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The History of Gothic Fiction

Markman Ellis


The History of Gothic Fiction debates the rise of the genre from its origins in the late eighteenth-century novel through nineteenth-century fictions of tyrants, monsters, conspirators and vampires to the twentieth-century zombie film.

Approaching key novels by authors such as Walpole (The Castle of Otranto), Radcliffe (The Romance of the Forest and The Mysteries of Udolpho), Austen (Northanger Abbey), Wollstonecraft (The Wrongs of Woman), Lewis (The Monk), Shelley (Frankenstein), Stoker (Dracula) and Halperin (White Zombie), the argument proceeds on historicist principles, analysing the peculiar tone of these fictions and uncovering themes of credulity and reason, secrecy and enlightenment, tyranny and libertinism, sexuality and gender, race and miscegenation. The final chapters on the vampire and the zombie examine how the un-dead of gothic terror are embedded in an argument from history.

Written with an undergraduate audience in mind, this text offers a synthesis of the main topics of Gothic interest and clearly argued summaries of critical debate. It signals its difference from popular psychoanalytic readings of Gothic and argues instead for a more complex, multilayered approach via an historicist reading of Gothic fiction. Illustrated with ten black and white plates and including up-to-date bibliographies, this will be an ideal text for all those with an interest in the Gothic.

Key Features

  • written with an undergraduate audience in mind
  • covers topics such as vampires, zombies, tyrants, banditti and demon-lovers
  • offers clearly argued summaries of critical debate

About the Author

Markman Ellis is Senior Lecturer in the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London


The beautifully reproduced illustrations in The History of Gothic Fiction are integral to the book since Ellis discusses them at length ... [This fine book] reveal[s] a critically sophisticated and historically informed interest in Gothic fiction that shows every sign of continuing in current and future literary study.
A study that both historicizes the gothic novel and offers a series of readings demonstrating how the gothic novel often employs historical events within its narrative structure. What at first seems a tracing of the genre's development is actually an insightful and well-researched explanation of the gothic novel's rise, meaning, evolution, historical use, and contemporary reception. The first two sectins of the book are an engaging and intriguing start to a fascinating analysis that sheds new light on a genre considered overworked and exhausted. Ellis effectively describes the differences between the gothic genre and other literary forms and convincingly demonstrates that there is more to the genre than previously thought ... His thorough explanation of Lewis' controversial and revolutionary novel [The Monk] is a wonderful magnifying glass through which to view this politically turbulent period ... In short, Ellis argues cogently for the inclusion of 'gothic' works within serious literary study ... Ellis' work lends credibility to a genre that gained critical notice in the nineteenth century but that has now been dismissed and marginalized. The History of Gothic Fiction is an important contribution to the field of nineteenth-century studies and the ongoing critical work that seeks to redefine and diversify the literary canon.