Quite readily I would say I am a visual person; if something captures my attention I will probably want to look at it in depth. The same is certainly true for things which fall into the Gothic category, and old or new, so long as the style is true, I will enjoy it.
This isn’t going to be an analysis of Gothic imagery, simply because I have other books I want to right first! Instead, I will simply discuss what I like and why.
Fair warning, this may be a long post…
Without death, there is no life
I do however want to focus on the later Victorian Era, a point in time where people we relatively interested with death and the like.
Though I think, what is key to remember here, is that this isn’t so simple as an obsession with just death:
The effect of Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension of Romantic literary pleasures… – Wikipedia
So although we do have underworldy themes, it is a far more complex palette that takes on the colours of romance, terror, the supernatural, mystery, and applies its own tone to them.
I like the simple yet visually informative artwork here…it manages to be moody in tone but energetic in the displayed scene, Carmilla frozen in act of both sexual attraction and Vampiric urge.
Yes, I reference Carmilla a lot because I have a great passion for the book, and this is also something I feel comes into the Gothic theme.
In the song ‘Lovesick for Mina‘ by Cradle of Filth, we have the following lyrics:
One might see in Mina
But it is She who has infected me
For all eternity…
A very powerful statement that echoes great meaning, and I think, one that represents the passion common in Gothic fiction; the lust for something otherworldly, or beyond us.
In both Carmilla and Dorian Gray, we have themes and motives of a forbidden nature; homoerotic romance which undoubtedly pushed on the limits of society, again bringing us back to the idea of seeking something beyond or taboo.
Again, we have the same style of work, managing to capture a scene full of interpretation. I wouldn’t say it is necessary ‘Gothic’, but it reflects the period nonetheless.
What we perceive
An interesting point to note is that, given the time, all of this imagery is obviously in black and white.
If we think of things associated with Gothic fiction, Vampires, ghosts, spirits, ghouls and so on, I am pretty sure we do not imagine them in daylight.
So, we have this natural and intrinsic style which must carry through in at least some way, for it to feel authentically gothic (at least to me).
There is a great deal to see in these pictures, if we really study them (and why I like being visual!).
Although death is indeed represented, literally and in tone, we do still have light; the lady in ‘The Wheel of Fortune’ is having light shone upon her possible future (again, reaching beyond).
In ‘The Hermit’, we can also clearly see similar themes, but also exploration. The concept of going into the darkness is very much at home in Gothic fiction, and is both literal and figuratively speaking (going within oneself).
How many times do readers find the narrator entering somewhere dark and unnatural? The exploration of these themes, and the terrors that can accompany them, are part of the style.
Amor e Morte
Commented the infamous Dani Filth: “The album is deeply infused with Victorian gothic horror and thus the title is a reflection of that. ‘Cryptoriana’ implies the Victorian’s infatuation with the supernatural, the grave and the ghoulish. And the subtitle ‘The Seductiveness Of Decay’ further cements this attraction to death and the glittering lengthy process of self-annihilation.”
I think the above artwork is some the best around; I purchased the limited edition version of this album on vinyl, and the artwork inside was absolutely beautiful.
How is it that, something associated with death and the macabre, can be found beautiful?
This is ultimately the purpose of Gothic fiction: it simply cannot be what it is without love, romance or obsession. It requires these aspects to bring it to life, as if a corpse without crimson blood, an unfinished Frankenstein of sorts.
Maybe it is because, as with all things we love and adore, death feels more personal; it is more poignant to think about the loss of something we value.
Instead, he felt what it must mean to truly be alive now that death seemed so personal. – Dawn of Eternity: Arising
Perhaps like the Victorians, we are still open to this in others, the majesty of a life fallen low through experimentation or debauchery, devilment or innocence…