Haunted to Haunting: Examining the Evolving Portrayal of Houses in Gothic Horror Literature
In the field of Gothic horror literature, the ‘grand house’ often embodies far more than simply the backdrop for a narrative’s horrors. By referring to a number of canonical texts, this paper will examine how the portrayal of houses in Gothic literature has changed throughout the centuries. It proposes a twin stream evolutionary timeline –one chronicling the house as a setting and one as a character. Furthermore, the work explores the genre’s growth in parallel with the increasing and diversifying readership audience, highlighting links between the rates of private homeownership and the portrayal of homes in Gothic literature. Firstly, the paper studies narrative works from 1750 to 1850, exploring how Walpole and Poe established the primary ‘rules’ for the Gothic setting. Next, it studies the genre’s evolutions in the late 19th and 20th centuries, highlighting the portrayal of iconic locations such as Dracula’s Castle and its employment as a symbolic mirror of its inhabitant. This paper also explores Lovecraft’s The Shunned House and Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, chronicling the developments these texts make for houses as both settings and characters, respectively. Finally, an examination of King’s the Shining and Danielewski’s House of Leaves to demonstrate the developments of modern and postmodern Gothic. Overall, the paper seeks to highlight the importance of literature as a tool to measure societal change - by combining literary criticism with sociological data, we gain a far more vivid image of a culture’s evolution.