Essay The Castle Of Otranto Occupies A Prime Place

725 Words Jan 30th, 2016 3 Pages
By virtue of being the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto occupies a prime place in the Gothic literary pantheon. However, interest in Otranto has predominantly been informed by its primary position in the Gothic canon, and discussions of Walpole’s text are usually subsumed into a broader analysis of the Gothic genre. This is unsurprising given how expansive the genre has become, including famous works of literature, like Jane Eyre, Dracula and The Bloody Chamber and branching off into sub-genres that include historical, romance, detective and science fiction. Therefore, it is perhaps understandable that current critical attitudes often see Otranto as a precursor; a novel whose deficiencies are evidence that Walpole pales in comparison to later pioneers of the Gothic:
The story [of Otranto] has been regularly criticized for wooden characterization, and the amateurish self-indulgence of its supernatural effects (Clery ix)
Even Walpole was known to have dismissed his work as a whimsical foray into ‘a dream’ that made him, ‘s[i]t down and beg[i]n to write, without knowing in the least what I intended to say or relate’ (Letters 69). Whilst Mary Shelley’s dream conception of Frankenstein has been seen as evidence of her ‘illustrious imaginative powers’ (Bailey 22), Mary Snodgrass suggests that Walpole’s bad night explains the outlandish nature of Otranto. Some of the contemporary commentators on the novel also shared this opinion; one of Walpole’s friends, Gilly Williams,…

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