As a huge fan of 'the gothic', be it literature, architecture or fashion, learning about the Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination Exhibition at British Library caused great excitement. Having recently submitted three gothic related essays, of varying degrees, at University - one on Gothic architecture and art during the 18th and 19th century, another on the victorian fixation on the supernatural and finally a project on the mourning clothes of the 1800s, it is fair to say personal interest in 'The Gothic' is eternally present.
Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination delves deeply into the history of British Gothic literature primarily, but also draws upon how this literary movement was influenced by architecture and how it equally had and still has influence on film and fashion. Set in the British Library, the exhibition comprises of written examples, projected film clips, architectural models and a gothic clothing section among other items of relevance and interest.
Walking through the exhibition takes the viewer on a eerie journey from the roots of British Gothic, that arguably lie with the publishing of Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto in 1764, which defined a new evocative genre of literature that later spawned a plethora of gothic tales, notably the likes of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley in 1818 and Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1897. Alongside these are archival examples of first edition gothic texts and author's notes.
Gothic literature later inspired theatre adaptations of the increasingly popular novels. Interestingly, what is now known as a 'trap door' on stages in the theatre was originally designed by James Planche's 1820's stage adaptation of Polidori's The Vampyr. Similarly, the introduction of Penny Dreadfuls, which characters such as Spring Heeled Jack and the infamous Jack the Ripper: Demon Barber of Fleet Street gained much popularity.
As technology advances, gothic took the silver screen and eventually Hammer Films became renowned for their gory horror, often based on the gothic literature of the past. Still to this day, Hammer draw upon gothic tales for inspiration, with their most recent film being The Woman in Black based on the book of the same title by Susan Hill.
Finally the exhibition brings the visitor to modern day horror and gothic with a selection of current gothic influenced literature and ending with an ode to modern day goths and a photographic exhibition by Martin Parr accompanied by fashion items from A Weekend in Whitby, a yearly Goth Gathering in a small corner of North Yorkshire.
The whole exhibition was fascinating, although personal highlights include an actual "Vampire Slaying Kit' that was sold due to fear of the fanged creatures, an Alexander McQueen outfit and the introduction of some short horror films.
Although the exhibition has now closed, the extensive book that accompanies the exhibition is still available here.