Exhibition | Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on October 18, 2014

Terror and Wonder 02 (resized for Web)

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This year marks the 250th anniversary of the publication of Horace Walpole’s ’s The Castle of Otranto, and the British Library celebrates with an exhibition exploring the the relationship between the Gothic and the British imagination up to the present. The wall colors are from Farrow & Ball, with Lulworth Blue (No. 89) providing the backdrops for most of the Walpole material at the beginning of the exhibition, along with Great White (No. 2006), before things go really dark with Pitch Black (No. 256) and Rectory Red (No. 217). Of course, there’s Rectory Red in this show.

From the BL:

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
British Library, London, 3 October 2014 — 20 January 2015

Curated by Tim Pye

Horace Walpole. Portrait by John Giles Eccardt, 1754. © National Portrait Gallery, London. Horace Walpole in 1754 with his hand on a volume from his library and the Gothicised Strawberry Hill in the background.

John Giles Eccardt, Portrait of Horace Walpole, 1754 (London: National Portrait Gallery)

Two hundred rare objects trace 250 years of the Gothic tradition, exploring our enduring fascination with the mysterious, the terrifying and the macabre. From Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick and Alexander McQueen, via  posters, books, film and even a vampire-slaying kit, experience the dark shadow the Gothic imagination has cast across film, art, music, fashion, architecture and our daily lives.

Beginning with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Gothic literature challenged the moral certainties of the 18th century. By exploring the dark romance of the medieval past with its castles and abbeys, its wild landscapes and fascination with the supernatural, Gothic writers placed imagination firmly at the heart of their work—and our culture. Iconic works, such as handwritten drafts of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the modern horrors of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, and the popular Twilight series, highlight how contemporary fears have been addressed by generation after generation.

Dozens of press images can be found here»

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Dale Townsend, ed., Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination (London: The British Library, 2014), 224 pages, softcover, ISBN: 978-0712357913, £25 / hardcover, ISBN: 978-0712357555, £35.

L_ISBN_9780712357913The Gothic imagination, that dark predilection for horrors and terrors, spectres and sprites, occupies a prominent place in contemporary Western culture. First given fictional expression in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto of 1764, the Gothic mode has continued to haunt literature, fine art, music, film and fashion ever since its heyday in Britain in the 1790s. Terror and Wonder, which accompanies a major exhibition at the British Library, is a collection of essays that trace the numerous meanings and manifestations of the Gothic across time, tracking its prominent shifts and mutations from its eighteenth-century origins, through the Victorian period, and into the present day. Edited and introduced by Dale Townshend, and consisting of original contributions by Nick Groom, Angela Wright, Alexandra Warwick, Andrew Smith, Lucie Armitt and Catherine Spooner, Terror and Wonder provides a compelling and comprehensive overview of the Gothic imagination over the past 250 years

Dale Townshend is Senior Lecturer in Gothic and Romantic Literature at the University of Stirling, Scotland. His most recent publications include The Gothic World (with Glennis Byron; Routledge, 2014) and Ann Radcliffe, Romanticism and the Gothic (with Angela Wright; Cambridge University Press, 2014).


Dale Townshend, Introduction
Nick Groom, Gothic Antiquity: From the Sack of Rome to The Castle of Otranto
Angela Wright, Gothic, 1764–1820
Alexandra Warwick, Gothic, 1820–1880
Andrew Smith, Gothic and the Victorian Fin de siècle, 1880–1900
Lucie Armitt, Twentieth-Century Gothic
Catherine Spooner, Twenty-First-Century Gothic
Martin Parr, Photographing Goths: Martin Parr at the Whitby Goth Weekend

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From the exhibition press release (2 October 2014). . .

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination opens at the British Library exploring Gothic culture’s roots in British literature and celebrating 250 years since the publication of the first Gothic novel.

