This introductory chapter sets out the purpose of the book, which is to suggest that the imprecision and extremes to which the Gothic has been subjected critically are in part a result of instability and cross-purposes in the form itself—a feature of the Gothic that has not yet received systematic attention. Contemporary and recent criticism alike has emphasized the remarkable coherence of the genre, of the routine likeness of one romance to another. The genre does achieve stability by repeating a certain pattern of accepted conventions but this should not mask the fact that the Gothic, throughout its florescence, is formally and stylistically marked by disequilibrium. Its recurrent concern with moments of scenic imbalance and dissolution, and its tendency towards formal unevenness suggest its practitioners' profound uncertainty about both its generic status and its intent. This aspect of the Gothic is apparent in both sophisticated and popular examples of the genre, and any serious revaluation of the Gothic must take it into account.
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