Australian Gothic vs. European Gothic

by Leonora Rexhi

The Gothic is a rather broad genre. There are different versions across the globe. Subcategories are, for example, the Australian Gothic, the European Gothic and the American Gothic. All of them are relatively similar to each other, but they still differ in various aspects. Nevertheless, it applies for all subcategories that in general the Gothic genre is a genre where the unnatural and unconventional is represented.
This blog post will be about the Australian Gothic genre versus the European Gothic genre. What are the characteristics of each genre and are there similarities or differences?

Let’s start with the European Gothic genre. The European Gothic is mainly characterized by an atmosphere of mystery and suspense. The mood is evoked by a threatening feeling, often a fear enhanced by something unknown. The settings of a typical European Gothic text can vary, but for the most part they are very similar and have the same aspects. The typical setting is usually “in a castle, old mansions” (Harris, 2021) ”dense woods, a graveyard, and a wild moorland which all have powerful associations with isolations and loneliness” (Rose, 2021) (or the ruins of a castle.) Different elements like ”burials, flickering candles, evil potions” (Nolan, 2019) add the mystical character to the European Gothic genre and enhance the Gothic mood. Often the location is associated with a sad past/story; usually it is death, or something related to it. The effect of this scary and especially dark environment is to trigger a feeling, a sense of unease, ”which adds to the atmospheric element of fear and dread.” (Harris, 2021) The writer uses the setting to create ”an atmosphere of trepidation, threat or decay” (Rose, 2021).

The Australian genre, on the contrary, deals with many elements of European Gothic, but additionally has other characteristics that are clearly in the foreground. The Australian Gothic genre emerged out of the colonial era and is therefore characterized by elements of colonialism. In the Australian Gothic genre, the ”colonial experience of isolation, disorientation, hardship” (Althans 15), the ”fear of pursuit and fear of the unknown” (Althans 15) and entrapment is expressed. It can be said that the Australian Gothic is similar to the European one and cannot be completely detached from it, but it adds an Australian touch, which makes it special in its own way. Additionally, it has a different setting than the ”usual” Gothic setting. This is, as one can tell from the name, an Australian setting, with the typical landscapes, deserts and isolated stations. Many writers in colonial times were compelled to demonstrate the superiority of civilization over nature, but Aboriginal Gothic works in particular work against that reductive tendency.

In conclusion, both genres are similar, but they also differ. Both genres share aspects of creepiness and fear. At the same time, however, they differ because the Australian Gothic genre also brings a historic background with it which is thematized. Many elements are necessary to contribute to the Gothic setting, whether it is the European or the Australian, and it is their differences which highlight why we should be interested in them.

Works Cited:
Althans, Katrin, Introduction & Aboriginal Gothic in Darkness Subverted, 2010

Harris, R. (2021, 10. Januar). Elements of the Gothic Novel. VirtualSalt.

Nolan, A. (2019, 4. November). The Top 10 Elements of Gothic Literature. Invaluable.

Rose, J. (2021, 21. August). How to Study Gothic Literature: Setting and Themes. The Tutor Team.