Cover image for Gothic : four hundred years of excess, horror, evil, and ruin
Gothic : four hundred years of excess, horror, evil, and ruin
Davenport-Hines, R. P. T. (Richard Peter Treadwell), 1953-
First North Point Press edition.
Publication Information:
New York : North Point Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
438 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Fourth Estate, 1998.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
NX449.7.G68 D38 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The birth of Gothic can be said to date to the eruption of Vesuvius in 1631, an event so powerful it created a new landscape. Indeed, it was the desolate and savage landscape paintings of the seventeenth-century artist Salvator Rosa, with their precipices, ruined castles, dark caves, and contorted trees, that provided the original visual and imaginative frame of the genre. In England, under Rosa's influence, William Kent created the first Gothic garden when he planted a dead tree on the grounds of Kensington Palace.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Whether it is Notre Dame Cathedral or an Anne Rice novel, images invoked by the word Gothic are strong and powerful. Two new titles explore the Gothic movement from its earliest beginnings through its revival and into the twentieth century. For Davenport-Hines, Gothic is synonymous with the violent and cruel Goths of the fifth century. For him, it only makes sense that the revival of the Gothic movement began with the violent and cruel 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The overwhelming destruction of the eruption's aftermath influenced artists to paint desolate landscapes, gardeners to plant dead trees, and architects to build country houses that imitate cold, dreary castles. As the movement progressed, Gothic influences permeated a variety of genres, and recurring themes began to take hold: the power of submission, as in the novels of Horace Walpole; defilement of the human body, depicted in Goya's paintings; self-absorption, exemplified by the music of The Cure; and the glorification of suffering, as seen in the film Blue Velvet by David Lynch. Davenport-Hines proposes that Gothic is extreme, reactionary, and theatrical; and that hostile imagery is a tool used to bring to light all those things of which humankind should be ashamed. Davenport-Hines takes this to heart as he delights in the telling of tragic stories and leaves no graphic detail unnoted. This is not a book for the faint of heart; however, anyone fascinated by horror and the macabre will revel in every gory word. Gothic: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting is the antithesis of the Davenport-Hines book. The focus here is on the beginnings of the Gothic movement in the tenth century and its development over several centuries as it was manifested in the architecture of cathedrals, abbeys, and churches, and later on, castles and palaces. There are also sections on painting, sculpture, stained glass, and goldwork; however, the discussion of Gothic architecture takes up the bulk of the book. While the text is informative and thorough, it is the beautiful detail in the 780 color photographs, diagrams, and pictures that really captures the power and grandeur of the Gothic style and makes this title worthwhile. --Carolyn Kubisz

Publisher's Weekly Review

Though separated by time, place and vocation, Neapolitan landscape painter Salvator Rosa, English novelist Mary Shelley and American filmmaker David Lynch all belong to the same exclusive club. So argues Davenport-Hines (Auden), often persuasively, in his sweeping examination of modern Western culture's fascination with the dark side. Davenport-Hines holds that a coherent antirationalist tradition can be traced through the work of figures as diverse as Francisco Goya, the Duke of Argyll, Lord Byron, Theodor Adorno and 1980s rock singer Robert Smith of the Cure. He deftly situates the gothicÄbroadly defined here as a nonconformist sensibility marked by a morbid fascination with death, decay and the uncannyÄin a history that includes the barbarian invasions of Rome and the nature-defying hubris of medieval European architecture. Of course celebrated gothic novelists such as Ann Radcliffe, Matthew "Monk" Lewis and Horace Walpole receive treatment, but more interesting is the author's identification of gothic elements in the work of artists seldom placed in the gloom-and-doom tradition, such as Alexander Pope's carefully planned, and to the 20th-century eye almost kitschy, gardens. The book's efforts to make spiritual confreres of figures as apparently unrelated as Pope and Ian Curtis, the suicidal frontman of gloomy rock group Joy Division, accounts for much of its appeal. And, indeed, the clear delight Davenport-Hines takes in making bedfellows of poets and pop stars, philosophers and splatterpunks, indicates his own penchant for the bizarre and subversive. Although his definition of the gothic becomes at times too elastic, this richly illustrated survey is no less enjoyable and informative for its author's ambition. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The enduring interest in Gothic and macabre images and stories has drawn the attention of contemporary scholars and critics. Departing from recent volumes that analyze the Gothic in contemporary culture and arts, British critic Davenport-Hines (Auden, Pantheon, 1996) has produced a comprehensive survey of Gothic themes in art, architecture, literature, and film since the early 17th century. Arranged in a sometimes disjointed combination of historic and thematic exposition, the book traces the Gothic imagination: its roots, the 18th-century "Gothic revival," the 19th-century classics (such as Frankenstein and Dracula) that epitomize the genre, the American Gothic, and manifestations of the Gothic in popular culture and film. The level of detail is sometimes excessive, and some chapters seem to lose their focus, but overall, this work provides an informed and readable survey of the genre. Unfortunately, the notes are difficult to use, and the in-text citations are not always clear or explicit. For larger public libraries.ÄJulia Burch, Cambridge, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.