Urban Gothic

Urban Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction, film horror and television dealing with industrial and post-industrial urban society. It was pioneered in the mid-19th century in Britain, Ireland and the United States and developed in British novels such as Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), and Irish novels such as Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). In the twentieth century, urban Gothic influenced the creation of the subgenres of Southern Gothic and suburban Gothic. From the 1980s, interest in the urban Gothic revived with books like Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and a number of graphic novels that drew on dark city landscapes, leading to adaptations in film including Batman (1989), The Crow (1994) and From Hell (2001), as well as influencing films like Seven (1995).[1]

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde poster edit2
Poster for Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde from the 1880s



Tom All Alones.2
An illustration from Charles Dickens' Bleak House of Tom All Alones, the urban slum credited as a major influence on the development of the genre

In English literature, the architectural Gothic revival and classical Romanticism gave rise to the Gothic novel in the second half of the eighteenth century, often dealing with dark themes in human nature against medieval backdrops and with elements of the supernatural.[2] Beginning with The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, it was perfected as a literary form by Ann Radcliffe in novels such as The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1789), A Sicilian Romance (1790) and The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794).[3] It also included Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) and John Polidori's The Vampyre (1819), which helped found the modern horror genre.[4] This helped create the dark romanticism or American Gothic Fiction of authors like Edgar Allan Poe in works including "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839) and "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1842) and Nathaniel Hawthorne in "The Minister's Black Veil" (1836) and "The Birth-Mark" (1843).[5] This in turn influenced American novelists like Herman Melville in works such as Moby Dick (1851).[6] Early Victorian Gothic novels that employed contemporary rural settings included Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847) and Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847).[7]

Whereas these early Gothic novels had tended to use the city as a starting point and then moved to rural locations, abandoning the settings and securities of urban civilisation for wild and dangerous rural regions, the Gothic novels of the mid-nineteenth century began to reverse this process, or were conducted entirely in the modern industrial city, which itself became a zone of liminality, danger and adventure, and from the late twentieth century have been referred to as urban Gothic.[8] Robert Mighall sees the urban Gothic as a genre arising in London in the mid-nineteenth century out of the critique of the impact of industrialisation that led to the discourse on urban reform that can be seen in City Mystery genre, including The Mysteries of Paris (1842–43) and the works of authors like G. W. M. Reynolds' Mysteries of London (1844–8) as well as the stories of Charles Dickens', Oliver Twist (1837–8) and Bleak House (1854).[9] These pointed to the juxtaposition of wealthy, ordered and affluent civilisation next to the disorder and barbarity of the poor within the same metropolis. Bleak House in particular is credited with seeing the introduction of urban fog to the novel, which would become a frequent characteristic of urban Gothic literature and film.[10]

The urban Gothic genre that developed in the Victorian Fin de siècle, beginning with Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), was influenced by these views of a hidden city, the Whitechapel murders, by Charles Darwin's ideas on natural selection, and later by Freud's ideas about the human mind.[10] They often incorporated ideas about the influence of modern science on life and the mixture of science and the supernatural in urban Gothic novels has led Katherine Spencer to describe them as "a mediating form between science fiction and fantasy."[11] Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde restated traditional debates about the nature of good and evil, using motifs from folklore, but with a modern and scientific explanation.[12] Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), similarly revisited the concept of a Faustian Pact, but in a modern social context.[13] Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) utilised the eastern fringes of Europe in Transylvania as a point of origin for the arrival in modern provincial and then metropolitan London society of a creature from folklore.[14] In the early twentieth century, the urban Gothic was extended to other cities, like Paris, utilised in Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera (1909–10).[8]

Modern interpretations

A dark alley in the French Quarter of New Orleans at night, part of the distinctive architecture that made it the centre of Gothic novels by authors including Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite

From the twentieth century urban Gothic helped to spawn other subgenres, including Southern Gothic, using the Southern United States as a location,[15] and later Suburban Gothic, which shifted the focus from the urban centre to the residential periphery of modern society.[16] Since the 1980s Gothic horror fiction and urban Gothic in particular has revived as a genre, with series of novels like Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and Poppy Z. Brite's Lost Souls,[17] both making New Orleans a key centre of Gothic fantasy.[18] Urban Gothic themes and images were also used in comics and graphic novels, including Frank Miller's Daredevil (from 1979), Batman (from 1986) and Sin City series (from 1991), James O'Barr's The Crow, beside Alan Moore's From Hell (from 1991) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (1999).[19]


