Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin

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9780865475441: Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin

A seminal history of the Gothic imagination, from the seventeenth century to the present day.

The birth of gothic can be said to date to the eruption of Vesuvius in 1631, an event so powerful it created a new landscape. Indeed, it was the desolate and savage landscape paintings of the seventeenth-century artist Salvator Rosa, with their precipices, ruined castles, dark caves, and contorted trees, that provided the original visual and imaginative frame of the genre. In England, under Rosa's influence, William Kent created the first gothic garden when he planted a dead tree in the grounds of Kensington Palace.

Castles and country houses built like castles are another manifestation of the gothic imagination: in real life, in pictures, and in gothic stories. They are usually places of fear and anxiety; none more so than in Mitchelstown in Cork, where one family lived up to their home: surrounded by stories of murder, sexual degeneracy, eccentricity, madness, decay, and ruin.

Whatever the genre, gothic is about exaggeration, about immoderation. This revelatory history ranges through art, architecture, gardening, literature, photography, filmmaking, music, and clothing design, and takes in artists and characters as various as Byron, Horace Walpole, Goya, Frankenstein's monster, Edgar Allan Poe, Dracula, Jackson Pollock, The Addams Family, David Lynch, The Terminator, and The Cure.

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About the Author:

Richard Davenport-Hines is the author of five books, most recently Auden. His articles and reviews have appeared in many publications, including The Observer and The Times (London). He lives in London.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Mad monks, maleficent marquises, monster movies, Mount Vesuvius, and more, all mix boisterously in this potboiling witches cauldron, creating a strange, often heady brew that is two parts popular history of the gothic, one part academic maundering, and for the most part, a passionate defense and exploration of humanitys insuppressible gothic impulses. According to Davenport-Hines (Auden, 1996, etc.), much of the long-running revival (almost 400 years and counting) of interest in things gothic can be traced to the eruption of Vesuvius in 1631 and its aesthetic impact on the Neapolitan painter Salvator Rosa. Though Rosas wild landscapes, witches covens, and other such ``gothic'' subjects ran directly counter to the prevailing neoclassical Zeitgeist, aristocratic English aesthetes developed a taste for his work, and via gardening, architecture, and eventually literature, a movement was born. While Davenport-Hines defines Goths as persons who admire ``the Dark Ages, superstition and fear, or regard human identity as a masquerade of discontinuous, improvised performances,'' his embrace and understanding of the gothic at times seems overly broad, stretching to include almost anything nasty or even a bit off. At other times, hes maddeningly specific, spending dozens of pages, for example, delving into the histories of various British gothic ``power'' houses. In fact, he has an unhappy, parochial tendency to overweight all things English, making his account, thorough as it is, less than definitive. However, he does touch on all the expected gothic highlights, providing quick critical sketches of the usual suspects: Walpole, Sade, Goya, Piranesi, Poe, and Mary Shelley, as well as notable gothic design, movies, and ``moments.'' His lapidary, epigrammatic style and his keen analysis make all his tics, lacunae, and prejudices not merely bearable but even enjoyablea perfect gothic inversion. Like so many gothic novels and movies, flawed but compelling. (b&w illustrations throughout, 8 pages color) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Richard Davenport-Hines
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Davenport-Hines, Richard
Editore: North Point Pr (1999)
ISBN 10: 086547544X ISBN 13: 9780865475441
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