Gothic Novel is a type of romantic fiction. It was predominant in English literature around the late 18th century to the first two decades of the 19th century. The setting for the fiction was usually a ruined Gothic castle. The typical story of such romantic fiction revolved around the suffering of an innocent woman inflected by a cruel villain. The writers used ghosts and other supernatural occurrences. The main intend of such novels was to evoke chilling terror by skillfully using mystery and horror.
The Term Gothic Applied for:
1. The Gothic novel was also considered as Gothic romance.
2. The term Gothic is also employed to designate narrative poetry or prose of which the major elements are horror, violence, and the supernatural.
3. The selection of the locale was usually a haunted castle with dungeons, underground passages, ghost-haunted rooms, and secret stairways that produced great amount of awe, wonder and fear.
The genre was nothing but a phase of the literary movement of romanticism in English literature. It was also the precursor of the modern mystery novel.
The Major writers of the Gothic Romance:
It was Horace Walpole who inaugurated the Gothic romance. He wrote The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (1764). Other major writers were Clara Reeve, who wrote The Champion of Virtue (1777); Ann Radcliffe, who wrote The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794); Charles Robert Maturin, who wrote The Fatal Revenge (1807); and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley who wrote Frankenstein (1818).
The American professional novelist Charles Brockden Brown is known for his Gothic romances. Other American writers such as Henry James, William Faulkner, and Flannery O’Connor used Gothic elements in their fiction. The late 20th century American novelists Stephen King and Anne Rice in their works show the sustained influence and popularity of this Gothic form.