Urban Gothic novels were among the earliest and most influential works adapted for the cinema, helping to form the genre of horror film. These included Nosferatu (1922), The Phantom of the Opera (1925), Dracula (1931) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941).[20] After World War II, emphasis shifted to films that more often drew inspiration from the insecurities of life, utilising new technology and dividing into three the subgenres of horror-of-personality, the horror-of-Armageddon and the horror-of-the-demonic.[21] However, during the late 1950s and early 1960s, the British company Hammer Film Productions enjoyed huge international success from Technicolor films involving classic Gothic horror characters, often starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, particularly Dracula (1958), which resulted in many sequels into the 1970s.[17] The 1983 vampire film The Hunger provided a highly influential modernised and urbanised version of Gothic culture.[17] The same themes have been revisited periodically in films like Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).[22] From the late 1980s urban Gothic-influenced comics were the basis for a number of films that drew on dark city landscapes including: Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), The Crow (1994), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), Blade (1998), From Hell (2001), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), Sin City (2005) and Watchmen (2009). Other films dealing with similar dark themes and urban landscapes include: Seven (1995), Dark City (1998), Fight Club,[23] Hamlet (2000), American Psycho (2000), Underworld (2003), The Machinist (2004) and Darling (2015).[1]


  1. ^ a b S. Macek, Urban Nightmares: the Media, the Right, and the Moral Panic Over the City (University of Minnesota Press, 2006), pp. 240–1.
  2. ^ F. Botting, Gothic (CRC Press, 1996), pp. 1–2.
  3. ^ R. Miles, Ann Radcliffe: the Great Enchantress (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995).
  4. ^ S. T. Joshi, Icons of Horror and the Supernatural: an Encyclopedia of our Worst Nightmares (Greenwood, 2007), p. 250.
  5. ^ S. T. Joshi, Icons of Horror and the Supernatural: an Encyclopedia of our Worst Nightmares, Volume 1 (Greenwood, 2007), p. 350.
  6. ^ A. L. Smith, American Gothic Fiction: an Introduction (Continuum, 2004), p. 79.
  7. ^ D. David, The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 186.
  8. ^ a b R. Mighall, "Gothic Cities", in C. Spooner and E. McEvoy, eds, The Routledge Companion to Gothic (Routledge, 2007), pp. 54–72.
  9. ^ R. Mighall, A Geography of Victorian Gothic Fiction: Mapping History's Nightmares (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).
  10. ^ a b R. Mighall, "Gothic Cities", in C. Spooner and E. McEvoy, eds, The Routledge Companion to Gothic (Routledge, 2007), pp. 56–7.
  11. ^ K. Spencer. "Victorian urban Gothic: the first fantastic literature", in G. E. Slusser and E. S. Rabkin, eds, Intersections: Fantasy and Science Fiction (SIU Press, 1987), p. 91.
  12. ^ B. M. Stableford, Space, Time, and Infinity: Essays on Fantastic Literature (Wildside Press LLC, 1998), p. 174.
  13. ^ James B. Twitchell, The Living Dead: a Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature (Duke University Press, 1987), p. 171.
  14. ^ S. Arata, Fictions of Loss in the Victorian Fin de Siècle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 111.
  15. ^ A. L. Smith, American Gothic Fiction: an Introduction (Continuum, 2004), pp. 121–3.
  16. ^ B. Murphy, The Suburban Gothic in American Popular Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).
  17. ^ a b c J. G. Melton, The Vampire Book: the Encyclopedia of the Undead (Visible Ink Press, 1994), pp. 298–303.
  18. ^ G. Hoppenstand and R. B. Browne, eds, The Gothic World of Anne Rice (Popular Press, 1996).
  19. ^ A. W. Smith, "Gothic and the Graphic Novel", in C. Spooner and E. McEvoy, eds, The Routledge Companion to Gothic (Routledge, 2007), pp. 251–9.
  20. ^ K. Spencer, Film and Television Scores, 1950–1979: A Critical Survey By Genre (McFarland, 2008), pp. 222–3.
  21. ^ J. B. Weaver and R.C. Tamborini, Horror Films: Current Research on Audience Preferences and Reactions (Routledge, 1996), p. 3.
  22. ^ D. J. Skal, The Monster Show: a Cultural History of Horror (Macmillan, 2001), p. 392.
  23. ^ K. Sterling, "Dr Jekyll and Mr Jackass: Fight Club as a refraction of Hogg's Justified Sinner and Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde", in S. O. Jaén and C. Gutleben, eds, Refracting the Canon in Contemporary British Literature and Film (Amsterdamn: Rodopi, 2004), ISBN 90-420-1050-9, p. 84.
Alicya Eyo

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Alison Pargeter

Alison Pargeter (born 31 May 1972) is an English actress who played the roles of stalker Sarah Cairns in the BBC soap opera EastEnders, also Mary Slessor in an 11-part television series of Mary Slessor, and the Nag's Head barmaid called Val in the BBC Only Fools and Horses prequel Rock & Chips.

