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Friday, June 18, 2010

YA and Gothic Lit- the Overlap

Okay, I've been asking everyone I know to define Gothic Lit for me. I had one college class and read a lot of Victoria Holt novels that my mom gave me, followed by a lot of V. C. Andrews novels, followed by Anne Rice... so I have a definite perspective of Gothic Lit. But I find that many people have different opinions, or backgrounds, or impressions.

I asked Amy Ross in particular...not only did we both write Gothic YA novels, but at one point we discussed that we had both made lists of particular words/vocabulary to make sure we got into our novels. (I plan to do a blog entry on my word list sometime in the next few weeks). And, she's as knowledgeable as anyone I know about the overlap between YA Lit and Gothic Lit. She came through with something even more insightful than I expected!

So Bethany asked me to write a guest post about YA Lit and the Gothic, partly because I'm shopping around a Gothic YA novel of my own right now, and partly because I've taken a few classes on the Gothic, and so apparently I'm supposed to know something about it (haha).

One thing I have noticed in my studies is that there is a strong affinity between classic Gothic stories and contemporary YA Lit. For example, even though "young adult literature" didn't exist as a genre back then, a lot of the earliest Gothic novels (written in the 18th and 19th centuries) revolve around teenage heroines who run away from home, go on adventures, outsmart bad guys, and generally act pretty bad ass for their era – just the type of activities we expect in modern YA stories.

For another, the Big Bad Guys in classic Gothic novels – whether they be vampires and demons or hyper-strict fathers and psychotically persistent suitors – often represent the ways that young people have always felt restricted by their position in society. It turns out that even in the 18th century, teenage girls were frustrated with their parents telling them what to do, their culture telling them how to behave, and boys telling them what they should do with their bodies.

It makes sense, then, that the Gothic is starting to show up again in YA novels of today. I'm talking about more than just vampires here – ruined castles, haunted houses, dark secrets, black magic, torture, mistaken identities, madness, moral ambiguity... if you spot any one or more of these elements in a book you're reading, there's a good chance it could be classified as Gothic. It turns out that a lot of these classic motifs are just as creepy and fascinating today as they were two hundred years ago – and our heroines might be even more bad ass.

Amy Danziger Ross blogs at Her current novel is about a group of contemporary teenagers who become dangerously obsessed with Gothic fiction, until it starts to become all too real.

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Blogger hannah said...

I totally didn't know that Gothic lit often focused on teenagers. That's awesome.

June 18, 2010 at 7:31 AM  
Blogger elissa said...

Nice post--great to see the connections between the elements of Gothic fiction and YA fiction, and I hope for both of you that teens will find the combination of the two super appealing! I know that in my teaching experience, one of their favorite writing units is the one where we write horror stories based off classic Gothic stories! They love the creepy factor so much!

June 18, 2010 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger bethany said...

Elissa, you are such a super teacher! Would you believe I have seniors who have never read Poe in my elective classes? When I taught middle school I always read The Tell Tale Heart.

June 18, 2010 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger amy said...

Thanks for asking me to contribute! It was fun.

June 18, 2010 at 8:32 AM  

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