Last week I mentioned in the sermon how there are trace literary elements of the Gothic genre which can be seen in the story of Jonah. In this blog, I’d like expand on that notion.
The Gothic genre is often misunderstood in our culture. For many, when they hear the word Gothic, their first thought is some morose teenager in dark clothing with dark eyeliner listening to punk type music. However, the genre of Gothic literature (and other aspects of the Gothic age) has little to do with this image. Instead, much of what what the Gothic era represents is the largeness of life.
The Gothic genre sought to go away from the middle age idea of fanciful romanticism while also shying away from the emerging tendency toward realistic novels. The time frame of the Gothics falls between 1790 to 1830, though there are earlier and later examples. In the stories, “The basic plot created many other Gothic staples, including a threatening mystery and an ancestral curse, as well as countless trappings such as hidden passages and oft-fainting heroines.”
What the Gothic writers attempted to do was create stories which played on the aspects of the human condition by adding suspense, superstition, and the human relationship. Stories also include a protagonist, an enemy, and some horror and dread. Furthermore, institutions which had once been seen as safe havens are now places to fear (as in monasteries, churches, etc.)
“Even though the Gothic Novel deals with the sublime and the supernatural, the underlying theme of the fallen hero applies to the real world as well. Once we look past the terror aspect of this literature, we can connect with it on a human level. Furthermore, the prevalent fears of murder, rape, sin, and the unknown are fears that we face in life. In the Gothic world they are merely multiplied.”
Examples of this genre include Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Bran Stoker's Dracula, Ann Radcliffe The Mysteries of Udolpho, and The Monk by Matthew Lewis.
Now, what connection does the Gothic genre have with the story of Jonah? In the story of Jonah there are a multitude of big events and bigger than life mistakes made by Jonah. Jonah is a fallen hero. As the quote above suggests, once you get past the big fish, the dying leaf, and the journey to Tarshish, what you come away with is a man who is a true antihero in the story. Jonah allows his fears, and his dislike of the Babylonians, to guide his moral compass instead of allowing God to be his guide. Jonah believes he can control his own destiny, and as such, makes large mistakes which are met by even bigger resolutions.
This week in the sermon, I will be discussing the role that Shelley’s Frankenstein has in the story of Jonah. As I do, think about the genre of the Gothics, and see the hints of romanticism in the Jonah, the horror in Jonah, the mistakes in Jonah, and how God resolves the issues.