Anita Dobson

Anita Dobson (born 29 April 1949) is an English stage, film and television actress, and singer. She is known for her role from 1985 to 1988 as Angie Watts in the BBC soap opera EastEnders. In 1986, she reached number four in the UK Singles Chart with "Anyone Can Fall in Love", a song based on the theme music of EastEnders.

Dobson's other television roles include the 1989 ITV sitcom Split Ends. In 2003, she was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Actress for the National Theatre production of Frozen. She has also starred in the West End as Mama Morton in the musical Chicago (2003) and Gertrude in Hamlet (2005), and made her RSC debut in the 2012 revival of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Her film appearances include Darkness Falls (1999) and London Road (2015).

David J. Howe

David J. Howe is a British writer, journalist, publisher, and media historian.

Davinia Taylor

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Flora Montgomery

Flora Anne Selina Montgomery (born 4 January 1974) is a Northern Irish actress.

Lindsey Coulson

Lindsey Coulson (born 1960) is an English actress, best known for her role as Carol Jackson in the BBC soap opera EastEnders. For this role, she won the 2000 British Soap Award for Best Dramatic Performance. She starred in the 2004 TV film She's Gone opposite Ray Winstone and the 2005 TV film The Stepfather opposite Philip Glenister. Her other TV credits include Clocking Off (2001) Murder Investigation Team (2003–05) and The Street (2006).

List of science fiction television programs, U

This is an inclusive list of science fiction television programs whose names begin with the letter U.

Otto Bathurst

Otto Benjamin Charles Bathurst (born June 1971) is a British television and film director. In 2014 he won a BAFTA for his work on BBC drama Peaky Blinders. He was also previously BAFTA nominated for his work on BBC series Criminal Justice and Five Days.In 2011, Bathurst directed "The National Anthem", the first episode of science fiction anthology series Black Mirror.In 2018, he directed Robin Hood, starring Jamie Dornan as Will Scarlett, Jamie Foxx as Little John, Tim Minchin as Friar Tuck, Eve Hewson as Maid Marian and Taron Egerton as the eponymous hero. The film was released on November 21, 2018.Bathurst has directed episodes of Urban Gothic, Teachers, Hustle and Margot, a biopic of Dame Margot Fonteyn starring Anne-Marie Duff, which focused upon the relationship between Fonteyn and Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev. He has been described as "Britain's most exciting director".

Paul Cartledge (music producer)

Paul Cartledge is a music producer specializing in media based projects including advertising, television, film, radio and digital.

He grew up in the Punk scene in the North West of England, playing in various bands. He was taken under the wing of Tony Visconti, record producer to David Bowie among others, and became the studio manager of Visconti's 'Good Earth Studios' in London. There he worked with many rock and pop artists including The Moody Blues, Elaine Paige, Les Rita Mitsouko, The Alarm, Big Audio Dynamite, Paul Oakenfold & Steve Osbourne with Happy Mondays, Captain Sensible, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Hazel O'Connor, Bros, S'Express, Derek B, and Ed Buller.

He went on to work for Joe & Co, the music production company owned by Joe Campbell & Paul Hart. He became house engineer and worked with many artists including Pink Floyd, Robert Plant, Dusty Springfield, Jon Secada, Roy Wood, Carl Wayne, Stephanie Lawrence, Ralph McTell, Georgie Fame, Charles Aznavour, Chrissie Hynde, Dead or Alive; his highest profile engineering credits being on two records, produced by Phil Ramone, for Frank Sinatra. He pioneered ISDN recording techniques and used this in work on film soundtracks, including Steven Zaillian's 'Searching For Bobby Fischer' and Henry Selick's 'James and the Giant Peach' produced by Tim Burton. Notable actors he has recorded include James Coburn, Sir Robert Stephens, Sir Ben Kingsley, Pete Postlethwaite, and David Thewlis.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Cartledge teamed up with Harrison Birtwistle protogé Philip Jewson to compose and produce music for the British cult drama Urban Gothic and has since worked with Jewson on an array of music for media projects. Together they own the Soho-based music production company ‘Yellow Boat Music Limited'.

