This major new exhibition at the British Library explores Gothic culture’s roots in British literature and celebrates 250 years since the publication of the first Gothic novel, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto.
Alongside the manuscripts of classic novels such as Frankenstein, Dracula and Jane Eyre, Terror and Wonder brings the dark and macabre to life with grim and comic artefacts old and new. Highlights of the exhibition include a vampire-slaying kit and 18th- and 19th-century Gothic fashions, as well as one of Alexander McQueen’s iconic catwalk creations.
Eminent authors including William Blake, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, the Brontës, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, M.R. James, Mervyn Peake, Angela Carter and Neil Gaiman, underpin the exhibition’s exploration of how Gothic fiction has evolved and influenced film, fashion, music, art and the Goth subculture.
From Nosferatu to the most recent zombie thrillers, the exhibition uses movie clips, film posters, costume designs and props to show how Gothic themes and literature have been adapted for stage and screen, propelling characters like Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde and Frankenstein’s monster into the mainstream. Exhibits on loan to the Library and on display to the public for the first time include Clive Barker’s original film script and sketches for Hellraiser, as well as Stanley Kubrick’s annotated typescript of The Shining.
The Library has partnered with BBC Two and BBC Four to celebrate all things Gothic this autumn with a new season of programmes exploring the literature, architecture, music and artworks that have taken such a prominent place in British culture. A wide range of literary, film and music events accompany the exhibition, with speakers including writers Susan Hill, Sarah Waters, Audrey Niffenegger and Kate Mosse, actor Reece Shearsmith, comedian Stewart Lee and musician Brian May.
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Tim Pye is curator of English and Drama at the British Library and lead curator of the Terror and Wonder exhibition. Co-curators Tanya Kirk and Greg Buzwell are respectively the Library’s lead curator of printed English literature and curator for printed literary sources, 1801–1914.
Dale Townshend, Senior Lecturer in Gothic and Romantic Literature at the University of Stirling, edited and introduces the accompanying book, which contains original essays by major scholars of the Gothic alongside images of 150 objects from the exhibition. Terror and Wonder is published by the British Library in hardback and paperback. Read more.
The Terror and Wonder exhibition is open daily (except 24 to 26 December and 1 January) until 20 January 2015. More info.