I am a great lover of the Victorian Gothic. Crumbling castles, secret inheritances, madness, and ghosts are things I never get tired of reading about. I even wrote my Masters thesis on the use of these genre elements in film.
The Southern Gothic is something that I have always felt like I couldn’t quite grasp, like I was always a step behind. But I am trying again since I made the realization that in order for the Gothic to exist there must be some sort of “greatness lost.” In England, it could be as widespread as the Dissolution of the Monasteries, or as simple as an estate that has seen better days. But in all cases there must be some sort of longing for the past amongst the remnants of what used to be.
In the American South, it is the antebellum era. Business and industry were strong, cities and towns were thriving. Plantations were grand palaces in a New World. Yet, there was an undercurrent of angst — all of this was possible for a few, by building on the backs of many. That planation owners lived in mansion like royalty while just a few steps away were slaves lived in hovels was a tension that could only last so long.
The Southern Gothic draws on this and the uneasiness of modern generations whose background lies in a time, in a lifestyle, that no longer exists. These once gorgeous estates have fallen into disrepair, and in some cases, so has the sanity of their inhabitants.
So I think I might take another crack at reading some Southern Gothic literature. And I think I may start with 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, recommended by The Paris Review, to understand more of the history, the groundwork for this very specific genre.
What do you think of the Southern Gothic? Do you think there are other regional “gothics”? What stories or novels represent them?