The Gothic Aesthetic: From the Ancient Germanic Tribes to the Contemporary Goth Subculture

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Date: Spring 2019
From: Reference & User Services Quarterly(Vol. 58, Issue 3)
Publisher: American Library Association
Document Type: Bibliography
Length: 4,068 words
Lexile Measure: 1050L

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Goths. How did we get from warlike Germanic tribes sacking Rome, to an aesthetic or subculture imbued with "the dark and melancholy, a hint of horror tinged with romance." (1) This column will show you how widely this aesthetic is represented in art, architecture, film, literature and more, and along the way you will undoubtedly find some great resources to add to your collections, from music CD, to academic journals, reference works and the usual popular and academic books. Rachel Fischer has ably put together an excellent resource for anyone wanting to build a collection from the ground-up, or add some new and interesting resources.--Editor

Although the history of the ancient Germanic tribes called the Goths, Visigoths and Ostrogoths occupied a very small portion of world history texts, their culture has influenced Western civilization more than people may understand. Some historians believe that the modern world would not be the same without them. The Goths were not commonly known by what they called themselves, like Thervingi (forest people) and Greuthungi (steppe or rock people), but were called Goth because of their barbaric nature. This ancient culture originally worshipped Norse gods and was known for piracy. They were most famous for the invasions of Rome that began in 238 CE, and the Visigoth sacking of Rome in 410 CE. This attack greatly weakened the western Roman Empire and contributed to its eventual collapse, and the conquering of Italy by Odoacer, a Germanic king, in 476 CE. Although these tribes were frequently demonized for their barbaric nature, they were acting out of fear. The Holy Roman Empire and Christianity threatened their way of life. The Goths waged war because they refused to be submissive to Rome's control. Studying this period of time provides us with a glimpse into an important point in history as pagans fought and lost their right to religious and cultural freedom.

The term Gothic was first used to describe a "barbaric" aesthetic in the 1500s. Painter, architect, and historian Giorgio Vasari popularized the term Gothic as a pejorative term to describe a grotesque or barbaric aesthetic, reminiscent of the destruction of Roman buildings during the Gothic sacking of Rome. Ironically, Gothic architecture was ascribed to the popular style of the great cathedrals of Europe that were first built in France during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and continued to be built through the sixteenth century. This style can be described as ornate and flamboyant. Due to criticism, it fell out of favor during a classical revival period until a Gothic revival in the mid-eighteenth century.

Although William Shakespeare first portrayed the Gothic tribes in the tragedy, Titus Andronicus, the term Gothic literature first emerged in England in the late eighteenth century. It was used to describe a genre of horror most closely associated with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Gothic literature described an aesthetic of fear and terror. It also included romance, a Byronic hero, and villains. Emily Bronte's Wuthering...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A599915944