The Castle Of Otranto And Vampyr Examined English Literature Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Although each era is defined by its distinctive values, varying texts are manipulated to express the composer's view towards social conventions of their respective times. This is evidenced in the exploration of 'the Revenant', whereby new and old concepts are explored side by side in each text. Within their own representations of 'the Revenant', both Horace Walpole's novella The Castle of Otranto (1764) and Carl Theodore Dreyer's film Vampyr (1934), are connected through their subversion of the normal through gothic characteristics.

Walpole, who writes in an age of scientific rationalism, conceives Gothicism in Otranto by partially reverting to 12th century values to bypass societal conventions through a revenant. Like other gothic texts, Otranto focuses on plot emotion rather than rationality of events. Use of a haunted castle with "subterraneous passages" and "spirits", and emotive graphic imagery such as that of "bleeding mangled remains" allows Walpole to create a metonomy of gloom and horror, externalising the characters' deepest fears as other characters, supernatural phenomena, and inanimate objects - Manfred's inevitable loss of power is represented as a revenant in Alfonso's "ghost" and values within Theodore, and artefacts such as the "gigantic sabre." "Terror is the principle engine" in Otranto, credited with sparking a 19th century gothic movement reflecting disillusionment in the enlightenment period and bloody revolutions in France and America. The rational antagonist Manfred's rejection of Otranto's supernatural "fooleries" reflects 19th century societal views. However, in against his 19th century literary conventions, Walpole's addition of humanity's darker elements stays within the parameters of aesthetics which were common to both societies, such as the morality of religion "in the darkest ages of Christianity". The manner, in which Manfred's evil is absorbed by a "nearby convent", encompasses Otranto's Catholic and Walpole's Protestant society's values, connecting their respective social contexts as a revenant.

Like in Otranto, Dreyer utilises religious and mythological imagery in Vampyr to justify death as a representation of the revenant. Constant camera cutting to the close up of a bell-tolling grim reaper figure refers to the mythological Ancient Greek Styx river boatman, visually associating Allan's forecoming death with the digging of a grave through ghostly flickering film. Dr Dufast, a zeitgeist of 18th Century Faustian folklores as one whom has sold his soul to the Devil, condemns mankind's greed without thought for consequence - in this case, condemned to be Marguerite Chopin's eternal pawn. As a doctor, he is figurative of physically harming procedures of medieval European medicine, at odds with the modern social context of ethical practices of medicine. The hotel ladder, referencing Jacob's ladder to heaven, and the painting of a funeral in Allan's room are lead-ins to his burial (shown abnormally through a POV within his own coffin) which is statistically representative of the burials of young men across Europe following world war one. The war's after effects are constantly showcased as a zeitgeist of disabilities and social problems through a plethora of fear invoking, inverted distorted shadows, guttering candles and war-damaged houses, accompanied by mournful ambivalent music that brings death from a phantasmagorical environment into social reality.

Similarly, death and religion are used as a basis upon which Walpole builds Otranto's complex plot, which is compressed into the duration of two nights. Walpole asks the reader to excuse the "air of miraculous" in order to accept a society "in the darkest ages of Christianity, but with language and conduct" consistent with the 19th century. Set in "the aera (sic) of the first crusade", the religious war is transposed as one between religion and rationality, literally interpreted as Jerome and Alfonso's ethics against Manfred's, or symbolically between Otranto's society and Walpole's rational one. The warring of good and evil from different times is spurned by supernatural events, such as the prophecy decreeing "Otranto should pass from the present family…" forming the basis for Alfonso's symbolic appearance as an "enormous helmet" to crush Conrad. Manfred's "usurpation of power" is dealt with by Alfonso's grandson Theodore, as "the blood of Alfonso cried to heaven for vengeance", an intertextually reference to Shakespeare's 16th century play Hamlet, in which the revenant is represented as a deathly force, similar to Vampyr. Conrad and Matilda's deaths tie the death of family members to the martyred deaths during Crusades. The 5 part play structure and framing device as a discovered manuscript represent Walpole's uncertainties about the past, and the figure of Manfred, with his primal crime and bullying of the Jerome (figurative of the Church) for "obedience" and "fidelity" recognises him as the revenant of a feudal baron into Walpole's society. Manfred, the "savage, inhumane monster" who subverts the deep sense of social duty and chivalry that was a virtue of gallant men in those times, is shown as the horror of the text embodying "the power of darkness", contrasting the virtues and moral values of the Church upheld by Hippolita (whose "soul is pure as virtue itself"), an intertextual reference to Chaucer's Canterbury tales.

Like Otranto, Vampyr also utilises social and cultural values as a revenant. The use of a vampire, which Dreyer admits as "the fashionable thing of the time", is a reversion to the 18th century European 'Vampire Hysteria', literally representing the horrors of the undead (or a physical revenant) through clothing and artefacts of a bygone era and diegetic horror film minor chords. Vampyr's clichéd fascination for the past, use of exotic setting, and stimulation of the macabre through a focus on irrationality are features of Dreyer's gothic revisit to a bygone era. The ethereal symbolism of the fog and eerie non-diegetic instrumentals of the opening scenes, in which Allan crosses the river (a Celtic reference to the entrance of the netherworlds, otherwise the surrealistic Countenpierre village) is described by Jacques Derrida as "neither being nor non-being", or a mixture of reality and dreamscape in which distinction between real and unreal is blurred. The irrationality of a semi-silent, diurnally indistinct environment is heightened by an unreliable narrator's ambiguous and claustrophobic camera work, challenging the viewer's subconscious reliance upon logic. Allan Gray's nonchalant acceptance of his current dreamscape (reminiscent of the Dada art movement of WW1) and the drawn out events over the single night, is explained by "his studies of devil worship and vampire terror of earlier centuries", historically supporting Dreyer's subversion of normalcy as a revenant.

The distinctive 19th century value of Dreyer's times are manipulated to accommodate a host of physical and social conventions from different eras and cultures, representing the revenant. Similarly, Walpole's fusion of 12th and 18th century social conventions and themes express a parallel representation of the revenant.