2. WHAT IS GOTHIC FICTION?
2.1. Gothic as a Term
2.1.1. Etymological Origin
2.1.2. Historical Origin
2.1.3. Historical Development
2.2. Gothic as a Style in Literature
2.2.1. Horror Gothic and Terror Gothic
2.2.2. Reasons for the Development of Gothic Fiction in the Mid 18th century
2.2.3. Aspect 1: Gothic Setting
2.2.4. Aspect 2: Gothic Characters and Personnel
2.2.5. Aspect 3: Gothic Essentials
3. THE TURN OF THE SCREW − GOTHIC FICTION?
3.1. Basic Elements of Gothic Fiction in The Turn of the Screw
PRIMARY LITERATURE, WORKS CITED AND FURTHER READING
The focus of this paper is on the tradition of gothic fiction. This popular literary tradition has remarkably transformed since its first officially accepted work The Castle of Otranto in 1764. Still today one can find traces of the gothic tradition in literature, most remarkable The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice or recent TV series like Buffy or Moonlight. Stepping back in time one hundred years, one can find yet another outstanding achievment of gothic literature. In 1908 a The Turn of the Screw by Henry James was published as a one volume book. Before, it had been a weekly installment at the popular weekly magazine Collier’s. This work, which already at the first glance seems to be much more then pure gothic fiction, is to be investigated in its relation to gothic fiction. Can Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw be called gothic fiction? This is the main question of this essay. In order to answer it the following pages will introduce three main apsects of gothic fiction and will try to identify them in the respective novella. This aim will be achieved in three steps: First, the term gothic will be explained in its origins and historical development. Second, the rising popularity and development of gothic fiction in the 18th century and its main aspects are briefly discussed. In a last step the three main aspects of gothic fiction will be identified in Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. Due to the limited space of an essay the last step will be taken by pure exemplification and thus will only list respective aspects found in the novella by Henry James.
2. What is Gothic Fiction?
2.1. Gothic as a Term
The following paragraphs intend to show the origin of the term gothic and its historical development. First the focus is on the etymological and historical origin of the term Gothic itself. Afterwards, the historical development is briefly discussed.
2.1.1. Etymological Origin
The etymological origin of the term Gothic goes back to the Roman Empire. The Romans referred to the habits and cultural aspects of the Germanic Tribe of the Goths by using the Italian word gotico, meaning uncivilized, barbarian and rude. Thus, the semantics of the term gothic is to be seen as a negative one. (Ellis, 2000, p. 22f)
2.1.2. Historical Origin
The historical origin of the term Gothic goes back to the renaissance. Art critic Giorgio Vasari used the term in the same meaning as the Romans, to express his depreciation towards the art and architecture of the medieval period. By this, he coined a term that was from then on used for the cultural heritage of the Middle Ages.
2.1.3. Historical Development
From the renaissance up to the middle of the 18th century, the term gothic had a negative connotation. It was used to oppose “the old-fashioned to the modern; the barbaric to the civilized; crudity to elegance” (Punter1999, 5). Contemporary aspects were seen more civilized than their respective counterparts of the Middle Ages, which were seen as a period of “brutish architecture and intellectual stagnation” (Mighall, 1999, p. 5). In Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, a Goth is defined, as “one not civilized, one deficient in general knowledge, a barbarian” (Mighall, 1999, p. 5). In the early 18th century, the negative semantics of Gothic was used in a broader sense for “cultures, attitudes, practices, and institutions” (Mighall, 1999, p. XVf).
A fascination for the Middle Ages arose in the middle of the 18th century, due to their “over-abundance of imaginative frenzy, untamed by reason and unrestrained by conventional [18th ct] demands for simplicity, realism or probability” (Botting, 1996, p. 3). A growing interest in the art, architecture, myths, literature, music and nobility of the medieval period developed. In contrast to the contemporary] classical attitude, the gothic culture was “re-valued and found to be superior to the present”(Ellis, 2000, p. 23). Richard Hurd’s contemporary work Letters on Chivalry and Romance 1 associates the “gothic with highly-valued medieval characteristics, like gallantry, loyalty, heroism and chivalry” (Ellis, 2000, p. 23). By this, the term gothic slightly transformed its semantics into a positively connotation.
