Exhibition Review: Terror and Wonder - The Gothic Imagination

Exhibition Review: Terror and Wonder - The Gothic Imagination

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
The British Library
★★★★  (out of 5)

JUST in time for Halloween, a new exhibition at the British Library explores Gothic culture’s roots in British and Irish literature while celebrating 250 years since the publication of the first Gothic novel.

There is plenty of gory detail for fans of Irishman Bram Stoker (born in Clontarf, Co. Dublin) including an original manuscript of his classic novel Dracula.

One of the exhibition’s highlights is a Stoker manuscript for a theatre adaptation of Dracula [pictured far right]. Hastily assembled just prior to the novel’s publication it offers a fascinating insight into the construction of the story.

Stoker produced the play adaptation by hand initially but resorted to extracts cut and pasted from the novel as the script progresses. The play, originally titled Count Dracula: or The Undead, opens with a lengthy speech for the character of Jonathan Harker, necessary to explain his presence outside Castle Dracula.

Other gothic highlights from the manuscripts of Frankenstein (whose author Mary Shelley visited Ireland and even mentions Ireland in the book).

There’s a nice mix of old and new too. The exhibition includes a vampire slaying kit and 18th and 19th century Gothic fashions, as well as one of Alexander McQueen’s iconic catwalk creations.

Literary fans will enjoy looking at how some of the most eminent authors of the last 250 years, including William Blake, Ann Radcliffe, Shelley, Charles Dickens, the Brontës, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker and others have influenced popular culture.

Lead curator, Tim Pye, says: “Gothic is one the most popular and influential modes of literature and I’m delighted that Terror and Wonder is celebrating its rich 250-year history. The exhibition features an amazingly wide range of material.”

He’s right, with artefacts from film, fashion, music, art and the Goth subculture, there’s something for everyone to get their teeth into.

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination runs until January 20, 2015