Spain and Southern Europe in Gothic literature/ Gothic literature in Spain

full name / name of organization: 
University of Cordoba (Spain)


As Dainotto notes in Europe (in theory) (2007), the conception of "modern" Europe, even as it is nowadays, has little to do with geographical boundaries but rather with geopolitical and economic interests. The construction of this notion takes place over a period of time when the Spanish empire has almost waned and other Northern European nations, mainly France and Britain, are competing for hegemonic power. It is thus during the Enlightenment that a specific ideological construct, that of a "modern" Europe, emerges founded on its rational precepts and progressive secularisation which characterise the industrious Northern Protestant Europeans. As notorious instances of British Gothic literature demonstrate (Walpole's Castle of Otranto, Lewis's The Monk (1796), Radcliffe's The Italian (1797), Dacre's Zofloya (1806), Shelley's Zastrozzi (1810) or Maturin's Melmoth The Wanderer (1820)) a particular map of enlightened progress and "Europeanness" is steadily drawn which excludes the South (Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece) and its inhabitants as the abject "other" of whose imperial splendour only ruins and degeneration remain. As clear evidence of that, anti-Catholicism and hispanophobia loom large in the late 18th century Gothic texts, a trend which has also been observed in many English literary and non-literary documents of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Following historically grounded interest in the Gothic in the last decade, critics (Watt 1999, Miles 2001, Wein 2002) have recognized in the rise of the genre a strong need to construct and assert a nationalist identity within Britain, based on an obvious antagonism with rival Catholic nations and values, a strategy initiated in the Early Modern period with the spreading of the Spanish Black Legend. It is from 1760 to 1820 in particular, when Britain finally achieves a leading position as industrial and colonial power that "Englishness", and by extension "modernity" and "Europeanness", is thus defined by opposition to the old-fashioned political regimes, terrifying irrational cultural practices, repressive institutions, and the excesses and perversion of Southern characters and nations, establishing a plain distinction between the North and the South in Europe, and by the same token, between the present and the past.

In early Gothic texts the cultures bordering the Mediterranean excited a mixture of fear and abhorrence among readers as Southerners (Spanish and Italian Catholics mainly) were portrayed as the quintessential embodiment of evil, while Spanish and Italian convents, castles like Otranto's, and oriental palaces like Vathek's stood typically as primitive uncivilised spaces of confinement, tyranny and perverse excess. Yet, as the Romantic period advances the Gothic mode seems to offer rather ambivalent accounts and conflicting images of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean as the hopeless part of Europe. Settings and characters are still cast in disparaging light but as Gothic and Romanticism develop abjection seems to coalesce, as Duggett's Gothic Romanticism (2010) argues, with a more romanticised and exoticising gaze on Southerners and Southern Europe that includes mainly Spain and Italy but also Portugal, Greece and by extension the Ottoman Empire.

This international conference aims at drawing together scholars interested in Gothic literature in English from a historical perspective focusing on the rise of the Gothic in Britain and the parallel definition and consolidation of (a) national identity/ies within Europe. This self-defining process in the English-speaking territories is the more complex because it does not only take place across the North/South divide separating white Northern Protestant Europeans (Anglo-Saxons) from darker Southern Catholic (or Muslim) Europeans. It also encompasses the problematic building of a monolithic identity within the British Isles. Although the conference's main concern is with representations of Spain and "Spanishness" in Gothic literature written in English, its European scope allows for a wider examination of the representation of Southern Europe and Europeans as the antagonists of British, and Northern European civilisation and culture. We also welcome contributions concerned with the reception of English Gothic literature and the adaptation of this genre/mode to Spanish literature. How is British Gothic received in Spain despite being so markedly anti-Catholic and hispanophobic? Does a native Spanish Gothic literature take hold and develop during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries?

Participants are invited to send 20-minute-papers and roundtable proposals in English. Key aspects for discussion will include but not be limited to the following:

-The representation of Spain and "Spanishness" in Gothic writing.
-The relevance and persistence of the early modern Spanish Black Legend in Gothic fiction.
-Southern locations and spaces as sources of terror: houses, convents, dungeons, prisons, castles, palaces, court houses…
-Southern Europeans as figures of evil and monstrosity in European Gothic fiction.
-The Southern "Other" as monster and/or hero-villain.
-Catholicism and Islamism in Gothic fiction.
-Spanish religious and political institutions as monstrous entities.
-Spanish characters, customs and traditions as source of terror and horror in the Gothic.
-Spanish architecture and locations as settings of terror and horror stories.
-Ethnicity, terror and horror in Anglo-American Gothic fiction: "Hispanophobia"
-Early translations of English and European Gothic in Spain.
-The genesis of Spanish Gothic literature: importation, adaptation and specific traits of this genre/mode.

A selection of papers on the representation of Spain and the South of Europe in Gothic literature written in English will be published after the conference.

Deadline: 300-word proposal in English should be sent before November 15, 2012 to:

Mª Luisa Pascual Garrido (
Juan Luís Pérez de Luque (
Dpto. Filología inglesa y alemana
Facultad de Filosofía y Letras
Universidad de Córdoba
Córdoba 14071

Notification of acceptance by December 15, 2012.

Fees for participants:
90 euros (paid before January 10, 2013)
110 euros (after January 10, 2013)

Scientific committee
Antonio Ballesteros González (UNED)
Bernhard Dietz Guerrero (University of Córdoba)
Julián Jiménez Heffernan (University of Córdoba)
Míriam López Santos (University of León)
Julio A. Olivares Merino (University of Jaén)