From the 18th century on, the term Gothic was referred to by this revised and more positive concept. This fascination for the medieval period was the basis for a music genre of the late 70s and early 80s. Out of this music genre a subculture developed, which still exists today.
2.2. Gothic as a Style in Literature
2.2.1. Horror Gothic and Terror Gothic
Gothic fiction can be divided into two branches: terror gothic and horror gothic. The first gothic novel, at least in the consensus of most scientists2, was Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto. By this novel Walpole established a new literary genre, which observed multiple variations throughout time. Walpole’s novel is the first of numerous terror gothic fictions. Main characteristic of terror gothic is the “anxious suspense about threats to life, safety and sanity” in which characters and readers were continuously held (Hogle, 2002, p. 3). A further feature of this terror gothic is the uncertainty of the origin and the reason for the events taking place. Thus terror gothic “expands the soul and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life”, as Ann Radcliffe puts it (Radcliffe, On the Supernatural in Poetry). Horror gothic goes a step further. According to Hogle it is a key aspect of horror gothic that it “confronts … characters with the gross violence of physical or psychological dissolution, explicitly shattering the assumed norms of everyday life with wildly shocking, and even revolting, consequences” (Hogle, 2002, p. 3). This gross violence explained can be witnessed for the first time in Matthew Lewis’ The Monk, which can be said to be the first of numerous horror gothic fictions. For Ann Radcliffe horror gothic freezes and nearly annihilates the faculties of life (Radcliffe, On the Supernatural in Poetry, 2004). Despite this, terror and horror gothic have certain similarities, which were formulated concisely by Cornwell:
”’classical Gothic’ … will involve dynastic disorders, set at some temporal and spatial distance and in a castle or manorial locale; defence, or usurpation, of an inheritance will threaten (and not infrequently inflict) violence upon hapless (usually feminine) victims amid a supernatural ambience. Often (but not always) the heroine will be saved, the villain unmasked and the supernatural phenomena dispersed” (Cornwell, 2000, p. 29)
2.2.2. Reasons for the Development of Gothic Fiction in the Mid 18th century
Earlier in this paper one reason for the developing gothic fiction was hinted at: Gothic Revival. In the following part this reason and two more will be briefly introduced.
1 Hurd, Richard : Letters on chivalry and romance - 2. ed. London , 1762.
2 It is impossible to go into detail on the debate about Walpole being the first or not. As a fact it can be assumed that Walpole was the first, who published a novel with the subtitle ‘A gothic story’. This subtitle and genre indication he added to the second edition of his work.
This story starts conventionally enough with friends sharing ghost stories 'round the fire on Christmas Eve. One of the guests tells about a governess at a country house plagued by supernatural visitors. But in the hands of Henry James, the master of nuance, this little tale of terror is an exquisite gem of sexual and psychological ambiguity. Only the young governess can see the ghosts; only she suspects that the previous governess and her lover are controlling the two orphaned children (a girl and a boy) for some evil purpose. The household staff don't know what she's talking about, the children are evasive when questioned, and the master of the house (the children's uncle) is absent. Why does the young girl claim not to see a perfectly visible woman standing on the far side of the lake? Are the children being deceptive, or is the governess being paranoid? By leaving the questions unanswered, The Turn of Screw generates spine-tingling anxiety in its mesmerized readers.
