Fear, Sex and Death – The role of Taboo in Gothic Literature

Fear and Fascination 

  • Do you enjoy being frightened by horror movies of books?
  • Is you eye ever drawn to horrible stories in newspapers?
  • Have you ever seen a crowd of people gather round an accident or a crime scene?
  • Do you feel an adrenalin rush when you are frightened?


  • Do your family every talk about sex and death at the dinner table?
  • How many euphemisms can you think of for: Death? Sex? Disease? Infidelity? Suicide?
  • Was Gothic fiction an outlet for these taboo subjects?
  • Is this why metaphor and symbolism is used so much in Gothic fiction.

The Subconscious 

Fear is a central theme in Gothic Literature. It is also a theme of interest to many Psychologists and Psychiatrists. Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces sets out a theory that mythical creatures, including monsters, represent things in the subconscious. Many critics have looked at Gothic Literature with reference to Freud and Jung.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b017x0vm  -This programme is about sex and taboo, by Laurie Taylor.

The Vampire, by Philip Burne-Jones, 1897, painting


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