Seaside Gothic

Fiction | Poetry | Nonfiction

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Seaside Gothic Literature

Seaside Gothic Literature

As a category, seaside gothic literature is brave and daring, yet not necessarily exuberant. It can be both its own genre and a loose classification of other writing, and there are many notable works which would meet the criteria. As Seaside Gothic represents this form, I am highlighting three notable works—fiction, poetry, and nonfiction—and an example from another form of media each quarter.

Fiction: Iain Banks, The Wasp Factory

The Wasp Factory is a work of transgressive fiction involving violence, death, and dismorphia, which is powerfully and forcefully told by its teenage protagonist. Taking place on a small Scottish island, the narrative explores the beaches and landscape as if an alien planet. By taking this viewpoint, Banks weaves a dark and compelling seaside gothic story.

Poetry: Walt Whitman, As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life

Comparing one’s own life and even self to the sea is a brave and bold move, yet one Whitman is able to achieve effortlessly in this beautiful poem. He explores and distance and depths of the ocean but he is writing from the land, and so there results a disonnance in the poem, which was compiled into his lifelong Leaves of Grass collection in a later revision.

Nonfiction: Derek Jarman, Pharmacopoeia

Compiled from journals, notes, essays, poems, articles, and other writings by Derek Jarman, this examination of his life on Britain’s only desertDungenessis one of change and development. Reflecting the liminal landscape and the strangeness of being a desert beside the sea in a land without deserts, Jarman’s writing explores everything from gardening to sexuality, with a fair amount of examination of the nature which surrounded his cottage thrown in.

Film: The Lighthouse

It is not possible to consider seaside gothic as a genre without acknowledging Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, which embraces and subverts a genre which few know of yet most are familiar with. His narrative choices, along with the stylistic approach of filming in black and white in 4:3 framing, make this a strange and arresting film but one well worth experiencing.