Published on Aug 25, 2020

Gothic Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

Gothic fiction and Gothic horror are interchangeable terms. They refer to a style of writing that is heavy on atmosphere and that incorporates romantic elements. Gothic fiction has a unique way of evoking terror that has made it one of the most popular forms of horror in the world. It began in the 18th Century and remains a living genre today.

Dark manors, ruined castles, oppressive gray skies and stormy nights are all classic elements in Gothic horror. These stories oftentimes feature deranged scientists or mystics, a curse that follows a family for generations, things that go bump in the night and, quite often, lycanthropes, vampires, ghosts, devils and other monstrous villains. Mary Shelley, Ann Radcliffe and Edgar Allen Poe are among the most prominent names in Gothic fiction, but there are many more. Other authors who produced notable works in the Gothic tradition include Oscar Wilde, Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu, Ambrose Bierce and a host of others. The very first Gothic novel is generally held to be The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, published in 1764.

Gothic fiction tends toward a sense of overwhelming doom and oftentimes has some very dark humor interwoven into the story. The actual villains are sometimes very sympathetic characters and are oftentimes characters who embody an element of irony: the corrupted and wicked clergy; the beautiful nobleman with the ugly soul; the brilliant scientist or occultist who cannot see the obvious error of their ways, these are all characters in various Gothic stories. Weird fiction and Gothic fiction have some elements in common, as well, and Weird Fiction authors, including HP Lovecraft, were not afraid to dip their pens into the blackest of inks on occasion.


Many works of fiction include Gothic elements within their stories but are not specifically Gothic stories in and of themselves. There is also a modern subculture that is referred to as Gothic. Victorian fashion, lots of black clothing and a somewhat sinister elegance are among the hallmarks of this subculture and the aesthetics of the subculture on the whole trace straight back to the aesthetics of the Gothic novel.
Modern Gothic

Gothic horror remains very popular today. Gothic imagery is seen in everything from superhero movies to children’s cartoons. Gothic fiction has also had an influence on cultures around the world. Some of the most popular Japanese horror movies, for instance, have decidedly Gothic features to them. Further variations on this literary style have developed over the years, such as Southern Gothic, which comes out of the American South and which includes some of the most highly-regarded stories in this genre.

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