Grand-Guignol as Twentieth Century Gothic Drama

Madelon Hoedt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The malleability of the Gothic mode has meant that it has always been able to adapt itself to a variety of media. In particular, Gothic drama has been a highly successful way of delivering its narratives. First gaining prominence in the late 18th century, alongside the first wave of Gothic novels, these plays were feted by long runs and huge audience numbers, as well as being on the cutting edge of developments in stagecraft and special effects. This changes in the early decades of the twentieth century: the never-ending stream of original play texts and adaptations of Gothic fiction dries up and, in the second half of the century, appears to give way to the efforts of filmmakers and more commercial forms of performance such as spookshows and scare attractions. Between these two sits, perhaps uncomfortably, the Grand-Guignol, the French Theatre of Horror. Offering a selection of one act plays, the Grand-Guignol includes both horror and comedy performances and focuses on realist plots over Gothic monsters. More horror than terror, more natural than supernatural, the Grand-Guignol appears as a rupture from the Gothic dramas that preceded it, yet the situation is more complex. The aim of this chapter is to offer an analysis of the Grand-Guignol as the meeting point between the conventions of the 18th and 19th century Gothic drama and as pre-empting the concerns of later horror films and performances. By providing a brief overview of the developments that came before and after, as well as some insights into the productions staged in early 20th century Paris, the chapter will position the Grand-Guignol as a necessary connection between the spectacle and melodrama of the Gothic stage, and the psychology and gore of twentieth-century horror cinema.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTwentieth Century Gothic
Subtitle of host publicationAn Edinburgh Companion
EditorsSorcha Ni Fhlainn, Bernice Murphy
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781474490153, 9781474490146
ISBN (Print)9781474490122
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022

Publication series

NameEdinburgh Companions to the Gothic
PublisherEdinburgh University Press


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