In relation to architecture, it may be useful to define the concept of ‘Gothic’, which first belonged to the medieval period in Europe, from about 12th to 16th centuries. The characteristics included the pointed arch, large ribbed vaults and large, high windows, and later the flying buttress. The style was applied mainly to churches and cathedrals, therefore having religious and ecclesiastical connotations, though stately homes, convents and monasteries also adopted it. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, its revival coincided with the popularity of the Gothic genre in English fiction, often quoted as having originated with Horace Walpole’s ‘The Castle of Otranto’ (Walpole 1764). The underlying ethos seems to be one of highly charged emotional content, thrilling sensationalism and a rejection of the rational and classical clarity with determined the Enlightenment. Gothic fiction and architecture would seem to seek to extend beyond normal, rational boundaries in society and to find instead, a more exciting form of expression and stimulation – almost taking reader and characters to the brink of insanity through the alteration of perceived reality.
Certainly, the Gothic literary conventions call up childhood fears, myths, legends and superstitions, and in so doing, overturn common perceptions and distort reality. Just as it is impossible to fully understand the workings of the human mind, the environments created in the fiction are difficult to grasp, alien and mysterious and possibly reflecting, in the form of the deep, dark pits and dungeons, an allegorical picture of psychic depths beyond our conscious knowledge. Robert Barry (1995) states that:
In ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, Poe creates an atmosphere of increasing tension and doom, launching into a description which engages the