Their eyes never left him as they anxiously waited to hear the story which kept them anchored around the warmth of the fire on Christmas Eve. As expected, one of the guests unveils a haunting tale of dark supernatural entities that torment a young governess. These apparitions and their desire to have the souls of two innocent siblings provoke the governess to fiercely protect her pupils. Oddly, no other servant or occupant within the household sees these 'ghosts'. Is the governess really seeing these apparitions or is she merely dismissed to be delusional? Whether it is mere deception of the mind or twisted secrets, The Turn of the Screw gives off an air of suspense that lingers long after the last page is turned.--Submitted by Anonymous
This novel is a must; required reading, really, for you who find yourselves in a large, creaky house in, excuse the pun, the "dead of Winter". A fairly strong snowstorm helps, with the sad whistling sound of snow being driven by the wind through the branches. Sit back with refreshments of choice and just ride the writing like a magic carpet. It will immediately become like an addictive drug, leading you smoothly through the opening door of the adventure and closing it just as smoothly behind you, for there is no looking back on this one, no procrastination to "get to chapter 3 tomorrow" or "I'll read the rest of it on my trip". No, none of that. I actually recommend setting some time aside before even beginning it. Then away you will go and just try to stop, I dare you. This is some of the finest suspense writing ever. One of my personal all time favorites, and still, despite hundreds of other greats of the genre, one of the scariest I have ever read. The mood is like a Maine fog with razor sharp images wafting in and out of the sea smoke. Fog and sea smoke confined to a classic English Gothic house setting, that is. There is an excellent and fairly recent film that is loosely connected that will come to mind if you have seen it, the Title of which I shall not reveal here. You'll know what I'm talking about.... Have fun and prepare to be haunted by this story and a dedicated fan of his writing for the rest of your life. A true Classic.--Submitted by Hollywood Legend
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Recent Forum Posts on The Turn of the Screw
Just started with good prospects
I have to read The Turn of the Screw for English 102 and reading literature for class always is a bit of a drag, but I am actually rather excited to get into this book. My Professor introduced it as a ghost story, and it really sparked some curiosity to me. I've been thinking about attempting to write a horror story, but really had no clue where to start, and I think this may give me the direction and push that I need. I've only read the prologue and I really like the writing style employed. When I started the first paragraph I found it very difficult to read, but when I actually sat down and payed attention to the story I found an easier time reading it. On a whim I decided to read it allowed to myself and found that I was reading in a more dramatic voice than my usual reading allowed tone. Once I got into it the stream of conscious style was surprisingly easy to read. It captured emotion well and felt like a casual rendition, it felt very much like someone speaking the story allowed vs. the simple 'telling' style employed in most books. So far I am rather intrigued by the book and can't wait to get into it.
Posted By Jalhan at Sat 7 Feb 2015, 4:39 PM in The Turn of the Screw || 3 Replies
Turn of the Screw reviews
As some of you might already know... for every e-text book on LitNet there's the option to submit your own introduction to it for possible inclusion on that book's introduction page. For example http://www.online-literature.com/henry_james/turn_screw/ I recently received a bunch of summaries for James's novel, might have been a class assignment or something, but, as they can't all fit on one page I'm going to post them here. If one of these is yours? you can join the site and discuss further if you wish :)
Posted By Logos at Mon 30 May 2011, 3:24 AM in The Turn of the Screw || 3 Replies
essay question help
Hey everyone, just needing a jump start with this essay question, could you help? Discuss the relationships between the narrators of The Turn of the Screw. What purpose is served by the complicated way in which the story is told? i know that the governess is the primary narrator and the 2nd is an implied author (unkown author) but how do they have a relationship?:shocked:
Posted By scbunzy at Mon 10 May 2010, 9:45 PM in The Turn of the Screw || 1 Reply
a frame without a picture ??