Tintern Abbey, watercolour, 1812 (London: British Library)

Tintern Abbey, watercolour, 1812 (London: British Library)

Alongside the manuscripts of classic novels such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and Jane Eyre, the exhibition brings the dark and macabre to life with artefacts, old and new. Highlights of the exhibition include a vampire slaying kit and 18th- and 19th-century Gothic fashions, as well as one of Alexander McQueen’s iconic catwalk creations. Also on display is a model of the Wallace and Gromit Were-Rabbit, showing how Gothic literature has inspired varied and colourful aspects of popular culture in exciting ways over centuries.

Celebrating how British writers have pioneered the genre, Terror and Wonder takes the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, and exhibits treasures from the Library’s collections to carry the story forwards to the present day. Eminent authors over the last 250 years, including William Blake, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, the Brontës, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, MR James, Mervyn Peake, Angela Carter and Neil Gaiman, underpin the exhibition’s exploration of how Gothic fiction has evolved and influenced film, fashion, music, art and the Goth subculture.

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination opens at the British Library exploring Gothic culture’s roots in British literature and celebrating 250 years since the publication of the first Gothic novel.

An early illustration of a ‘wicker man’ from Nathaniel Spencer’s The Complete English Traveller (1771)

Lead curator of the exhibition, Tim Pye, says: “Gothic is one the most popular and influential modes of literature and I’m delighted that Terror and Wonder is celebrating its rich 250 year history. The exhibition features an amazingly wide range of material, from stunningly beautiful medieval artefacts to vinyl records from the early Goth music scene, so there is truly something for everyone.”

From Nosferatu to the most recent zombie thrillers, the exhibition uses movie clips, film posters, costume designs and props to show how Gothic themes and literature have been adapted for stage and screen, propelling characters like Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde and Frankenstein’s monster to mainstream fame. Exciting exhibits on loan to the Library include Clive Barker’s original film script and sketches for Hellraiser, as well as Stanley Kubrick’s annotated typescript of The Shining.

Showing how Gothic fiction has inspired great art, the exhibition features fine paintings and prints, such as Henry Fuseli’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark and Nathaniel Grogan’s Lady Blanche Crosses the Ravine, a scene taken directly from the Queen of Terror Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. These classic images precede dramatic contemporary artworks, such as Jake and Dinos Chapman’s series Exquisite Corpse, showing how the dark and gruesome still inspire today’s artists.

Celebrating the British Goth scene, we are delighted to reveal a brand new series of photographs of the Whitby Goth Weekend by the award-winning photographer Martin Parr. Commissioned specially for this exhibition, the photographs take a candid look at the biannual event, which takes place in the town famously featured in Dracula, capturing its diversity and energy.

Earlier this year the Library announced that we are putting our literary treasures online for the world to see with a new website, Discovering Literature. Many of the Gothic literary greats featuring in the exhibition, including the Brontës, Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, can be explored amongst the Romantic and Victorian literature now available online.

The Library has partnered with BBC Two and BBC Four to celebrate all things Gothic this autumn with a new season of programmes exploring the literature, architecture, music and artworks that have taken such a prominent place in British culture.

A host of famous literary faces will look back on Frankenstein’s creation in A Dark and Stormy Night: When Horror Was Born, while in The Art of Gothic: Britain’s Midnight Hour Andrew Graham-Dixon looks back at how Victorian Britain turned to the past for inspiration to create some of Britain’s most famous artworks and buildings. In God’s own Architects: The First Gothic Age, Dr Janina Ramirez looks at Perpendicular Gothic, Britain’s first cultural style and Dan Cruickshank looks back at Gothic architecture’s most influential family in A Gothic Dynasty: A Victorian Tale of Triumph and Tragedy. BBC Four delves into the archives uncovering classic performances from Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, The Mission and more in Goth at the BBC.

For the second year running the Library, GameCity and Crytek are running an exciting video game competition, Off the Map, this time with a Gothic edge. Following last year’s winners, who recreated London before the Great Fire, this year entrants will use ruined abbeys, the town of Whitby or Edgar Allan Poe as inspiration for a brand new interactive game.

A wide range of literary, film and music events will accompany the exhibition, with speakers including writers Susan Hill, Sarah Waters, Audrey Niffenegger and Kate Mosse, actor Reece Shearsmith, comedian Stewart Lee and musician Brian May.

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