What is the Gothic style?
'Gothic' is one of those terms that we all come across but only
few understands. This word has been used to describe various
elements of our culture like art, architecture, literature, music
and also fashion. But all we can spew out in response to the above
asked question are disjointed works like 'dark', 'destructive',
'medieval' and 'scary'. Let us try to form a thread of meaning from
these unrelated words.
Origin of the word 'Gothic':
To describe the Gothic style, you must get into the etymology of the word Gothic. It comes from the word 'Goth'. The Goths were a Germanic tribe that flourished during the last leg of the Roman empire. In fact, the Visigoth (a part of the tribe) were the first ones in history to overrun the city of Rome. Rome with all its classical architecture and art was supposed to be an epitome of culture. So, when the Goths destroyed Rome, they destroyed civilization. Therefore, the connotations of uncouth, destructive and uncivilized were attached to the Gothic style.
Sometime around the 12 century BC, the long columned style of architecture became popular in Europe. These Gothic architecture designs had high ceilings, flying buttresses (a support structure that reduces the role of pillars) and huge stained glass windows. The Gothic style of building is totally contrary to the Roman Classical style. No circular domes or arches and a total aversion for the use of pillars. The best example of Gothic architecture is probably the cathedral of Notre Dame in France. Compare it to the Parthenon in Rome to understand the difference. Again, anything that did not follow the Roman standards of symmetry and order was termed as 'Gothic', meaning 'scary' or 'unpolished' in this case.
To put it in simple words, melodramatic mystery novels were called Gothic novels. Horror and anticlimactic endings were the defining elements of this kind of literature. 'The Castle Of Otranto' was the first example. Many un-put-downable horror stories from the likes of Ann Radcliffe and the Bronte sisters followed. Gothic literature was looked down upon (that is why the name 'Gothic') as a source of cheap entertainment and weak story telling. But it has given us classics like 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Jane Eyre'.
The term 'Gothic' was used to describe the grunge movements in music many years after it was over. It basically refers to punk music. The element of nihilism or an apocalyptic perspective that is present in punk music earned the name Gothic. Some bands like 'Sex Pistols' in England and even 'Doors' (Jim Morrison's band) was referred to as Gothic.
The Gothic style was used in makeup, fashion, paintings and all means of modern art. We can relate to it in a better way if we know its origins. Share with us what more you know about the Gothic style?