So You Want to Read American Gothic: Here’s Where to Start
American Gothic literature, a homegrown genre set in uniquely American settings — the frontier, sometimes even suburbia — explores the darker elements of the nation’s culture and history. Historical sins like slavery, genocide and the destruction of the wilderness are often part and parcel of American Gothic fiction. The past is always alive and with us. Horror is an element, but the supernatural isn’t always present, and when it is, it might be implied rather than identified as such. Questions often arise whether mysterious phenomena noted by characters are actually paranormal in nature or the products of insanity. Mental illness, and whether it runs in families, is another common theme in American Gothic stories. The question of whether one can escape destiny is one that often surfaces in these stories. Similar to that is the debate of whether humanity is born in a state of evil, or becomes such through actions. This one is often framed in a religious subtext, as spiritual crises of various sorts are very much present in the canon. Find a few select works below.