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The Gothic and the Fantastic photo

Introduction

The Gothic and the Fantastic are two literary genres both related and different.

A genre can characterize many types of literature such as poetry, drama, or the novel. It is a specific type of writing, obeying a number of rules, or recognizable through a number of themes or structural elements like suspense, plot, or characters.

I. Definitions of the Gothic

The Gothic is the ancestor of the modern horror stories. It is based on the bizarre, the macabre and the supernatural, and it very often deals with aberrant psychological states (terror, fear, anxiety). The setting could typically be a dark castle or church at night…

1. The Sublime

The Sublime is the concept developed by Edmund Burke in On the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757) which is based on two principles :

  • Beauty is small, smooth, not angular but curved, clear, light and delicate, with harmony in proportions. It is something rather feminine, with human proportions, based on pleasure.
  • the Sublime is great, rugged, straight and angular, dark and massive. It is rather masculine, inhuman because too vast, excessive and powerful for man, based on pain.

There is a dialectic like Eros (love and pleasure) and Thanatos (pain and death) : these two elements, both opposed and complementary, structured the mentalities and the mental productions of the 19th century.

It is also related to primitivism as neoclassicism expressed harmony in proportions (beauty) while the revival of the Gothic was in relation with the sublime, based on pre-christian religions, legends and superstitions and the Middle Ages.

2. Major Gothic Works

Horace Walpole, nephew of a former MP and himself a rich and noble MP, was inspired by Shakespeare’s plays (especially monsters) and wrote The Castle of Otranto (1764). His book is divided into five chapters, like the five acts of a play. It can be considered the first Gothic novel.

William Beckford published Vathek in 1782. It was first written in French and inspired by The Arabian Nights.

Gothic novels met a real success as it was a very feminine genre : women were writing, reading and had access to culture.

Other major Gothic novels include :

  • The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) by Ann Radcliffe
  • The Monk (1796) by Matthew Lewis
  • Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley
  • Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) by Charles Maturin
  • The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) by James Hogg

3. A better definition

According to Marilyn Butler:

  • there is a contrast between the sublime and the beautiful,
  • the frail, young and fragile heroine usually falls in love with a nice guy,
  • gloomy and large elements belong to the sublime,
  • the dominant emotion is fear,
  • there is a chiaroscuro : a contrast between light and darkness.

For example, The Mysteries of Udolpho is a novel set in 1584 in southern France and northern Italy which focuses on the plight of Emily St. Aubert, a young French woman who is orphaned after the death of her father. Emily suffers imprisonment in the castle Udolpho at the hands of Signor Montoni, an Italian brigand who has married her aunt and guardian Madame Cheron. Emily’s romance with the dashing Valancourt is frustrated by Montoni and others. Emily also investigates the mysterious relationship between her father and the Marchioness de Villeroi, and its connection to the castle at Udolpho. Emily conceives strange things : she can hear voices such as her dead father’s, see moving paintings, or see a man appear from nowhere in her room. They are trying to make her mad to get her heritage.

It is a Gothic novel removed from the world (sublime) and very down-to-earth. There are no supernatural elements (no ghosts and all) but a nightmarish atmosphere full of fear and shadows.

Sommaire de la série 19th Century Literary Movements

  1. The 18th Century : the Age of Enlightenment
  2. The Gothic and the Fantastic
  3. The 19th Century : Romanticism in Art and Literature
Reading Voltaire’s tragedy L’Orphelin de la Chine at Madame Geoffrin’s salon, painted in 1812 by Gabriel Lemonnier (1743-1824). DEA/G. DAGLI ORTI/Getty Images

Introduction

The 18th Century can be dubbed “the Age of Enlightenment” as it was marked by French philosophers such as Voltaire, Rousseau or Diderot (the Encyclopédie was published in 1761).

The Enlightenment is characterized by the belief of natural goodness of man : man is perfectible, it is the idea of progress obtained through the use of reason. Since man is naturally good, all bad things come from society : if we could fight prejudices and oppressive social institutions, man would be better. It’s a question of education : political and social reforms would bring man happiness. These are the principles of the French Revolution.

The situation is different in the United Kingdom. The revolution has already been made : the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 established a parliamentary monarchy but it was not a democracy since you needed to be rich to go to Parliament.

