In This Article Irish Gothic Tradition

  • Introduction
  • Bibliography and Print Culture
  • Gothic Studies
  • Irish Studies
  • Irish Gothic Overviews
  • Critical Emergence
  • Theorizing the Irish Gothic
  • Irish Protestant Gothic
  • Irish Catholic Gothic
  • Gothic Ireland
  • Early Irish Gothic
  • Regina Maria Roche
  • Charles Robert Maturin
  • Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
  • Bram Stoker
  • Elizabeth Bowen
  • Other Authors
  • Other Media
  • Journals

British and Irish Literature Irish Gothic Tradition
by
Jarlath Killeen
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0134

Introduction

“The Irish Gothic” or “Irish gothic”? Choice of term here is important, as critical discussion of the appearance of Gothic tropes, characters, conventionalities, plots, as well as (more straightforwardly), novels, plays and poems in Irish writing, has been beset by disputes over language. Some of these debates echo those already taking place in Gothic studies over exactly what the object of study is since Gothic has been variously described as, among other things, a “genre,” an “aesthetic,” a “mode,” a “discourse.” The difference between “the Irish Gothic” and “Irish gothic” is potentially quite significant. After all, Ireland has provided not only a number of the major canonical texts of the Gothic but some of its major characters as well, including the most famous male and female vampires of all, Count Dracula and Carmilla Karnstein. For some scholars, “Gothic” is so pervasive in Irish writing as to amount to a “tradition” (though the term “tradition” is also a hotly contested one in literary studies). For others, the Gothic presence has been over-exaggerated and has attracted too much scholarly attention, distracting critics from and marginalizing far more important forms in Irish writing such as realism. This kind of debate helps to establish clear parameters of disagreement, even if terminological clarity and literary historical harmony are unlikely to be reached. It also stimulates further scholarly work. In the 1980s and 1990s, for example, most of the interest in Irish Gothic writing was directed toward the 19th-century Irish Protestant triumvirate of Charles Robert Maturin, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, and Bram Stoker (sometimes called the “unholy Trinity” outside of scholarly circles) and focused on a small selection of their overall literary output, which amounted to three or four fetishized texts. Scholarly disagreement has not only encouraged critics to develop with a much more inclusive understanding of these writers—moving, for example, well beyond Dracula in the case of Bram Stoker—but to extend scholarly inquiry much further back than 1820 and forward into the 21st century to reconsider the relationship between Gothic and the different varieties of Irish Catholicism and Irish Protestantism and rethink the privileged position of fiction and the novel in this discussion. Both “Irish gothic” and “the Irish Gothic,” are now being stretched and challenged and are moving in many different directions at once.

Bibliography and Print Culture

There currently exists no comprehensive or standard bibliography of Irish Gothic fiction, never mind an itemization that would take in areas such as music, architecture, cinema, folklore, and fashion. This gap is partly due to the relative novelty of the subject, since Irish Gothic only became the subject of sustained attention from the 1970s, and the relatively small number of scholars specializing in the field. Another problem is the persistence of a debate about both of these terms. Which authors and what texts count as “Irish” in Irish literary history has been continually debated. “Gothic,” meanwhile, is one of the most contentious terms in literary studies, with some scholars restricting its use to the so-called first wave of Gothic fiction from 1764 (the publication of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story) to the 1820s, while others employ the term in as inclusive and discursive a way as is possible, taking in everything from Shakespeare to 21st-century torture pornography. Setting out the parameters of the/an “Irish Gothic/gothic” is always going to be difficult. But a bibliography of Irish Gothic fiction would be helpful. In the meantime, scholarship does exist that is critical to mapping out the field. Summers 1964 is a fifteen-years-in-the-making blockbuster and an early attempt to provide a sense of the sheer extent of Gothic fiction in existence. Frank 1987 and Frank, et al. 2002 provided meat on the relatively bare bones of previous lists. While Irish writers are not really a concern of these bibliographies, they help the scholar of Irish Gothic fiction to set that material in the context of a genre(?) of global significance and are indispensable for providing a bibliographical framework for understanding the appearance of Gothic fiction written in and about Ireland. Loeber and Loeber 2003 constitutes the first tentative attempt to establish a clear sense of the range of early Gothic fiction published in Ireland and best works as a supplement to the achievement of Loeber and Loeber 2006, which allows the Gothic scholar to situate early Gothic fiction in Irish literary history. The importance of Blakey 1939, an early examination of a specific instance of Gothic print culture, the Minerva Press (though now needing to be supplemented by McLeod 1997) is apparent in cutting-edge examinations of early Irish Gothic fiction such as Morin 2017 (cited in Early Irish Gothic). Potter 2005 provides a provocative case study of Gothic publishing in the early 19th century that has important implications for understanding the interest in the genre by Irish writers of this period.

