There are certain words we use so often in life that they begin to lose their meaning—buzzwords, or broad categorical ones, like millennial. These words, too, crop up in literature: Here I would like to explore one of these in particular, Gothic. We talk often of Gothic literature, Gothic writers, Gothic horror, Gothic post-core triphop—but our definition is so often fuzzy. We know that to be Gothic means to be scary, to be full of the strange and terrifying, but where exactly do we draw the line between Gothic and other forms of horror fiction? Is Stephen King Gothic? Is A Nightmare on Elm Street? King probably, Nightmare probably not—but are we sure? But there’s a much less ambiguous example, too: Edgar Allan Poe, one of the foremost writers of horror of the nineteenth century, who is without the slightest doubt a Gothic writer; in fact, Poe is so inextricably and indelibly wrapped up in our cultural understanding of Gothic fiction that perhaps we might even call him the quintessential Gothic writer. Our endeavor here is to understand why that is, and, furthermore, to explore the particular historicity (or ahistoricity) of Poe’s unique brand of Gothicism—how Poe, by setting his tales “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” in foreign, even un-American, locales, deliberately alienates his readers from his characters, in order to conjure a sense of pleasure from their suffering and foibles.
Spears, Shelby, "A Place for Poe: The Foreign in Two Tales of the Gothic" (2016). English Class Publications. 32.