He has kept the connection with Visconti alive recording vocals on a duet 'No Other God' between Placebo frontman Brian Molko And Kristeen Young, on the latter' Visconti produced album 'X' and is mentioned in his autobiography 'Bolan, Bowie and the boy from Brooklyn'.

Rory Jennings

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Simon Clark (novelist)

Simon Clark (born 20 April 1958) is a horror novelist from Doncaster, England. He is the author of the novel The Night of the Triffids, the novella Humpty's Bones, and the short story Goblin City Lights, which have all won awards.

Most of his stories are based in Yorkshire, his home county. He also uses a technique that he calls "The Art of Wandering". The idea for Goblin City Lights arose from wandering in a London graveyard.

South Presbyterian Church

South Presbyterian Church, usually just referred to as South Church, is located along Broadway (US 9) in Dobbs Ferry, New York, United States. Founded in 1820, it is currently in its second building, a stone Gothic Revival style structure dating to 1869. Members of the church have done much of the work on both buildings, and the church itself is actively involved in the community.

The main church building is the only known extant work of architect Julius Munckowitz. Two outbuildings, a manse and a house built by a former parishioner, were built around the same time and of similar materials but show traces of the Second Empire style, such as mansard roofs. They have changed very little since they were first opened, despite the conversion of one into a day care center. All three were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 as a well-preserved example of an urban Gothic Revival church.

Suburban Gothic

Suburban Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction, film and television, focused on anxieties associated with the creation of suburban communities, particularly in the United States, from the 1950s and 1960s onwards. It often, but not exclusively, relies on the supernatural or elements of science fiction that have been in wider Gothic literature, but manifested in a suburban setting.

Tasmanian Gothic

Tasmanian Gothic is a genre of Tasmanian literature that merges the traditions of Gothic fiction with the history and natural features of Tasmania, an island state south of the Australian continent. Tasmanian Gothic has inspired works in other artistic media, including theatre and film.

Telos Publishing

Telos Publishing Ltd. is a publishing company, originally established by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker, with their first publication being a horror anthology based on the television series Urban Gothic in 2001. The name comes from that of the fictional planet Telos from the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who.

Since being formed, Telos Publishing Ltd. has published a wide variety of works, from original novellas based on Doctor Who to original horror and fantasy novels. They also produce a variety of unofficial guide books to popular television and film series, as well as the Time Hunter series of novellas. Starburst magazine called them "perhaps the UK's best-known independent publishers of Doctor Who books".Telos have employed many unknown writers, and also publish work by known award-winning authors such as Graham Masterton and Simon Clark. They have also been nominated for a variety of awards in their own right, such as the Canadian Prix Aurora Award, and the British Fantasy Awards, where they won the PS Publishing Award for Best Small Press in 2010 and 2011. One of their publications, the Doctor Who novella Small Gods by Jonathan Blum and Kate Orman, won an Aurealis Award for Best Australian Science Fiction Novel, the first television tie-in to receive a major science-fiction award. Christopher Fowler's novella Breathe won the British Fantasy Society Award for best novella in 2005. In 2006, Telos' founders Howe and Walker won the World Fantasy Award for Best Non-Professional for their publishing work.

The Last Minute

The Last Minute is a 2001 British-American urban gothic film, written and directed by Stephen Norrington.

It shows a struggling man hitting bottom and finding light in unexpected places, and trying a huge alternative as the solution to his problems while giving up the life he recently found.

Urban Gothic (TV series)

Urban Gothic was a horror based series of short stories shown on Channel 5 running for two series between May 2000 and December 2001. Filmed on a low budget and broadcast in a later time-slot, it nonetheless acquired a following. It has also since been repeated on the Horror Channel.

Set around London there is an underlying story thread that only becomes clear in the last episodes of each series. Each episode was different in style from the others, running the gamut of documentary-style independent film to spoof, to slick dramas similar in style to The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone.

Urban Gothic (album)

Urban Gothic is the debut studio album of Xander Harris, a synthesizer music project of American musician Justin Sweatt. Sweatt, having occasionally synthesizers when he first worked in psychedelic rock and noise music bands, was influenced to start a synthesizer music project by his friend Isobelle. The album's feel is inspired by the Brian Keene novel of the same name. The album was well-received by music journalists and landed on numerous publications' year-end lists, such as at number 50 on Fact's list of the 50 best releases of 2011.

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