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How Has Gothic Literature Influenced Contemporary Horror Literature?

Updated on May 25, 2019

How has Gothic Literature Influenced Contemporary Horror Literature?

Gothic literature in the late seventeen hundreds and early eighteen hundreds is often considered the birthplace of the horror genre. But the question I would like to ask is: How has gothic literature influenced contemporary horror literature? More specifically how has the works of the earliest gothic horror fiction writers (such as Mary Shelly, Edgar Allan Poe or Bram Stoker) influenced our modern day horror writers (such as Stephen King or James Herbert). Now the easy answer to this particular question could be that times have changed and the readers views on horror have changed, but what caused this change? And how did we as a society move from enjoying the type of horror characterized by elements of fear, horror, death, and gloom, as subtle romantic elements. To the modern day horror we see today that encompasses a wide spread of different stories ranging from the personal psychological horror, to the supernatural/science fiction horror that permeates our popular culture.

Personally, I have always enjoyed horror as a genre, from an early age when I would read the Goosebumps novels by R. L. Stine and as I grew I was accustomed to more examples of horror literature like the pseudo-horror of The Spooks series by Joseph Delaney. As I raised through the levels of high school I was introduced to gothic literature present in the GCSE English specification eventually becoming acquainted with The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. It was also around this time I was introduced to the works of Stephen King. My first introduction came from the twenty thirteen remake of the film Carrie, with Chloë Grace Moretz in the title role. This film introduced me to the world of Stephen King, and from there I made it my personal mission to watch more films based off of King’s works. My endeavour to compete this task led me to the TV show Haven (a show I watched before Carrie) it was then I discover that Haven was loosely based off The Colorado Kid (a short story by King) this propelled my interest and led me to more tv shows (such as 11.22.63).

After being asked to complete and Extended Project Qualification I decided that considering my interest in horror that I should base it off of horror literature. My reasoning behind choosing horror literature is that it links into my chosen A-Level subject of English Literature. As for my research on this title, I’ve decided to do it in stages so researching the sub-titles when I was writing each section. I found this research technique useful as it meant that I was continually developing my ideas and answer to my question.

Who are the Main Contributors to Gothic Literature?

Gothic horror literature was the most prevalent in the eighteen hundred but had its roots in the late seventeen hundred. To find the back ground of gothic literature, I believe it is important to establish the main contributors to the genre in its earliest forms and some in its later years. The main contributions to the genre include: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Dracula by Bram Stoker and finally the majority of works by Edgar Allan Poe.

The Castle of Otranto

Horace Walpole (the 4th Earl of Orford) wrote The Castle of Otranto in seventeen sixty-four, and it is generally regarded as the first gothic horror story. However, Walpole only added the subtitle “A Gothic Story” in the second edition of the book. The book’s first edition, published in seventeen sixty-four, claimed to be a translation of a work printed in Naples in fifteen twenty-nine and newly discovered in the library of ‘an ancient Catholic family in the north of England’[1]. Walpole’s initial decision to not reveal the novel’s fictional nature was made because in his time fiction was considered inferior to non-fiction writing due to its realism. The book tells the story of Manfred, the prince of Otranto, who is keen to secure the castle for his descendants in the face of a mysterious curse. The novel begins with the death of Manfred’s son, Conrad, who is crushed to death by an enormous helmet on the morning of his wedding to the beautiful princess Isabella, faced with the extinction of his line, Manfred vows to divorce his wife and marry the terrified Isabella himself. Being the first gothic horror novel The Castle of Otranto incorporates many elements of gothic literature including: the setting of a castle, an atmosphere of mystery and suspense, an ancient prophecy, omens, the supernatural, detestable protagonists, high emotion, women in distress and women threatened by a tyrannical male. These elements included in The Castle of Otranto would also be used and reused by later authors, for example the idea of detestable narrator is used in a multitude of other gothic horror stories such as: The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe and The Tell-Tale Heart also by Edgar Allan Poe both involve a protagonist who are unlikeable due to both stories containing a narrator that confessed to murder, these parallel Manfred who also murders someone (more specifically, Matilda his daughter) but in case of mistaken identity believing Matilda is actually Isabella (Manfred’s intended target).


Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus was published in eighteen eighteen by Mary Shelley, the novel was apparently written in a competition between Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley (Mary’s future husband) and Lord Byron. Lord Byron initially suggested the trio each write a horror story, Shelley was inspired recent discussions with her companions about scientific theories (particularly fascinated by the experiments with electricity carried out the century before by Luigi Galvani) and along with the group being advocates Romanticism both factors heavily included Frankenstein. Shelley’s incorporation of these elements went on to inspire later gothic horror stories, particularly the use of Romanticism. For example, elements Romanticism inspired by Frankenstein can be seen in books such as Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (not solely a gothic horror book, but certainly has incorporated elements of gothic horror) a novel that heavily focuses on the romantic elements between Jane and Edward Rochester[2]. As a novel Frankenstein was a major milestone in the gothic horror genre for its implementation of scientific elements of the supernatural. It has been argued that Shelley’s novel inspired other writers to incorporate science (or pseudo-science) into their novels, an example is The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Written by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was published in eighteen eighty-six. Unlike many of its gothic predecessors Jekyll and Hyde is a novella, the decision to have this story in a smaller format could’ve been used to convey the themes without padding the story with unnecessary details. Stevenson’s inspiration for the novella came from his intrigue in the idea of how human personalities can affect how to incorporate the interplay of good and evil into a story. Stevenson’s earliest drafts of the novella originated while he was a teenager when he developed a script for a play about Deacon Brodie (who was a prolific Scottish cabinet-maker, deacon of a trades guild, and Edinburgh city councillor, who maintained a secret life as a housebreaker), which he later reworked with the help of W. E. Henley. The impact of the novella is such that its title has become a part of our spoken language, for example the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde”, which means to refer to someone who is unpredictably dual nature: usually very good, but sometimes shockingly evil instead[3]. One of the central themes in the novella is the theme of duality. This theme is presented through the character of Dr Jekyll and his alter ego Mr Henry Hyde, this duality is shown as Dr Edward Jekyll is the ‘good’ side while Mr Hyde is the ‘bad’ side. However, even as duality is a central theme it can be argued that duality is a theme in other gothic novels so much so the term has been given a name: Gothic double. A gothic double refers duality within a character, mostly the protagonist or a major character, other that Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde a popular example of a duality within a character is Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights written by Emily Brontë.


Dracula was written in eighteen ninety-seven by Irish author Bram Stoker. The background of the novel itself starts between eighteen seventy-nine and eighteen ninety-eight, when Stoker was a business manager for the Lyceum Theatre in London, where he supplemented his income by writing a large number of sensational novels, his most successful being the vampire tale Dracula published on May 26th, eighteen ninety-seven[4]. Another fact relevant to the novels background include the fact that parts of the novel are set around the town of Whitby (Whitby is a seaside town, port and civil parish in the Borough of Scarborough and English county of North Yorkshire. It is located within the historic boundaries of the North Riding of Yorkshire. Situated on the east coast of Yorkshire at the mouth of the River Esk.), where Stoker spent his summer holidays[5]. Before writing Dracula, Stoker spent seven years researching European folklore and stories of vampires, his main influence was Emily Gerard's 1885 essay "Transylvania Superstitions" which includes content about a vampire myth[6]. Some historians are convinced that a historic figure, Vlad III Dracula, often called Vlad the Impaler, was the model for Stoker's Count although there is no supporting evidence[7]. Vlad III was voivode (or prince) of Wallachia three times between fourteen forty-eight and his death, but he is most notably known for his nickname “Vlad the Impaler” given to him as a testament to his favoured way of killing his enemies. However, even with Vlad III’s ruthless taste for blood the connection between him and Stoker’s Dracula is tenuous, especially since Stoker’s Dracula is linked to Transylvania, but the real, historic Dracula (Vlad III) never owned any property in Transylvania[8]. Dracula is influential as it is a notable example of invasion literature (also known as the invasion novel) is a literary genre most notable between eighteen seventy-one and the First World War (nineteen fourteen) but still practised to this day. The reason Dracula is referred to as an example of invasion literature, is because it is an invasion of England by continental European influences, as in the novel Dracula’s influence slowly reaches England first from the Russian ship, the Demeter. Then Dracula’s influence reaches further as the figure causes one character (Lucy Westenra) to sleep walk to the nearby cemetery eventually leading to her death. Another reason for the novels prevalence could be due to the numerous prequels and sequels. One notorious prequel to Dracula is the short story Dracula’s Guest which was published in nineteen fourteen (two years after Stoker’s death). Dracula’s Guest focuses on an unnamed narrator who is spending some time in Munich, Germany before traveling on to Transylvania as the guest of Count Dracula, however despite the warnings of a German coachman, the Englishman decides to go off on his own in the direction of a long-deserted village, where the dead are rumoured to not truly stay dead. Another sequel is Dracula the Un-dead written as an official sequel by Bram Stoker’s great grand-nephew Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt. The novel follows Van Helsing's protégé, Dr. Jack Seward, is now a disgraced morphine addict obsessed with stamping out evil across Europe, meanwhile Quincey Harker (the grown son of Jonathan and Mina Harker) finds a troubled production of "Dracula," directed and produced by Bram Stoker himself. Even as one by one, the band of heroes that defeated Dracula a quarter-century ago is being hunted down[9]. Dracula the Un-dead acts as a direct sequel to the original novel as it displays the various endings of the main novels main characters.