John Locke, a famous British philosopher, influenced the notion of parliamentary democracy. He was a predecessor of the Enlightenment but his ideas were only applied in America after the War of Independence (1776-1782). The American Constitution was applied in 1789. In the USA, there is a republican government with a president and a principle of equality in front of the law : “everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. There is a truly optimistic belief in man and happiness, and in progress and reason.

The end of the 18th century saw an evolution : the development of the rational and the irrational. There were general changes in taste in arts in the 1750’s :

  • rococo and its myriad of details
  • primitivism (more simple) and its two sides : neoclassicism and its imitation of Greek and Latin architecture (strict and rational), and the Gothic revival.

Primitivism

Primitivism is connected to a new vision of nature. Instead of being addicted to laws, nature became a sentimental reference. It helps you meditate, find yourself – it’s a new conception of life. Nature is not a rational entity any longer but it is sentimentalized. This shift can also be seen in gardening : French gardens were less controlled, more spontaneous than British gardens for example.

Cult of “sensibility”

Feelings were seen as an essential part of human nature, that should be expressed rather than repressed:

  • romanticism is based on the expression of feelings
  • humanitarianism is the sentimental promotion of feelings and asks how feelings affect our minds through compassion for the poor and unhappy. Jean-Jacques Rousseau in La Nouvelle Héloïse glorifies passions and feelings, and as such can be considered a pre-romantic writer.
  • the development of a new type of psychology : our sensations influence our minds.

The Rise of the Novel

During the 18th century, the modern novel came into being and became the most important genre in literature.

The novel is characterized by its realism and simplicity :

  • the characters are not noble but middle-class characters
  • it is often presented as autobiographies, letters or journals : it looks ordinary, the language is not difficult, the style is simple – all that make novels very realistic.

Daniel Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Moll Flanders (1722). Defoe created a new way of thinking. He was Protestant and took side for the Protestant capitalistic values, advocating thrift and perseverance.

Samuel Richardson, who wrote Pamela (1740) and Clarissa (1748), was a pioneer in the sentimental novel and psychological novel.

Henry Fielding, who wrote Joseph Andrew (1742) and Tom Jones (1749), was a specialist in comedy and parody. His books are anti-sentimental.

Lawrence Sterne, author of Tristan Shandy (1759), showed the artificiality of the novel. He questioned the conventions of the genre through the use of digressions, self-referentiality and puns.

Two traumatic events can explain the context of Gothic and Romanticism : the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.

Sommaire de la série 19th Century Literary Movements

  1. The 18th Century : the Age of Enlightenment
  2. The Gothic and the Fantastic
  3. The 19th Century : Romanticism in Art and Literature

Il y a des jours où je joue Tainted Love de Marilyn Manson en boucle, comme ça, pour le plaisir.

C’est la version du film Not Another Teen Movie (Sex Academy en français – paye ta traduction!), sorti en 2001. Je vous recommande le film si vous êtes fans de film de campus, il est pas mal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XUMh08Ottk

Le clip montre Marilyn Manson arrivant dans une soirée de lycée accompagné de plusieurs amis gothiques et met en scène plusieurs acteurs du film ainsi que le batteur du groupe Slipknot, Joey Jordison, et Tim Skold qui n’était pas encore membre du groupe à cette époque.

La chanson a par la suite été incluse sur l’album The Golden Age of Grotesque (2003) en tant que piste bonus.

Jeudi soir, je suis allé voir Soror Dolorosa, Les Discrets et Alcest au Ferrailleur de Nantes, situé dans le Hangar à Bananes (sur le quai des Antilles de l’Île de Nantes), accompagné de Jack.

Arrivés un peu en avance, on a fait le tour du Hangar à Bananes, qui est en fait un complexe de restaurants, pubs, crêperies, boites de nuit… C’est bien situé si on veut faire du bruit vu que c’est loin de tout mais c’est un beau complexe, bien éclairé.

Soror Dolorosa

Premier groupe de la soirée, Soror Dolorosa nous délivre du gothic/cold wave froid mais bon. Le chanteur porte une sorte de costume moulant que n’aurait pas renié un luchador mexicain des années 80 mais j’ai bien aimé. Le maquillage rappelait vaguement Alice Cooper mais la voix au mixage était trop faible.

