Defining the Gothic: A Guest Post by Laura K. Curtis

When Dabney Grinnan asked me to define a Gothic at RWA in New York, my first reaction was to use Potter Stewart’s infamous “I know it when I see it” line. But of course, that won’t do. So for my overarching statement I will say that in a Gothic, every single aspect of the text—language, plot, setting, characterization—is in service to the mood.

And that mood is creepy.

The reader of a Gothic—whether romance or straight Gothic fiction (which tends to verge on horror)—should experience an unrelenting sense of dread, and that dread should start on the very first page. For example, the beginning of Barbara Michaels’s classic Be Buried in the Rain:

The old pickup hit a pothole with a bump that shook a few more flakes of faded blue paint from the rusted body. Joe Danner swore, but […]