The Masque of the Red Death

Written by Edgar Allan Poe in eighteen forty-two The Masque of the Red Death (originally published as "The Mask of the Red Death: A Fantasy"). The story follows Prince Prospero's attempts to avoid a dangerous plague, known as the Red Death, by hiding in his abbey. He, along with many other wealthy nobles, hosts a masquerade ball within seven rooms of the abbey, each decorated with a different colour. In the midst of their revelry, a mysterious figure disguised as a Red Death victim enters and makes his way through each of the rooms. Prospero dies after confronting this stranger, whose "costume" proves to contain nothing tangible inside it; the guests also die in turn. This short story was written with Red Death acting as an allegory for humanities futile efforts to stave of death. One of Poe’s influences for the short story was Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, the inspiration comes from other gothic fiction especially the choice of a castle setting.

The Cask of Amontillado

Another short story by Edgar Allan Poe is The Cask of Amontillado, which was published in eighteen forty-six. The story is set in an unnamed Italian city at carnival time in an unspecified year and is about a man (Montresor) taking fatal revenge on a friend (Fortunato) who, he believes, has insulted him. Like a few other of Poe’s works The Cask of Amontillado features an immoral protagonist in Montresor, this idea of an immoral protagonist is a feature of other pieces of gothic literature, such as Manfred from The Castle of Otranto. Another theme of gothic literature present in this story is the idea of a gothic double as one hand Montresor is an Italian nobleman while on the other he is an openly confessed murderer; this use of double is similar to Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde double as one side is a respectable upper class member while the other side is a murderer (for reference Montresor murders Fortunato while Mr Hyde murders Sir Danvers Carew).

What are the Main Features of Gothic Literature?

After that frankly large section the main question still permeating my investigation is: what features did gothic horror contribute to horror as a genre? From the gargantuan amount of information that has been discussed prior it would be foolish to suggest that gothic literature added nothing and would likewise be moronic to suggest its mechanisms story tropes are the only hints to influxes horror as a complete genre. To examine this question plainly it will be useful to examine what remnants of gothic literature have persisted to our modern vision of horror.

Firstly, an understated feature of gothic horror that has persisted is the setting of “an old house or castle”. The idea of a castle or large house being the backdrop for a gothic story comes from the first gothic novel: The Castle of Otranto. The novel by Horace Walpole is considered the pioneer of “large castle” as a gothic setting, but certainly not the only one, for example Frankenstein takes place in large ornate impressive buildings. To underestimate the significance of these structures in gothic literature would be travesty, as in doing so we would be denying how often we find these same (or at least similar) structures are used as the setting of more contemporary horror titles. For example, a title brought to public eye recently by the streaming service Netflix features an impressively large house as its main setting. The title I am referring to is The Haunting of Hill House, which not only has Hill House (an impressive gothic structure) as its main setting but also has other features of gothic literature, such as the idea of mental instability from a main female figure. In Hill Houses’ case [Warning spoilers for The Haunting of Hill House Season 1] the mother of the Crain family is coerced by the spirits of Hill House into attempting to poison her twin children (Nelly and Luke), although foiled she does kill a nearby family’s daughter and successfully commit suicide. This idea could be compared to the idea of “The Madwoman in the Attic” presented in Jane Eyre as the characters of Bertha and Olivia Crain both attempted to murder people (one is more successful than the other) and both plummet to their respective deaths.

