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23. The Gothic Ghost of the Counterfeit and the Progress of Abjection

Jerrold E. Hogle

Subject Literature

Key-Topics ghost story, gothic literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631206200.2001.00025.x


From its beginnings in the eighteenth century, in the ‘Gothic revival’ in architecture or the ‘Gothic Story’ (Horace Walpole's 1765 subtitle for the second edition of The Castle of Otranto ), the modern ‘Gothic’ as we know it has been grounded in fakery. Most neo-Gothic ‘trifles’ from the 1740s on, including Walpole's entire house at Strawberry Hill, were very current buildings that quite openly faked their antiqued Gothicism and drew their ‘authenticity’ more from second-hand pictures in books than standing buildings or ruins from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Moreover, The Castle of Otranto itself, before it added the ‘Gothic’ label as a marketing device after its initial and surprising success in 1764, was – and remains – constituted by layer upon layer of falsity. It was initially published as a translation ‘by William Marshall, Gent.’ of a sixteenth-century Italian manuscript by ‘Onuphrio Muralto’, supposedly a ‘Canon of the Church of St Nicholas at Otranto’ after the Reformation who was trying to draw ‘the populace’ back to the ‘ancient errors and superstitions’ of Catholicism – another act of deception – in a way that the Anglican ‘Marshall’ half admires but cannot endorse in his Preface to the first edition ( Walpole, 1996 , 1 and 5). Within the story, too, the primal crime at the root of all the hauntings in the castle is as much a forgery as it is a murder and ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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