|Chapter 1:||Romantic Antiquarian Literature|
Other notable contributors were Edward Young and James Thomson, whose work contributed to the darker strains in Romanticism.
Antiquarian writing as a whole has many affinities to high Romantic poetry—especially in imagery and rhetorical structure—examples of which can be found in thousands of poems, though few equal William Wordsworth’s achievement in “Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” originally printed in 1798 (152–156): Objective images of nature trigger subjective associations in the writer’s mind that drive the unfolding language. This tendency, so influential in the modernist cultural enterprise, has resulted in modes of expression in 20th century literature and art where objective/subjective oppositions collapse into each other, and traditional notions of the self are fragmented. A relevant example for this discussion is Franz’s Kafka’s Metamorphosis, in which alienation and anxiety, originating in the author’s psyche, transform the external world into a waking nightmare; the outward becomes entirely a projection of mental states. Of course, Romantic Antiquarians did not ponder these ideas nor did they consciously apply them. However, it is central in this discussion to recognize they favored literary modes that advanced these tendencies that were far removed from, if not entirely oppositional to, concepts of scientific observation and the devices of formal reasoning that are the foundation of modern archaeological investigation. (Archaeological literature, however, has never shed itself entirely of these literary influences.)
The Gothic Mode
Profoundly nonrational, Romantic Antiquarian writing is preoccupied with decay, death, and the aberrant—obsessions that reveal its affinity to dark Romanticism and that characterize such writing as the gothic mode. This literary strain whose prototypes in fiction first appeared in mid-18th century Britain (coinciding with the rise of both printing technology that enabled mass production of affordable books and the industrial working class) is Romanticism’s great contribution to popular culture. Some of the most significant books in the development of gothic fiction are Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764); William Beckford’s Vathek (1786); Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk (1796); Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian, or the Confessional of the Black Penitents; A Romance (1797); and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus (1818). Walpole is most frequently given credit as the inventor of gothic fiction, as much as it is possible to identify a single individual—notably, he was close friends with Thomas Gray and the two had common literary sensibilities.