Another feature of gothic literature than has become a main stay of horror as a genre is supernatural beings or monsters. These supernatural beings brought to prevalence by novels such as: Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Frankenstein. Each of these novels introduced beings that still exist to this day. For example: Dracula has inspired a legacy of vampires that permeate our popular culture such as the undead specimens in shows like The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, True Blood, Being Human or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Meanwhile Frankenstein has introduced something that has evolved into becoming a trope in modern media, the idea of resurrection. Whereas ideas of divine resurrection have existed since biblical time the idea of a supernatural or scientific resurrection is a relatively new concept popularised my Mary Shelley, but now it’s everywhere for example: the TV show Second Chance centred around the idea of scientific resurrection meanwhile the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer resurrected its own main character through the use of magic. For more examples of resurrection in television follow this link[10].

Additionally, another feature of gothic literature that has persisted today, is the idea of damsels in distress. The idea of a damsel is not a new concept, it has existed since the times of The Iliad (it could be argued that to the Greeks, Helen of Troy was a damsel in need of rescue). However, this trope has been popularised in gothic horror novels, such as Frankenstein. Nowadays the idea of a “damsel in distress” is commonplace in modern media, think of the Super Mario series, a video game series built upon the idea of kidnapped princess. In relation to horror as genre the idea of “damsel in distress” is relegated to a plot point, for example the Scooby-Doo series is notorious for have one of its female leads (Daphne) becoming kidnapped on a regular basis, this became so much of an overused idea that the show has often parodied the idea by either addressing the trope directly (notably in the live action 2000s Scooby-Doo movie where Daphne [played by Sarah Michelle Gellar A.K.A Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer] objects to the idea of being kidnapped) or another way this trope has been subverted is by having a different character take the “damsel” position. For more information on the trope of damsel in distress Overly Sarcastic Production goes into more depth with their exploration of the trope and its effect on the story, which you can find here[11].

What Type of Horror Existed Around the Early Nineteen Hundred?

Horror in the early nineteen hundreds was scarce top say the least. It may be fair to say that as the last of the gothic horror writers died so did the interests in the gothic genre as a whole. However, even as gothic horror died out, other incarnations started to appear and throughout the early nineteen hundred a new fascination with a science fiction branch of horror. This new branch was centered on an interest in cosmicism which was a term created by the American Writer H. P. Lovecraft. The philosophy of cosmicism states that there is no recognizable divine presence, such as a god, in the universe, and that humans are particularly insignificant in the larger scheme of intergalactic existence, and perhaps are just a small species projecting their own mental idolatries onto the vast cosmos. It is fair to suggest that this type of horror was unpopular in the 1920s however gained traction as time moved on, this is probably due to its rejection of humanity, suggesting an insignificance to humanity as whole and all its doings.[12] Lovecraft’s cultivation of this cosmic horror was originally published in Weird Tales (which was an American fantasy and horror fiction pulp magazine founded by J. C. Henneberger and J. M. Lansinger in late nineteen twenty-two.) However, to discuss Lovecraft’s lasting legacy on horror it is especially important to acknowledge the Cthulhu Mythos. This mythos refers to the pantheon of ‘gods’ created within his fictional universe (although this god usually go by different titles such as Great Old Ones or Outer Gods). This mythos was shaped by Lovecraft and other writers, it is based of the ideas of cosmicism and is responsible for the creation of popular deities such as: Cthulhu, Shub-Niggurath and Azathoth. His mythos has been so popular it has even inspired one roleplay if game (The Call of Cthulhu) and inspired multiple video games.

