Great Women Writers of Gothic Literature You Should Know About

From Mary Shelley to Ann Radcliffe, these are some of the most representative novelists of Gothic literature. Do you know them?

Old manors, castles, monasteries, and dark woods. The appearance of supernatural creatures such as vampires, werewolves, ghosts, or spirits. The frightening lady and rampant passion, as well as the unbridled feelings of many of the characters: are the most representative characteristics of Gothic literature, an iconography that years later would be adapted for the cinema with great popularity.

Developed under the genre of the novel and emerged in the 19th century in England, the gothic current was so popular that it was replicated in other frontiers, and the novels in English were translated into other languages. The novel was the perfect medium for several women writers to stand out, although sometimes they had to do it under pseudonyms, or under the scrutiny of editors or relatives who modified the works. However, this did not change or demerit their work, which centuries later is still in vogue. Meet some of the most important female writers to get started in gothic literature:


Ann Radcliffe

She is considered a standard bearer of the gothic novel, as her prose influenced dozens of other women to do the same. Six novels were enough to consecrate her. However, the most outstanding is The Mysteries of Udolpho.

Jane Austen

One of the writers Radcliffe influenced was Jane Austen, who gained renown for her period novels in which she criticized the middle and upper classes. She also dabbled in the Gothic. In particular, in her novel Northanger Abbey in which her protagonist is impressed after reading Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho.


Mary Shelley

Like Radcliffe, Shelley is another of those great writers of the time who stood out for her gothic themes, as well as for giving birth to science fiction. Her most recognized work is none other than Frankenstein, which has been adapted to film several times. Despite having been written in 1818, it is a text that is still in force and whose creature, according to The Guardian, even competes directly with Dracula, one of the most recognized supernatural characters in the world.

Emily Brönte

Of course, the Brönte sisters could not be missing from this list and Emily stands out for Wuthering Heights, which was initially published under the pseudonym of Ellis Bell and was not so well received by critics. However, like Shelley’s work, Brönte’s has stood the test of time and has become one of the great novels of its time.


Charlotte Brönte

Like her sister, Charlotte published Jane Eyre under a pseudonym (Currer Bell) in 1847, a novel in which she makes use of supernatural elements that merge with reality and logical explanations. She has five published novels, three during her lifetime, one posthumous, another that remained incomplete -it was finished by someone else- and a series of poems. Like the other writers on the list, Jane Eyre has also been adapted on several occasions. Brönte established herself as one of the most acclaimed romance writers in history.

Charlotte Turner Smith

A contemporary of Radcliffe and the Brönte sisters, Smith’s contribution to the Gothic novel also includes The Old Manor House, which like other works of the period is notable both for its detailed portrayal of society and its criticism of it, in combination with the elements characteristic of the Gothic.


Of course, there are many more outstanding women writers of the genre, although some have been forgotten in time, among them Sophia Lee, Elisabeth Helme, Harriet Lee, or Clara Revee, as well as others closer in time such as Flannery O’Connor or Shirley Jackson. All of them with novels that paint a gloomy, grim atmosphere, full of intrigue and even terror that has drawn thousands of readers.

Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva

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