Publication Date

Fall 2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Rosemary Johnsen, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Christopher T. White, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Diane Dates Casey, M.Div., M.L.S.


Gothic storytelling has come a long way since the publication of Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto in 1764. This short novel created the standard motifs and tropes that will forever be associated with the genre-the destitute castle, the foreboding atmosphere, supernatural or inexplicable events, omens, prophecies, heroes, villains, and of course, a deteriorating world facilitated by the unconscious evils within hwnanity causing the complete destabilization of society.

This paper will examine the evolution of Gothic fiction and how it has been represented from its romantic heritage and Victorian upbringing to the American Gothic traditions of the nineteenth century and the contemporary Gothic scene. It will concentrate focus on the classic, most widely recognized Gothic icons, Dracula and Frankenstein, comparing and contrasting the inherent Gothic elements within each work to Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, and examining how certain criteria were transformed to fit the singularity of each novel. It will also study the development of Gothic literature in the United States by analyzing the most prolific early American author, Edgar Allan Poe, and how his works morphed European Gothic into a new literary tradition inspired by the unique landscapes and conditions of the United States of America. It will investigate the contemporary Gothic scene with special focus on the works of Stephen King, and explore how Gothic fiction underwent severe and radical changes over a short period of time from the end of World War II through the turn of the twenty-first century, stressing the timeless Gothic features, but also 2 divulging new Gothic elements that are completely original to the time period, or an adapted component from the Romantic and Victorian eras. Finally, it will analyze American Gothic film by selecting four individual works singular to their generations, The Wolfman, Psycho, Jaws, and The Sixth Sense, highlighting the Gothic elements within the films that are impervious to temporal changes in culture and society, but also revealing how each film is unique to the time period in which it was produced.