What Impact did H. P. Lovecraft Have on Literature?

In terms of literature Lovecraft introduced and crafted two main features. These two features are the ideas of Cosmicism and an interconnected universe of books linked both thematically and overtly with the use of different beings.

Firstly, Cosmicism has become a theme in modern literature, however it doesn’t just exist exclusively in horror but rather science fiction and fantasy stories. An example of Cosmicism can be seen in interpretations of the multiple earths theory (a theory in which Earth, the known universe and humanity is just one of infinite iterations) this theory has been implanted in media such as the DC comics and Marvel comics continuities which both have their own interpretation of the ‘infinite Earths’ theory.

Finally, an interconnected universe (like the one in Lovecraft’s works) have been used by multiple authors. Examples are the shared universes of Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea which take place in the same universe even though they were written by different authors, another example is the books written by Sebastian Barry that inhabit the same universe (these are The Temporary Gentleman, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty and The Secret Scripture). Meanwhile another example is the shared universe of the Marvel cinematic universe that includes the movie releases (e.g. The Iron Man trilogy, the Thor trilogy, the Captain America trilogy etc) along with the the shows (e.g Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Marvel’s Runaways, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Iron Fist and Luke Cage)[13] this is probably one of the largest examples of a cinematic universe, but how Lovecraft’s gods appear in multiple stories characters from marvel projects crossover (most notably Phil Coulson who appears in the first Avengers movie and Thor but also appears in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D). These examples show how ideas presented in Lovecraft’s works have shaped our modern media so much that his ideas are still implemented today.

Who are the Main Contributors to Contemporary Horror?

When considering modern horror literature a few names are the most prominent. These names include Stephen King, Darren Shan and R. L. Stine. However, as more traditional horror intended to frighten an older audience is represented by Stephen King, while a younger audience may find the works of R. L. Stine more appealing (more specifically his Goosebumps series) and Darren Shan writes for a more teenage audience. To understand each author’s contributions I will examine some of there most prominent works.

R. L. Stine

Stine is responsible for the horror children’s book series Goosebumps. His books have been developed into several movies and a popular TV anthology series. Stine’s works are aimed at a younger audience, so while they incorporate ideas from other horror properties but with a child friendly interpretation. For example his book Goosebumps: Night of the Living Dummy is clearly inspired by the film character of Chucky, both include a sinister doll/puppet that terrorises its owner, but whereas Chucky is a murders multiple people, the puppet in Night of the Living Dummy (Slappy) primarily terrorises it’s owner without harming them. Along with having a child friendly tone Stine’s Goosebumps series is infamous for its final twists in which audience expectation is often subverted within the final few pages.

Darren Shan

Shan is most famous for his Cirque Du Freak (also known as Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare) book series and The Demonata series. Cirque Du Freak like most of Shan’s other books includes supernatural elements, particularly the inclusion of vampires in the series, furthermore the setting of the book is also a common place for the horror genre (such as the nineteen thirty-two movie Freaks and the forth season of American Horror Story both taking place in freak shows, the latter even mentioning the former in one of its episode). Another series of Shan’s is also massively influential an popular among teenage readers, this series of the Demonata series. The Demonata series incorporates supernatural elements such as: werewolves (in the form of one of its protagonists: Grubbs Grady), ghosts (in the form of another of its protagonists: Bec MacConn) and the use of magic. Unlike most other horror books most of Shan’s horror centric books are apart of a series, this is uncommon for horror books as most usually are standalone or short series, this differs from the previous author mentioned R. L. Stine who’s main horror series (Goosebumps) is an anthology. Shan’s decision may limit his storytelling capabilities as other writers have the freedom to end with devastating endings while Shan is limited as his books need to continue on (however in his book Bec he subverts expectation by killing the character in the end of the novel[14].