Les Discrets

Alors, les Discrets. Plutôt métal.

Heu, comment dire ? Le chanteur a chanté _vraiment_ faux dès les premières notes alors j’ai un peu de mal à rester objectif mais allez jeter une oreille sur leur MySpace.

Alcest

J’ai découvert Alcest sur Internet et j’ai failli en parler sur le blog l’été dernier et puis une chose en amenant une autre… j’ai oublié !

Alcest est donc un groupe français monté par Neige (chant, guitare, basse, claviers) et Winterhalter (batterie). Le genre musical du groupe a évolué au fil des albums, devenant un mélange de shoegaze et de post-rock, avec quelques éléments de black metal.

Souvenirs d’un autre monde :

Vendredi soir, je suis allé voir The Cult en concert au Bataclan avec mon collègue rockeux de toujours, Olivier.

Première partie : Aqua Nebula Oscilator

Je vais passer très vite sur la première partie parce que c’était horrible : mauvais son (soupe au niveau de la guitare), chanteuse à frange sans voix, micros trop bas, batteur mou et bassiste qui a joué l’intégralité du set dos au public. Le tout avec des effets mal utilisés – ne peut jouer du theremin qui veut. J’ai eu l’impression d’entendre la même chanson tout au long de la demi-heure du set. Insoutenable.

The Cult

the cultSi vous ne les connaissez pas, The Cult est un groupe de rock anglais formé à Bradford en 1981 avec Ian Astbury au chant et Billy Duffy à la guitare. C’est le duo compositeur du groupe (un peu comme Mick Jagger et Keith Richards), même si les autres membres du groupe ont changé changé au fil du temps.

Au niveau du style, cela oscille entre post-punk, gothic rock et rock psychédélique (tendance Doors).

Jeudi soir, je suis allé voir Paradise Lost, Anathema et My Dying Bride (rassemblés pour The Unholy Trinity Tour 2008) au Bataclan à Paris. Arrivé quelques minutes en retard, je file à l’étage me trouver une place assise et en trouve une sur le côté droit en tâtonnant dans le noir, excellemment bien située pour tout apprécier.

Anathema

J’ai pris leur concert en cours de route et je me suis un peu maudit d’en avoir loupé quelques minutes ! C’est bien simple, j’ai tout simplement adoré : le son était super et leur style me plaît vraiment.

Il y avait quelques accents à la Pink Floyd ou Marillion et ce style metal/prog-rock couplé aux jeux de lumières… excellent !

Paradise LostEn classant un peu mes CDs, j’ai remarqué que cela faisait un bout de temps que je n’avais rien écrit sur ce que j’écoute et comme je suis en train de faire quelques playlists pour ma radio, j’en profite aujourd’hui. J’ai eu l’occasion d’écouter le nouveau Paradise Lost et c’est vraiment un petit bijou. On y retrouve le son et l’atmosphère des précédents albums mais avec le petit plus qui fait qu’il risque de tourner encore un bon moment dans la platine. Il y a même des chansons où je suis obligé de bondir de mon siège pour lire le nom de la chanson. Franchement, cet album éponyme est très bon.

CinderellaDans un autre style, j’ai également découvert Cinderella, groupe de rock/hard-rock/blues au look Guns N’Roses. On m’a prêté le best-of qui vient de sortir et il n’y a vraiment rien à jeter. En fait cela me rappelle beaucoup ce que je joue, notamment dans la manière de donner l’inflexion rythmique. Le chanteur a une voix assez agréable, joue de la guitare et du saxophone sur scène. Le groupe a toujours le look hard-rock des années 80 (souvenez-vous des joyeux hair bands) mais l’un des guitaristes joue d’une Gibson Double-neck. Là je fais une pause : combien de guitaristes peuvent vraiment la ramener avec une telle guitare ? Pas tant que cela si l’on regarde bien : au pied levé je dirais Jimmy Page (Led Zep), Alex Lifeson (Rush), Pete Townsend (The Who) et Slash (Guns n’Roses). Je dois sûrement en oublier un ou deux mais je pense que ceux-là sont vraiment ceux qui ont marqué l’histoire de cette guitare. Et bien je crois que je vais pouvoir ajouter Cinderella à cette liste :-)

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