  • Blakey, Dorothy. The Minerva Press, 1790–1820. London: Bibliographical Society, 1939.

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    The standard study of the most important press for the publication of Gothic fiction in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the publisher of many early Irish Gothic novels, including those by the bestselling Regina Maria Roche. Extremely informative, though admittedly sniffy about the literary quality of these novels.

  • Frank, Frederick S. The First Gothics: A Critical Guide to the English Gothic Novel. New York: Garland, 1987.

    E-mail Citation »

    Presents five hundred Gothic titles published between 1762 and 1832, in alphabetical order, with plot synopses and a brief précis of the important critical work. Includes a glossary of terms, a select critical bibliography, and a chronology of publication. Frank posits that about five thousand Gothic novels were published in the first “wave.”

  • Frank, Frederick S., Jack Voller, and Douglass Thomson, eds. Gothic Writers: A Critical and Bibliographical Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2002.

    E-mail Citation »

    Useful introduction to fifty important Gothic writers, with lists of important primary and secondary texts as well as brief but incisive analytical essays. Valuable entries (with excerpts) on “Chapbooks, Bluebooks, and Short Stories,” and “Gothic Drama,” and a Gothic timeline. A good place to start research in Gothic writing.

  • Loeber, Rolf, and Magda Loeber. “The Publication of Irish Novels and Novelettes, 1750–1829: a Footnote on Irish Gothic Fiction.” Romantic Textualities: Literature and Print Culture, 1780–1840 10 (June 2003).

    E-mail Citation »

    Pioneering study of the fiction published in Ireland before and after the 1798 rebellion and the Act of Union, countering the traditional claim that the Irish publishing industry was fatally damaged by these events. Focuses particularly on very neglected Gothic “novelettes” by writers such as Anne Fuller, Regina Maria Roche, and Sydney Owenson.

  • Loeber, Rolf, and Magda Loeber. A Guide to Irish Fiction, 1650–1900. Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts, 2006.

    E-mail Citation »

    Annotated list of some 5,889 titles before 1900, arranged alphabetically by author (1,455 named authors; 286 unnamed). This guide has transformed understandings of Irish literary history. Includes extremely helpful sections on “Historic Periods, Themes and Settings,” “Publishers,” and “Places Relating to Authors.” Simply indispensable and unlikely to be surpassed in Irish Studies.

  • McLeod, Deborah. “The Minerva Press”. PhD diss., University of Alberta, 1997.

    E-mail Citation »

    Absolutely invaluable. The most complete bibliography of work published by the Minerva Press.

  • Potter, Franz J. The History of Gothic Publishing, 1800–1835: Exhuming the Trade. London: Palgrave, 2005.

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    As well as presenting an interesting argument about the relative decline of the first wave of Gothic fiction in the early 19th century, and a persuasive defense of early Gothic print culture, this includes three handy bibliographical appendices: Gothic Novels, 1800–1834; Gothic Bluebooks, 1799–1835; Gothic Tales, 1800–1834.

  • Summers, Montague. A Gothic Bibliography. New York: Russell and Russell, 1964.

    E-mail Citation »

    The original, but not the best, bibliography that helped persuade literary scholars to take the genre more seriously. Enlivened by a genuine and palpable love for the Gothic and an idiosyncratic eye. Enthusiastic, if not always entirely trustworthy.

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