The Gothic Genre over Time: Dracula and Poe and Their Appropriations

English Extension
The Gothic Genre
The value in Gothic fiction lies in its ability to enthral and delight the reader through a combination of suspense, terror and shock, so as the audience to the genre has changed, so too have the methods used by composers to captivate them. Traditionally, Gothic narratives sought to enthral their audiences through shadowing more horrific content, triggering the responders imagination and leaving the truly horrendous implicit.   This technique builds tension and suspense as it draws upon the fear of the unknown and creates intrigue for the reader. However, the 20th century saw the mass desensitisation of the Western population through the increasingly strong themes of gratuitous violence, sexuality and horror portrayed by the entertainment industry. Because of this, far stronger elements of shock and horror have been utilised in gothic texts to appeal to more contemporary audiences. This has lead to less and less of the monstrous being left to the imagination as more shocking content is used by composers to captivate the modern responder.

A clear demonstration of this change in the genre can be found in the many 20th century adaptations of traditional gothic texts for more contemporary cinematic mediums. The composers of the films often use appropriate storylines, characters and themes from the original texts but change the structure, context and values to appeal to more modern viewers. Two examples of such adaptations of traditional gothic texts are Bram Stoker’s Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola and Roger Corman’s 1961 adaptation of The Pit and the Pendulum. Both films were accused by critics of being unfaithful to the texts they claimed to be adapting, however this is only to be expected as by appropriating the 19th century texts to a more modern film medium and audience, the composer often has to make radical changes in order to create a successful and effective movie for a contemporary audience.

Classic gothic...