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Preferred time period in Gothics
07-30-2010, 02:03 PM
Post: #1
Preferred time period in Gothics
The majority of modern Gothic Romance novels (to overstate the obvious) tend to take place in the 19th Century, but I wonder if other readers have preferences for specific time periods.

It seems that many authors tend to favor the mid- to late 1800s, the Victorian era. There are a few I've read which take place in the Edwardian (1900-1910 circa), and American authors in particular seem to have the present (at the time the books were written, the 1950s through '70s). Obviously there is a great range of time in which these novels may be set.

For myself, I wish there were more Gothics (by modern authors) set in the Regency period, particularly the British Regency (1811–1820). This age saw the bloom of Romanticism in art, literature and music, as well as new gracefulness in architecture. And of course the fashions at this time were beautiful and flattering for both sexes. Men looked especially dashing in their tailcoats, and women's attire was more flowing and classical and hadn't yet acquired the stiffness and exaggeration of the Victorian era with all its crinolines and bustles and rib-crushing corsets.

If anyone wishes to revisit the colorful elegance of Regency fashion, I recommend this magnificent gallery of Allan Kass cover art (which also includes some Gothics and contemporary fiction):

http://www.facebook.com/photo_search.php...=&view=all

I do also enjoy novels set in the Victorian, especially the late Victorian during the "gaslamp" era. But of course, in the hands of a gifted author, any period can be made evocative and rich.

I suppose the only period that seems unfit for Gothics would be the actual present. The present can never seem as romantic as the past, I admit. But it's more than that: today's technology would get in the way of a Gothic. Our age of cell phones and Twitter and GPS and portable communication is great for talking about Gothics, but not for being their setting.

Any other thoughts about this? I'd love to hear other readers' ideas about their favorite time periods, and why they prefer what they do.
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07-30-2010, 08:03 PM
Post: #2
RE: Preferred time period in Gothics
Thanks for such an informative post! And for the link to the gallery of cover art.
Historical gothics are my favorites by far, although I have read and enjoyed many that take place in the recent past. But I agree with you about those of the present.
The 19th century in all of its scope seems ideal to me for the gothic romance. The existence and importance to society at large (in both Europe and America) of great houses and estates, men and women of rank and/or wealth, the church's prevalence in people's lives , manifold servants (including governesses and housekeepers!)---all of these elements spawn relationships and motives that are rich material for a gothic novel to draw upon.
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07-30-2010, 08:50 PM
Post: #3
RE: Preferred time period in Gothics
(07-30-2010 08:03 PM)AliceChell Wrote:  manifold servants (including governesses and housekeepers!)

Many of those country estates had fifteen full-time gardeners. If you're wondering how they could afford it, the answer is they couldn't, and that's why the houses were falling to pieces which accounts for the Gothic atmosphere. Tongue

But seriously, the armies of servants in wealthy Victorian households were something to behold. Even middle-class homes would have a housekeeper, a couple of chamber maids, a cook, a gardener in their employ . . . The caste system was well ossified by this period and these people were essentially slaves. (Shades of Gosford Park.)

In Gothic novels it seems that the domestic help is often simplified, for the sake of narrative economy, to simply one housekeeper or a housekeeper and a cook. If there is any more staff they might be referred to but not seen. One simply assumes that such large houses would have "hot and cold running servants".

Speaking of servants, the figure of the sinister, matriarchal housekeeper is one that has haunted the minds of Gothic authors and readers ever since Mrs Danvers held Rebecca in her eerie spell. I wonder if there are characters like her before that. Certainly there have been since. The book I'm currently reading, 90 Gramercy Park by Priscilla Dalton (review forthcoming) contains a Mrs Danvers knockoff right down to her white-collared black dress and severe coif. Stephen King once said that Mrs Danvers is the scariest figure in literature.
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07-30-2010, 11:09 PM
Post: #4
RE: Preferred time period in Gothics
I was just recently wondering about Mrs. Danvers. Was she mad or evil? Or both? Any opinions out there?
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07-31-2010, 04:39 AM
Post: #5
RE: Preferred time period in Gothics
I like the Victorian time period best for my favorite gothics, though about anything before the introduction of the telephone is fine. I recently tried one gothic romance by Patricia Werner and I even thought the author had made an error when she mentioned the heroine calling her friend and it was not yet the 1900s. As Google is my friend and teacher, I learned this was quite possible of course, but it was a complete moodbreaker for me. The book is in the to-be-discarded-someway-box now.

As for Mrs. Danvers, I think she is definitely evil, but I'm not sure she was mad. Perhaps a little bit, like almost everybody has his/her moments of insanity.
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07-31-2010, 01:40 PM
Post: #6
RE: Preferred time period in Gothics
(07-30-2010 11:09 PM)AliceChell Wrote:  I was just recently wondering about Mrs. Danvers. Was she mad or evil? Or both? Any opinions out there?

I think that Mrs. Danvers thought of Rebecca as the daughter she never had. I think that she became mad with grief after Rebecca died. I think that her anger would be directed at anyone who she thought would harm her memory of Rebecca. Did anyone one see the newer mini-series of Rebecca? The old Hitchcock movie was good and I've watch a couple of times but I think that the newer one was even closer to the book. The only person I remember from the new one is Faye Dunaway as the lady the main character is paid companion for when she meets Max.
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07-31-2010, 02:33 PM
Post: #7
RE: Preferred time period in Gothics
Yes, bronte, I own that movie, and it's wonderfully done!
The best thing about it is the British actress Diana Rigg (Emma Peel from The Avengers, for those who remember it) playing the part of Mrs. Danvers. She does a sensational job.
It is a Mobil Masterpiece Theatre production from 1996, and is three hours long. I highly recommend it.
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