasmyth,
from Mrs. Radcliffe's 1794 edition

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