Gothic Bournes is proposed as a growing corpus of Gothic-related materials. ‘Gothic’ here designates the genre of horror literature (prose fiction, poetry and drama) that was published between the seventeen-sixties and the eighteen-twenties. ‘Bournes’, in the sense of ‘boundary’ or ‘limit’, is meant to identify the often elusive thresholds that demarcate the genre—texts that paved the way to Gothic, or that ran a somewhat parallel course, or that operated, one way or another, ‘on the edge’ of the body of works recognised as Gothic, or that can be seen as sites of entry into or exit from the Gothic field. The main purpose of this corpus is to facilitate awareness both of the existence of a true genre (something which contemporary criticism is often wary of) and of the porousness of the system, or, for another metaphor, of the fractal nature of its borders.
The premise, argued elsewhere, is that, after some sixty years of flowering, Gothic writers were confronted with two alternatives. Either they chose to continue the old successful run, only to see audiences drift away from them, jaded by a surfeit of Gothic props that a new generation of readers could no longer relish (and the very word ‘Gothic’ became a mark of discredit where a generation earlier it had been enthusiastically received); or else they had to adapt, and so to change; and change they did in creative directions: Gothic begat the detective, adventure, science-fiction, historical, fantasy and, of course, horror genres—in sum, the bulk of what we nowadays know as popular fiction is indebted to Gothic.
The site offers bona fide Gothic texts belonging to the circa 60-year period proposed above, but also texts that appeared before (and somewhat after) and which can claim to be relevant to the history of Gothic. These include news reports, letters, pamphlets, as well as ‘relations’ and ‘narratives’ that appeared in the magazines of the period. Some of them go back to the 17th century; some are even older but were ‘revived’ during the Gothic age; some residual Gothic materials, published after the 1820s, allow us to gauge the resilience, and porousness, of its bournes.
The texts were rigorously transcribed, always from original sources, by MA students in the Editing Gothic Texts seminar for the Madrid Master’s Degree in English Studies (MMES). In keeping with the spatial metaphor of ‘bournes’, the corpus is offered as a help in the construction of a map of Gothic origins and developments that will display the various and complex pathways which led to the emergence (and evolution) of a Gothic genre.