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Disclaimer: This article discusses a genre of art, literature, and film from the 18th-20th century. For the contemporary music genre and subculture, see Goth.

Gothic is an aesthetic based around Gothic architecture and literature, seen through a Romantic lens. The Gothic originally started as a style of architecture in 12th century France, with significant characteristics being pointy arches (more specifically the ogive shape) and usually applied on flying buttresses. Appearing in the second half of the 18th century with Romanticism, Gothic art and literature would eventually evolve into more than a type of outer design, with the label being applied to artworks, poems, literature, fashion and eventually films, shows and video games.

The main appeal of the Gothic aesthetic is a sense of horror, mystery, and beauty connected to European "Old World" superstition and rural culture. In the literary genre, many tropes and stock characters became codified, often involving illness, mental instability, and the undead, such as ghosts and vampires.


Misconceptions from Real Gothic Architecture[]

In the beginning of the start of Gothic literature, the old cathedrals and buildings were starting to become ruins and filled with mystery, horror, and darkness. However, to the medieval churchgoers, the buildings looked quite different to what most people imagine is a Gothic building now. Because of accumulated smoke, Gothic buildings at the time of the literary movement were dark, gloomy, and evidence of the paranoia and superstition of Medieval peoples. True Gothic buildings were bright, filled with light, and had rainbow-colored stained-glass as a celebration of beauty and light.[1]

Edmund Burke's Aesthetic Theories[]

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The first Gothic novel is credited to The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, published in 1764. It inspired many of the Gothic tropes that persisted throughout the genre: ancient prophecies, a castle that seems alive, and concern over sexuality and familial bloodlines. His fascination with Medieval art and ways of thinking is what inspired the novel, and this association with the era will continue throughout the genre.[2]

Later, multiple authors published other novels during the same time period: Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, William Beckford, and other authors wrote novels that affirmed Gothic tropes of horror and the supernatural.

Influence on Other Aesthetics[]

Goth Subculture[]

Goth is a subgenre of rock music. Goth music is about "swirly" sounding guitars, a notable bassline and sparse percussion. It could be said that goth music borrows from gothic media. In fact, Bela Lugosi's Dead was inspired by the original actor of the same name, Bela Lugosi. Bauhaus have shown their love for other types of gothic media, such as merchandise that features The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.


  • Antique furniture
  • Black cats
  • Blood
  • Bones and skeletons
  • Candelabras and chandeliers
  • Coffins
  • Dead and decaying landscapes
  • European Moorlands
  • Ghosts dressed in white
  • Grimy true Gothic cathedrals
  • Insanity
  • Memento mori/Vanitas motifs
  • Old-fashioned tombstones that are crumbling/weathered
  • Ravens, omens of death
  • Red velvet
  • Storms and rain
  • Vampires
  • Victorian mansions


For more works in this genre, see the TVTropes page.


  • Abigail Larson
  • Aubrey Beardsley
  • Edward Gorey
  • Gustave Doré
  • Harry Clarke
  • Kay Nielson
  • Vincent Price (actor)


  • The Addams Family (1938)
  • Aspects of Batman
  • Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl


  • Dracula by Bram Stoker (For more vampire fiction, see Vampire)
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  • My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Parody of Gothic novels.
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  • The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • The fiction of Edgar Allan Poe
  • The fiction of H.P. Lovecraft
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë


Book adaptations aren't included, as there are many variations.

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
  • Nosferatu (1922)
  • The Others (2001)
  • Crimson Peak (2015)
  • Tim Burton's body of work


  • Macbeth and Hamlet by William Shakespeare. (These actually predate Gothic literature, but the motifs match.)

TV Shows[]

  • Hannibal (2013)
  • Penny Dreadful (2014-2016)

Video Games[]

  • Haunting Ground (2005)
  • Arcaea (2017)
  • The Fallen London games
  • The Amnesia series
  • Bloodborne (2015)
  • Layers of Fear (2016)
  • Blasphemous (2019)
  • Quake (1996)


Please note that this is different to Goth music, which includes industrial, electronic, and other contemporary elements. The music of Gothic media tends to be sinister-sounding classical music, often with organ.

Individual Songs[]