Terror and Wonder – The Gothic Imagination at the British Library | Exhibition review

Is Gothic still in vogue in such a modernised era like the 21st century? The answer needs to be a resounding: yes. The most obvious example of a Gothic revival in recent times comes from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, whose stories and characters have stormed libraries first and countless people’s lives next.

With necessary twists and updates on the most common themes, due to the scientific and technologic advancements that have irremediably changed our vision of the world, the Gothic front hasn’t lost its charm and is actually more alive than ever.

This is what the current exhibition at the British Library intends to demonstrate. The show successfully does so, displaying many items in a labyrinthine travel through the ages. Inside the Paccar Gallery, where Terror and Wonder is being hosted, are posters and cases containing all kinds of objects and scenes from famous films are screened on walls and curtains which separate one room from another.

From its official origins with the publication of Walpole’s Castle of Otranto in 1764 to the present day, visitors are invited to make a journey through different manifestations of the Gothic in fields as diverse as literature, cinema and fashion in a maze-like path (to remain in style with the topic explored, the maze being one of Gothic’s tòpoi). The exhibition examines the blossoming of Gothic, it analyses its development and the enduring influence that this artistic current has had and still has on our lives. Shaping and adapting itself according to the changes that humankind has experienced in the past 250 years, Gothic has assumed many facets. Retracing the steps backwards, hinting at possible sources of inspiration such as Shakespeare, and looking at how Gothic can further transform in the future, the exhibition gives a clear and accurate outlook on the matter.

Mainly focussing on Anglophone authors, Terror and Wonder features rare mementos – mainly letters and books but even a dress by Alexander McQueen and a vampire-slayer kit. From the fascination with death and the supernatural and the nostalgia of a medieval past, to the Romantic age with its sublime landscapes, to the Victorian era with the industrialisation process forever leaving its print in our existences, to the Modern horrors: Gothic can be expressed in many forms, be it through vivid descriptions of places that have become trademarks of the genre or be it through new concerns like psychological or bodily dramas. Everything is connected. Gothic has appealed for centuries and still retains its lure.

Verdict: •••••

Terror and Wonder – The Gothic Imagination is on until 20th January 2015 at the British Library, for further information visit here.

Teaser

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