Gothic literature combines elements of horror and romance, generally with tones and themes of darkness.


The Castle of Otranto

by Horace Walpole

The Castle of Otranto is considered the first "gothic" novel, a genre that loves melodrama, mystery, hidden places, ancestral curses, and fainting heroines. Its roots are the "romance," which was a tale of heroism (not love as it is now known), and the Romantic movement in literature, which focused on emotion and the sublimity of nature. When The Castle of Otranto was first published, it was said to be a translation of a lost medieval transcript, and received positive attention. But when it was next published, the truth was revealed--that the story was quite modern and written by a priviledged author. Critics then panned it, but it survives today as the seminal Gothic literary novel.

The Marble Faun

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Marble Faun is a gothic romance concerning three young Americans and one young Italian Count who meet in Rome. The book features picturesque descriptions of historic art and architecture in Rome as a backdrop to a tale of mystery, murder, and romance.

Melmoth the Wanderer

by Charles Robert Maturin

The central character, John Melmoth, is a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for 150 extra years of life and spends that time searching for someone who will take over the pact for him; the novel actually takes place in the present, but this backstory is revealed through several nested stories-within-a-story that work backwards through time (usually through the Gothic trope of old books).