Dark Imaginings: Gothic Tales of Wonder

Dark Imaginings: Gothic Tales of Wonder explores the emergence of an 18th-century Gothic sensibility in literature, art and music at the Noel Shaw Gallery, The University of Melbourne from Thursday 1 March until 31 July.

In 18th-century Europe, a revolutionary shift in literary and artistic expression took place which became known as ‘the Gothic’. This new creative genre took nightmarish images of barbarity, oppression and supernatural belief and fused them with a Romantic focus on imagination and emotion, to create a literary and artistic tradition of frightening and thrilling originality.

Showcasing the rich holdings from the Baillieu Library’s Special Collections, the exhibition tells the stories of graveyard poets, body snatchers and anatomists, and the pseudo-scientific craze of trying to bring dead creatures back to life with electric shock treatment. Accounts will be given of famous figures in the development of the gothic novel such as 18th century eccentrics, William Beckford and Horace Walpole who, not content with writing Gothic novels, also constructed elaborate Gothic buildings.

The exhibition will mark a number of important Gothic anniversaries, including the bicentenary of the first publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the 200th birthday of Emily Brontë, author of Wuthering Heights.

Co-curator Jen Hill said, “Dark imaginings will include much to excite lovers of Gothic literature, with early editions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Polidori’s The Vampyre: a tale and Horace Walpole’s The castle of Otranto: a gothic story, for example. We have also drawn on the University of Melbourne’s exceptional collection of prints from the 18th and 19th centuries including a stunning suite of mezzotint prints by 18th century master printmaker, John Martin. These, along with items illustrating the exhibition’s incursions into the realms of anatomy and science, are just some of what visitors will see in this exploration of that enduring artistic phenomenon: the Gothic”.

The exhibition will showcase rare books, prints and music from the Gothic period and will also include a mock drawing room setting where visitors can sit and read excerpts of Gothic fiction.

Visitors can engage with the exhibition through a diverse series of public programs, including a curator’s floor talk, public lectures on the development of Gothicism, Gothic fiction readings, a horror story writing workshop and a panel featuring emerging speculative fiction authors. All events are free but bookings are essential.

Image caption: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Frankenstein, or, The modern Prometheus, 3rd edition. Illustration by Theodor von Holst. London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley…, 1831. Rare Books, University of Melbourne Library.

Dark Imaginings: Gothic Tales of Wonder

Noel Shaw Gallery,

Baillieu Library

1 March – 31 July 2018

http://library.unimelb.edu.au/darkimaginings