Heathcliff on Cathy's grave. Image Source: Macmillan's Children's Publishing Group.
Gothic. Goths were eastern Germans who populated Central, Northern and Western Europe during the Roman period. Viewed by the Romans as barbarians, they were in fact sophisticated tribes. Early Gothic style, especially in architecture, pejoratively recalled these peoples' cultures in France in the 12th century, and evolved into an eponymous late medieval style by the 16th century.
The reason the term 'Gothic' became synonymous with today's counter-culture was precisely because it was originally considered to be the barbarous or rude northern and western 'other,' contrasting with the persistent influence of Romans' Mediterranean classicism. The latter was especially popular in its revived forms through the Renaissance and again through the 18th and 19th centuries. In other words, these two strands in European culture - the Gothic alternative and the Roman mainstream if you will - are perpetually brought back into fashion to compete with one another, in different ways and ever-new forms.
By the 18th and 19th centuries, a Gothic Revival recalled medieval times and merged with the Romantic naturalist reaction against the cerebral, secular and neo-classicist Enlightenment.
From that time until today, love stories have lent themselves to contemplation of these trends, because the lovers and supporting characters represent opposing sides to these arguments. The pinnacle of English Gothic Romanticism must be the moment in Emily Brontë's 1847 novel Wuthering Heights when Heathcliff embraces Cathy after death. Heathcliff represents raw, unbridled, violent and alien Romanticism. Cathy is a hybrid character who embodies Enlightenment ambitions and tastes, but she has a Romantic heart and soul. She dies as a result of her inability to reconcile these forces, her doomed love of Heathcliff becomes darkly Gothic.
Our contemplation of these forces continues. It is hard (and sad) to believe, but the lovers in Twilight and that series' sado-masochistic fanfic derivative, Fifty Shades of Grey, are the Millennial incarnations of Brontë's wild amorous protagonists.
Today, the Countdown to Hallowe'en continues exploring horror angles of this blog's themes, from love in the new Millennium, to the revival of 1920s' and 1930s' ideas during the 2000s and 2010s respectively. Below the jump, a clip from a film which presents the lovers of the Gothic Romantic, recast through the surreal lens of the 1930s. The film quoted is director Luis Buñuel's Spanish-Mexican version of Wuthering Heights, Abismos de Pasión. Buñuel originally adapted Brontë's novel in 1931.
Buñuel's efforts in Mexico followed on the heels of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. His surreal tropes in that country were not always embraced with open arms, because they turned familial norms and other social conventions inside out. Over time, however, Buñuel became appreciated in his adopted country. Dating from 1954 (it took him almost twenty years to raise the money to make the movie), his adaptation of Wuthering Heights is considered to be truer to the spirit of the novel than Hollywood versions. The scene shown is Heathcliff (Alejandro, played by Jorge Mistral) at Cathy's (Catalina, played by Irasema Dilián) gravesite.
Buñuel's admixture of surrealism well suits the wild uninhibited children of the Gothic Romantic, because surreal elements attacked rationalism with dreams and the imagination, and asserted that the latter flights of fancy are the genuine representations of rationalism. Any kind of disconsonant juxtaposition of two otherwise logical settings was meant to highlight the surreal challenge to ordered, rationalist landscapes. In short, surrealism presented the revolutionary notion that crazy was the new normal, and wasn't actually crazy.
It is as if surrealism marked another point of dialogue in western dualism, and gave way to a Hegelian third of trialism: an argument between the mind and the body becomes a contemplation of the spirit or the soul. Surrealism indicated another philosophical split between the real world and the virtual world, and incited yet another debate on which reality was the real reality.
In today's turn of the Millennium, this trademark pattern repeats. Conflicting opinion has never been sharper between revived 18th century neo-classical Enlightenment rationalism and the Romantic radical liberal embrace of the 'other.' In the battle between these two perspectives, a trialist Millennial crisis of consciousness overturns any certainty about reality, inspires a wayward loss of values, and makes distraction the most prominent Millennial sensibility.
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