The Art of Gothic

If you are an English literature student, a historian or just an old person in a student’s body then this show is perfect for a cheeky night in with a hot chocolate and a block of cheese. Andrew Graham-Dixon is, as ever, a fluent, eloquent and intelligent presenter. The script is full of intellectual puns and references for you to chuckle at with your intellectual chums.

The show tracks the rise of the Gothic from Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto through its controversial rise to the genre of choice in the Georgian era. He leads you through the thematic branches of Gothic using visual and literary sources as evidence along the way. Whilst a generally interesting hour, I, as an English literature student felt like I knew a lot of it before, myself being in third year and Graham-Dixon being in his fifties I hoped he would be able to endow me with some further knowledge of the subject. However, I was disappointed at the lack of further analysis beyond what seems quite obvious.

There was, nevertheless, plenty of interesting contextual information about the Gothic writers of the texts discussed, as well as a good amount of detail about the effects of these terrifying tales on the readers. Comedic moments were also present through the aristocracy’s embracing of Gothic ideas and architecture. They built enormous Gothic houses that were so massive and ridiculous that they just kept falling over. There were also instances of wealthy land owners building ruins in their gardens to add an air of mystery and horror to their estates.

I let Graham-Dixon off the lack of in depth knowledge of the genre because an hour is a short amount of time to pack 300 years of Gothic literature, history and context into. Also everything he says is just so smart. My love for Graham-Dixon made me persevere through the sixty minutes, which were entertaining and packed with facts but I feel shamefully permit double-screening.

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