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Friday, November 18, 2011

Contemplating the Gothic Influence of Charles Brockden Brown

<i>Wieland, Or The Transformation: An American Tale</i> by Charles Brockden Brown

This will not be the first time, or the last, that you will hear this from me, but I am a huge proponent for the fact that RA librarians all need to have a better understanding of the history of today's most popular genres.  When it comes to horror I am particularly interested.  I feel that in order to best understand how you are going to help readers with today's horror fiction, you need to understand how the genre has evolved over time.

That is why my new book has a chapter on the history of horror and an annotated list of must read horror classics.

Thankfully, I am not the only one out there tracking down must read horror novels from centuries past.  Back in September, my husband pulled an essay on the forgotten Gothic classic, Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown by Daniel O'Leary from Paste Magazine.

Brown was a Quaker during the early days of America (late 1700s) and, as O'Leary says, he
... is widely regarded as the father of American Gothic fiction, a form that emerged in Europe during the latter half of the 1700s as a dark, generally melodramatic development of late medieval Romance literature. He used genre conventions, but also fashioned significant and unique innovations, repopulating the gloomy Gothic themes with the elements of the relatively young history of America. Many of America’s most beloved authors, including Melville, Hawthorne, Poe, and Fenimore Cooper, considered Brown an important influence.
The essay looks into how this creepy novel is a reflection on the era in which it is written, but the essay also makes a strong argument for the novel's connection to our current American political situation.

There are 3 copies of the book in my library system and it is available as a free ebook from Project Guttenberg, so I will be trying it for myself and will let you all know what I thought.

Read the essay for yourself and see if you want to dive into the haunted past of horror literature.

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