Gothic and Silent Cinema

Stacey Abbott, Simon Brown

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This chapter reassesses the relationship between the Gothic and the cinematic experience within the silent cinema era. At its birth in 1895, the very medium of cinema itself was perceived as inherently Gothic. Maxim Gorky’s famous allusion to a ‘kingdom of shadows’ full of grey, silent figures that filled him with ‘breathless horror’ evoked the spectre of the uncanny that underpins the Gothic experience. Yet, this chapter demonstrates that if one examines the history of the Gothic in the silent era, the Gothic changes from being an intrinsic part of the cinema experience to becoming a series of narrative and stylistic elements that ultimately form part of a kind of proto-horror, a mise-en-scène in search of a genre. By focusing not upon story elements but rather upon the ongoing association between the Gothic and the cinematographic through the use of cinematic techniques to convey subjective states of being, this chapter examines how the Gothic potential of the cinematic experience that was fundamental to the era of cinema’s birth did not disappear but rather remained, and continues to remain, embedded within cinema itself.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of the Gothic Volume III
Subtitle of host publicationGothic in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries
EditorsCatherine Spooner, Dale Townsend
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781108624268
ISBN (Print)9781108472722
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2021

Publication series

Name The Cambridge History of the Gothic
PublisherCambridge University Press

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