It was on a dreary day of October – the afternoon of Friday the 10th to be exact – when our English class went to see Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination currently on at the British Library. The exhibition consists of several darkened rooms full of fascinating objects and bizarre images: original manuscripts of Gothic novels and first editions, film posters and clips, paintings and architectural models of Gothic edifices. The British Library did well to create an eerie atmosphere through the use of low lighting and dark and gloomy colours. As the British Library website puts it: ‘Two hundred rare objects trace 250 years of the Gothic tradition, exploring our enduring fascination with the mysterious, the terrifying and the macabre.’
We saw the origins of the Gothic tradition in Horace Walpole’s ground-breaking novel The Castle of Otranto. There was a heavily edited and censored copy of Mathew Lewis’ lurid Gothic extravaganza The Monk in which all the naughty bits had been crossed out. The exhibition traced how the Victorians created their own urban version of Gothic, replacing the earlier exotic foreign locations with the sinister streets of the East End and the like. Twentieth-century popular culture was represented by clips from the various film versions of Frankenstein and Dracula down through to the The Simpsons and Wallace and Grommet. All-in-all, the rich and varied history of the Gothic Imagination tradition was presented in an accessible and entertaining fashion. It’s well worth a visit. I will definitely go again before the exhibition close on 20th January 2015.
By Daniel Rodriguez