The Modernization of the Gothic Romance: Twilight

Stephanie Meyer follows a well known formula in “Twilight”. The Gothic Romance has been around since 1794, and for simplicity, we’ll quote Wikipedia, defining it as “a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror and romance” but part of the further definition that I think specifically applies to “Twilight” is that “Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror” that Meyer really tapped into.  It doesn’t have quite all of the Gothic themes, as Edward wryly asks, “What did you expect? Coffins, dungeons, and moats?” Yes, actually.  However she does stick to the rules for the Gothic novel.  “The literary Gothic embodies an appreciation of the joys of extreme emotion, the thrills of fearfulness and awe inherent in the sublime, and a quest for atmosphere.” Meyer modernized the form with “Twilight” but the classic elements are still present.

Meyer finds extreme emotion in the classic Romance trope, paramour love. Lancelot and Guinevere are probably the most classic best example of paramour love, the secret, excruciatingly passionate love that MUST be denied at all costs. Knights would declare their love for unobtainable noblewomen, and then go on crusades to prove the purity of their love.  Paramour is from the Middle English ‘par amour’, for the sake of love. Bella and Edward definitely (at least in “Twilight”) epitomize this type of love, much like Jake Sully and Neytiri in the movie “Avatar”. Both examples are from different species entirely, yet find a love that is wildly passionate and world shattering. 

I’m not sure if I’d call the vampires in “Twilight” sublime, but she does claim that their beauty is awe inspiring and they are formidable and fearsome.  Bella is certainly dazzled, and so were most of Meyer's female readers.  Her "fearlessness" in face of the sublime vampires is definitely a character trait to which many readers responded.

Meyer uses the “scene in the woods” with Bella and Edward to try and establish some of that Gothic atmosphere.  I think the baseball scene in the film version actually does a better job with atmosphere, but we are talking about the book here.  A creepy old cabin would have really iced the Gothic cake in that scene but then again, she was modernizing things a bit.  The dreary beach scene at La Push also really is a page right out of some of the classic Gothic English fiction.
Quality of the text aside, I think writers would do well to remember that just because a novel might be for modern young adults, modern YA fiction can have classic elements.