Stephen King

At the mere mention of contemporary horror the name Stephen King springs to mind. King has published fifty nine books (both under the name Stephen King and his pen name Richard Bachman), he has also written over two hundred short stories. Granted not all of these are horror books (examples include the Dark Tower series which is a fantasy/science fiction series) but his sheer amount of books that are horror is too many to ignore. Furthermore King’s books have been wildly successful, spawning a multitude of adaptations: at least seventy five movies based on his books, thirty three tv shows, thirty one comic books based off his stories, and eight stage shows. An example of King’s work that has been adapted multiple times is the novel Carrie, which centres around a religious girl who after a horrific bullying incident involving her peers discovers she has telekinetic powers and seeks bloody revenge after a Prom night to never forget [15]. Carrie has had three film adaptations (plus one sequel to the original film adaptation), it has had a musical adaptation titled Carrie: The Musical. However some of Carries adaptions haven’t been well received (particularly the musical) but that hasn’t stopped its influence, The television series Riverdale had an episode based on Carrie: The Musical, "Chapter Thirty-One: A Night to Remember", with series star Madelaine Petsch, who plays Cheryl Blossom as Carrie[16].The episode aired on April 18th, 2018.

How Have Contemporary Horror Writers (Such as Stephen King) Been Influenced by Gothic Literature?

Contemporary horror writers range in their works, but for this dissertation I will just focus on a specific writer. The writer I am going to focus on is Stephen King. First to analyse one of King’s most famous books: Salem’s Lot. The story involves a writer named Ben Mears who returns to the town of Jerusalem's Lot (or 'Salem's Lot for short) in Maine, where he had lived from the age of five through nine, only to discover that the residents are becoming vampires [17]. In Salem's Lot the central premise of a supernatural villain (in the form of the vampires) can be traced back to earlier gothic books like Dracula which also uses vampires and central supernatural antagonist. Additionally, a connection between Salem's Lot and Dracula is the theme of isolation, this refers to the fact both take place in isolated areas, this is because Dracula’s castle is empty and sparsely inhabited by people, while Jerusalem’s Lot is a small tight-knit community in Maine where even the protagonist feels the pressure even though he had previously lived there.

Another of King’s works is The Shining. The Shining centers on the life of Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic who accepts a position as the off-season caretaker of the historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. His family accompanies him on this job, including his young son Danny Torrance, who possesses "the shining", an array of psychic abilities that allow Danny to see the hotel's horrific past. Soon, after a winter storm leaves them snowbound, the supernatural forces inhabiting the hotel influence Jack's sanity, leaving his wife and son in incredible danger [18]. A central plot point of The Shining is Jack Torrance’s steady decline into insanity, a idea also presented in gothic books such as The Castle of Otranto which includes the central character going insane attempting to and murdering some characters of the novel. Another similar theme is the theme of violence, as Jack is manipulated by the spirits of the Overlook hotel into attacking his wife Wendy, another character in gothic literature that displays similar violence is the charter of Mr Hyde (from the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) who in his novella beats a character to death and tramples a girl in the street.

However, to discuss gothic horror literature, it is important to mention the theme of religion. In the time period, gothic horror writers were writing for a heavily religious audience, so references to religion (especially religion versus the supernatural), King also uses the theme of religion in some of his books, two examples Carrie and The Green Mile. For this example I will use Carrie, which like gothic literature has the idea of religion versus the supernatural. Carrie embodies this theme as Carrie White (the titular character) is raised by her mother Margaret White who is a fanatical Christian fundamentalist, Margaret represents the rational normalcy of religion while Carrie’s telekinetic (and psychic) power represent the supernatural, to her mother they are unholy or demonic. Therefore these two opposing ideas juxtapose each other in Carrie’s life, this is similar to gothic horror literature works from the nineteenth century.

Moving on, a large part of Stephen King’s written universe is its interconnected universe. Now this interconnectedness doesn’t necessarily trace back to gothic literature, it does have origins in the works of H. P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s work are unified through the hierarchy of gods and beings explored in his numerous works. His works even have their own creation story, this is similar to Stephen King’s universe. King’s fictional universe is explain prominently in King’s the Dark Tower series. It is explained as the multiverse is represented by a tower alongside six beams, protected by twelve guardians, each layer of the tower is a different iteration of the universe creating a interwoven logic to his stories. Like Lovecraft King’s universe contains villains such as the Crimson King or the Man in Black (villains from King’s universe) these are similar to creatures such as Nyarthlotep and Shub-Niggurath (gods from Lovecraft’s mythology). Another similarity is the use of repeated settings in each writer’s universes: King for example uses Shawshank Prison in multiple stories while Lovecraft uses Miskatonic University multiple times in his stories.