hi everyone, i desperately need some help i've got an essay to do for yesterday ,and the question goes like that to what extent is the turn of the screw a frame without a picture? can anyone help me with it?? or just tell me what it means?? and what am i supposed to wrtite ?? thank you in advance:yawnb: sarah
Posted By britt001 at Wed 18 Mar 2009, 2:15 PM in The Turn of the Screw || 2 Replies
help anyone? research paper
I was just wondering if anyone had any good ideas or books to get sources from dealing with the turn of the screw story and freudian ideas. i already checked freuds interpetation of dreams and it didnt help much. Any suggesstions?? thanks
Posted By tina88 at Thu 13 Nov 2008, 10:27 PM in The Turn of the Screw || 2 Replies
The turn of the Screw essay. What do u think of this
Who or what is haunting in the Turn of the Screw The Turn of the Screw is a Ghost story written by Henry James, since it has been published it went through various interpretations and critics, this because of his ambiguity and difference. It is a text that can be interpreted in many ways, It could be seen as a simple ghost story in which there are ghosts hunting a house leading, then, to the death of a child. It could be the story of a hunted woman with hallucinations, seeing things that do not exist people that are not there, she is scared by these demons and she is scared they might hurt the children, with which she had a strong bond, and her fear is reflected to them scaring and confusing them. This story could also be a very fine thought about the psychology of a frustrated person, giving the story a three dimensionality that is identifiable in the person herself. All of these statements could be true none of them are false because it depends in which way would you interpret a certain behaviour, certain person would understand that ghost lead to death others frustration others would understand love. The text of Henry James The Turn of the Screw has been judged the finest he has ever Done (pg155) and it was seen as a ... a deliberated, powerful, and horribly successful study of the magic of evil by the New York times in 1898. Many criticisms talk about problem of evil and evil ghosts so it seems as if they would be haunting, these pre-Freudian thoughts are: the fears of the people seen as the evil that creeps into our life and we have to protect us and others from it. Here is were another opinion starts in which she is, since the beginning, in love with this great man, the Master: she as a girl from a poor family where her father is thought a person with a psychically unbalanced nature (pg 161) and might even have been insane. She feels this unnatural bond towards the children and she sees herself as a protector from evil, an evil that is imaginary, the evil is not real and obvious for others, it is an hallucination she creates to protect the children: Her whole being tingles with the craving to perform some act of inexplicable courage. These hallucinations may come because she instantly becomes a victim of insomnia (pg162). The Freudian explanation is more complicated and vast because it allow us to see into a matter that comprehends more than just one reality (knowledge) or two realities (the physical and the metaphysical word). Freud introduced a third dimension of reality that is the psychological reality made of memories, dreams, emotions, rooted in the human psyche. In fact Before Freuds Traumdeutung there were only two gnoseologic (the ways of understanding) theories: the dualistic and monistic explanation of reality were confronting each other. The dualistic philosopher saw two parallel realities coexisting, the physical reality and the conceptual reality. According to them (Hegel) the reality is made of the stone as a tangible object and the idea of it (Hegel). The monistic conception of the world was introduced by Aristotle and was dominant until the enlightenment and it recognized just one reality: the metaphysical (nomen est omen). After Freuds discoveries evil loose its moral meaning as punishment for some guilt. And ghosts are not anymore demonic creatures (Quint, Miss Jassel). Ghosts may just bee dreams, the dream of a mind that needed to protect the children, an illusion created by fears, frustrated hopes, hope and despair intertwine with each other and are projected from one person to another, with feedbacks and reflections, in a way that makes impossible to separate dreams from hard facts: Her whole being tingles with the craving to perform an act of unexampled courage. The governess is also under the influence of an intense love towards the master, she is dazzled and confused by this different world she finds herself in (coming from a poor, cold and strange family) a world of beauty and perfection. Inside her fantasy she is beaten off by the realization of the impossibility of her love, infact she understands that she will never meet this majestic and secret figure she can only imagine and dream. The young woman falls instantly and passionately in love with the man who has inserted the advertisement. She scarcely admits it even to he heart she knows that her love is hopeless. These thought lead to self delusion and to a imaginary world that follows her rules, this world is not a cloud-cuckoo-land but a land of fear and the border between events, ideas and memories/dreams is irremediably blurred and disguised. She cannot see her own insanity she can see only it reflection, as it were, in the faces, trace its effect on the acts, of others. (pg.167) Evil, is the presence of Ghosts, the fact that we are in the end unsure, if they are feared and evocated by the Governess, or effectively seen by the children and this creates an insecurity inside us, we are not sure what to believe, at the beginning we think something and then the complete opposite. But we are definitely sure that it is not an external evil, a curse, a punishment for some distant unknown guilt (the pre-Freudian interpretation) it is the reflection of a darkened mind, a mind darkened by insecurity, love and despair. Points Despair In the end James does not tell us what haunts the children and/or Governess. It is something more subtle. There are the fears of the children, originated by the premature loss of their parents, and their pain of growing. But there is also the Governess loneliness and lack of warmth and protection from her family. Her frustrated desire for a (protected and solid) family, for which she is prepared to all sacrifice. And there is something bad that actually happened at Bly. So, fears, frustrated hopes, hope and despair intertwine with each other, are projected from one person to another, with feedbacks and reflections, in a way that makes impossible to separate dreams from hard facts. The border between events, ideas and memories/dreams is irremediably blurred. The evil, is, the impossibility to keep the distinction between the facts, ideas and emotions. Evil is life seen through the mirror of a darkened mind. Pre Freudian Evil creeps, Freudian recognizable Freudian wrote about the existence of different realities, because everybody has realities defined by theire youth.
