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“Do I Dream?”: The Role of the Nightmare in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto

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Jamie K.
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  1. Introduction
  2. Terror and the fantastic or supernatural
  3. The nightmare world of Otranto
  4. The Gothic supernatural
  5. The doppelganger
  6. The Castle of Otranto and examples of determinism than it is with doubles
  7. Conclusion
  8. Works cited

According to Elizabeth MacAndrew, author of The Gothic Tradition in Fiction, the gothic novel is ?[. . .] a literature of nightmare. Among its conventions are found dream landscapes and figures of the subconscious imagination? (3). Maggie Kilgour, author of The Rise of the Gothic Novel, agrees that dreams and nightmares are a ?classic source of gothic inspiration [. . .]? (191-192). In fact, a dream was the initial inspiration for the first gothic novel ever, Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto. One night in June 1764, Walpole ?dreamt of ?an ancient castle' and a ?gigantic hand in armour,'and so he attempted to give his dream fictional form,? writes George Haggerty in his book Gothic Fiction/Gothic Form (3). E. J. Clery, in the introduction to the Oxford World's Classic version of the book, notes that ?there have also been attempts to apply Freud's methods and analyse Otranto as a dream rather than as a work of literature [. . .]? (viii). Walpole's story is, indeed, very similar to a nightmare. It contains such nightmare-like qualities as frightening imagery, the appearance of the supernatural, and a number of uncanny occurances.

[...] ] have been obtained directly or indirectly from dreams,? Varma writes (222). Interestingly, this does seem to be the case, at least, in Walpole's story. The nightmare world of Otranto is full of the supernatural. In the very first scene, a giant helmet hundred times more large than any casque ever made for human being [ . falls out of the sky and kills Conrad (Walpole 19). Next, a painting comes to life, and then a door is closed an invisible hand? and cannot be reopened (26). [...]


[...] Father Jerome, rather than asking, simply tells one of the monks, ?Thou dreamest,? when he (mistakenly) declares that Hippolita is dead (63). References to visions, delerium, and other dream-related ideas abound in the story too ( 38). With good reason, Castle of Otranto has been called [ . ] vision or dream projected into real life' [ . (Varma 68). Works Cited Bayer-Berenbaum, Linda. ?Elements of the Gothic.? Horror. Ed. Michael Stuprich. San Diego: Greenhaven 73-83. Botting, Fred. ?Horror.? The Handbook to Gothic Literature. [...]

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