To conclude, gothic horror was immensely popular in its early stages from eighteen ninety to nineteen hundred. But as public perceptions changed so did its enjoyment of horror, therefore new writers had to change, so the once proper rational horror sparsely inhabited by supernatural elements morphed to a science fiction oriented horror. This science fiction oriented horror was pioneered by the creator of Cosmicism himself l: H. P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft while not traditionally popular in his time did later get the recognition he rightfully deserved. His brand of horror focused on the alien, or the unknown as a way to terrify the reader instead of the traditional contradiction to social norms that gothic horror literature presented to the early reader. However, as horror evolves the old interpretations die out and quickly are replaced by new incarnations. Such as how gothic horror was swiftly replaced by Lovecraft’s brand of cosmic horror, but as times changed so has horror.

Looking back on gothic literature we can see that the incarnation from Mary Shelley’s time of writing isn’t commonplace now, rather traditional gothic horror has been relegated to a niche market of desirability. Nowadays horror has a wide spectrum ranging from slasher stories, to slow burn psychological character studies and even some middle ground in between. But to conclude that gothic literature as a genre is extinct would be unfair considering that even though the presentation has fallen into disuse the themes and ideas are present in modern literature. For example religion versus the supernatural has become a sort of universal theme, it has been used in gothic literature and modern horror and presumably will still be implemented into whatever form horror takes next.

While completing this dissertation I have learned that as the birth place of horror literature the gothic genre influences horror today, but rather than being overtly obvious, gothic’s influence is more thematic. Meanwhile horror from the Cosmicism era of Lovecraft has subsided in horror genre and seems to be present in science fiction in our contemporary media. So all in all yes gothic literature has and continues to influence our contemporary version of horror, but as horror evolves and new trends occur it’s influence become more engrained in horror rather than being overtly overstated.


[1] The Castle of Otranto: The creepy tale that launched gothic fiction, 2014, [Online],, [Accessed 12th October 2018]

[2] Maria Pilar Queralt, 2017, How A Teenage Girl Became the Mother of Horror, [Online],, [Accessed 12th October 2018]

[3] Jekyll and Hyde, 2018, [Online],, [Accessed 16th October 2018]

[4] Barbara Belford, 1996, Bram Stoker: A Biography of the Author of Dracula, Weidenfeld and Nicholson

[5] Abraham Stoker, Jr. A Collection By and About Bram Stoker Himself, 2013, [Online],, [Accessed 16th October 2018]

[6] The Land beyond the forest: source material for Dracula, 2018, [Online],, [Accessed 16th October 2018]

[7] Simone Berni, 2016, Dracula by Bram Stoker The Mystery of The Early Editions, [Online],, [Accessed 16th October 2018]

[8] Marc Lallanilla, 2017, The Real Dracula: Vlad the Impaler, [Online],, [Accessed 16th October 2018]

[9] Goodreads: Dracula the Un-dead, 2018, [Online],, [Accessed 16th October 2018]

[10] Stehacantus, (2016), Back To Life: The 20 Most Notorious Character Resurrections In Television History, [Online],, [Accessed 14th November 2018]

[11] Trope Talk: Damsels In Distress, (2017), [Online], Overly Sarcastic Productions,, [Accessed 16th November 2018]

[12] Wikitionary: Cosmicism, 2017, [Online],, [Accessed 3rd December 2018]

[13] Marvel Cinematic Universe, 2018, [Online],, [Accessed 24th November 2018]

[14] Darren Shan, 2006, Bec, HarperCollins

[15] Stephen King, 1974, Carrie, Doubleday

[16] Matt Fernandez, 2018, ‘Riverdale’ Sets Musical Episode Around Stephen King Classic ‘Carrie’, [Online],, [Accessed 25th November 2018]

[17] Stephen King, 1975, Salem’s Lot, Doubleday

[18] Stephen King, 1977, The Shining, Doubleday


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