Posted By nikymimanchi at Sun 26 Oct 2008, 6:47 AM in The Turn of the Screw || 1 Reply
essay , need help!!!
hi,i need some help for an essay i have to do...Good and Evil in "The turn of the screw"..and i have no idea ...actually i was suppose to read the book , but i didn't...so please, if someone has any idea on that question..i'll appreciate.thx!
Posted By guigui at Sun 23 Mar 2008, 7:40 PM in The Turn of the Screw || 0 Replies
Help Desperately Needed! Please!
I start school in two days and at the end of my school year last year, I was given a reading assignment to complete. It's on The Turn of the Screw. I have lost my book, yet I still have the assignment that needs to be completed with me. KEEP IN MIND, that this has to be a typed, in 12 point font, and it has to be 2 pages long. I know it seems like a lot but I would HIGHLY appreciate it if you could help. I really need these points (50 points) to start my school year off. I am not intelligent in the field of reading, so I was wondering if someone could help. Help is GREATLY appreciated. I'm desperate. Ok, there are 4 options that I can pick from, and I will state each option below. You choose which one to do, but just state before your answer which number you will be doing. PLEASE NOTE: The chapters stated below are from the complete text book found at http://www.online-literature.com/henry_james/turn_screw/ (1) In chapter 21, the governess delivers a surprisingly nasty accusation toward Flora: "She resents, for all the world like some high little personage, the imputation, on her truthfulness and, as it were, her respectability.... Ah, she's 'respectable,' the chit!" This sudden revelation of class resentment on the governess's part seems at odds with her other attitudes throughout the text. How does class function in this story? How does it reveal or conceal motives? Think of how different the book would be without it. (2) In chapter 22, the governess and Miles are described as being like a couple on their "wedding journey." How are we to understand this intrusion of a romantic setting into the relationship of a governess to her 10-yr-old charge? Are there other scenes where a similar suggestion might be found? How does romance work throughout the book, from Douglas onward, to direct or misdirect our view? Why is this ghost story so infected by ghostly loves? (3) Don't write on this one unless you agree that the children are not actually "evil." They are, in fact to all appearances sweet, kind, intelligent, courteous, generous kids. Let's just say they are real kids. And yet we find the governess repeatedly referring to them as evil, as horrors, although she at first thought them to be perfectly innocent. How do these terms function in the book? That is, what is served by seeing the children as innocent or evil? Be sure to choose several specific scenes and look carefully at the way the governess's use of these categories shapes her perceptions, understandings, motivations, and place in the world. What, by the way, makes the governess "unfit" for church? (4) In chapter 6, the governess says, "I know, I know, I know! My exaltation grew." The governess seems obsessed with knowing, and yet what she knows remains very obscure. How does this desire to "know" work in the story? Does this desire to know help her to know more, or less? How do questions of what others know - the Master, Miles, Flora, Mrs. Gross play into the governess's interest in knowing? Note: My teacher is not interested in your trying to tell him what anyone knows or doesn't, but only how "knowledge" functions as a sort of coin of character in the book. Once again I will say that if you help me, I will GREATLY appreciate it. I am in desperate need. 50 points for my school is a lot of points and especially to start the year off with. I really am desperate. Thanks for your time!
Posted By Doesitall at Sat 1 Sep 2007, 12:13 PM in The Turn of the Screw || 2 Replies
Essay - help please!!
My essay topic; 'THe Reader who wishes to support the Freudian interpretations of TTOTS&see the governess as a sex-starved and hysterical spinster with a peverted imagination must ignore many important signals in the text.' Discuss, indicating whether you agree, partly agree or disagree. I want to agree, can any one help me with ideas or info? THanks heaps
Posted By groovygrandmas at Fri 18 May 2007, 12:17 AM in The Turn of the Screw || 0 Replies
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