Wonderland: Gothic is a new four-part series for television, exploring the development of "Gothic" through its various stages and developments over its 250-year life.
The four programmes are filled with illustrations from literature, film, painting and performance.
Wonderland: Gothic covers the phenomenon of "Gothic" - the never more popular and topical range of expression seen in novel writing, poetry, painting and film that portrays the strange, emotional, and sometimes horrific human inner life called “Gothic”. "Gothic" is represented in remarkable and varied aesthetic forms from 1780 onwards, taking in works as diverse as Dracula, Wuthering Heights, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Night of the Living Dead, and the extraordinary paintings of Caspar David Friedrich.
"Gothic" expresses the rebellion of the human spirit against an over-rational world, taking in, with an overtly dramatic and often exaggerated intensity, subjects as varied as abjection, horror, repulsion, imagination, and spiritual fulfilment. "Gothic" achieved mass popularity from its inception, drawing in inspired and fascinated adherents, ranging from Sigmund Freud to the Sex Pistols.
The visualisation and scenery of “Gothic” with its ruins, most notably William Beckford’s Fonthill, castles and ancient houses is a feature of the film. Examples from literature and film discussed and illustrated are wide-ranging and include Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Walter Scott, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Willkie Collins’ The Woman in White, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, Sigmund Freud’s The Uncanny, the ghost stories of M R James, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, James Whale’s Frankenstein, Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved.
“Gothic” is the persistent voice of a counterculture, resisting and questioning rationality, authority, social and cultural institutions representing power. It is always engaged with some form of the past – histories, both shared and personal, and the wrongs, oppressions and injustices embedded in the past. “Gothic” is highly visualised – darkness - emotion, mystery, menace - versus the light with its sunshine, reason, and security. Gothic light always includes some acknowledgement of the dark. There is an association with Gothic churches, the music of the organ, nuns, monks, and abbeys.
Film has a powerful connection with “Gothic”, whether it be George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead or the various evocations of Dracula and Frankenstein. “Gothic” is associated with the socially marginalised or powerless, especially young people, and particularly young women threatened by powerful and predatory older men. “Gothic” is usually outside mainstream sexuality.
“Gothic” ‘plays with terror’ to deal with fears of death, predatory power, evil, and sex in a safer space. The Night of the Living Dead with its zombies and horror after all seems very real. There is the resurgence of “Gothic” in contemporary culture. “Gothic” fiction is immensely popular. Striking examples are Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series. The phenomenon of "Gothic" feels as modern now as it did at its first creation 250 years ago.