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  • Tantra Bensko

Why Do Gothic Novels Exist?

Photo by Ashley Whitlatch on Unsplash

Imperialism created supernatural fears

Gothic novels, whether Romance or Horror address the clashing relationship of the present time with foundational history, usually in relationship to the occult, to make a statement about society.

The development of that type of fiction arose when England’s trade partners, slaves, harems, colonies and immigrants threatened the citizens’ way of life, even while it created abundance and variety for a few.

Imperialism created unease all around, and the sense of living in a precarious system built on oppression of others, as well as diluting the British ethnicity, disturbed Gothic authors.

Some powerful people grew increasingly controlling and were portrayed as figures in in Gothic fiction. There were also fears arising about the curses placed on stolen objects. Authors like the Bronte sisters dramatized symbolic ways to bring culture back to pre-colonial balance.

The use of mythology in wartime

The sensational history associated with Gothic fiction featured competing mythologies as excuses for the rule of kings over multiple countries.

The stories of ancient mythologies were twisted and combined to excuse nobility, and wars, as methods of bringing about a return to the eternal realm.

As political powers shifted, the desperate story-tellers competed and settled on the best iconic figures to emphasize to the public to capture their imagination. Elizabethan imperialist John Dee evoked the name of the returning glorious King Arthur of Troy the reason for the British right to take over other countries.

Countering that claim to supernatural heritage, the Russian White Tsar prophecy was used elsewhere to gather different cultures under the umbrella, as they vied with Britain for rule of Eastern countries. The popular Buddhist prophecy of the White Tsar was used by the Russian, Madam Blavatsky, as part of Theosophicaly. Russian intelligence schemed, using its mixture of Eastern and Western supernatural elements and alternative history to convince countries such as Mongolia to be on its side against British imperialism. Ghandi was swayed by the competing Russian Tsar from Shambhala myth.

Theosophy and Nazis

One of the most important aspects of Theosophy came from the fiction of the most successful Victorian novelist, the Baron Bulwer-Lytton, a Visionary Gothic, haunted with madness, dread, death, melodrama, elegant language, high romance, trances, rituals, magic, and the supernatural.

In 1943, he even turned his family home Gothic, including turrets, gargoyles. He wrote of an ancient race, and the guardian of the threshold, in Rosicrucian-fashion, He was a member of Parliament and Secretary of State for the colonies. He was a versatile literary figure and fashionista, the editor of magazines, a playwright. He influenced other Gothic authors greatly, and brought regular British contemporary literary settings into favor.

Nazism, which ran with Theosophy, was also highly influenced in its imperialist ideas by the alleged Rosicrucian Grand Patron Bulwer-Lytton’s utopian novels about supermen and the ancient Nordics, anti-gravity space ships, life extension, and hollow Earth.

This popular mode of entertainment opened up the world to believe in such ideas as the Hollow Earth. While showing the doomed excitement of scientist/alchemists such as Dr. Frankenstein, the return of monsters, vampires, ghosts, curses on objects guiltily stolen through imperialism, haunted ancestral pictures, and such reflected the readers’ deep fears of the return of very real violent assaults by the church.

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