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(Medieval, not classical)

I sometimes ask myself is a Theory of Everything Gothic possible?  As I try to answer this question I will examine the roots of the culture.  Goths themselves have always seemed to beyond any attempt at definition.


goth  
n.

1. A style of rock music that often evokes bleak, lugubrious imagery.
2. A performer or follower of this style of music.

From Gothic(from a view of Gothic styles or genres as dark or gloomy).

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition


Goths often have a fascination with medieval, Victorian and Edwardian history. Some of this has come from the culture of birth - the UK punk scene… or was it perhaps there is a little more to this culture than at first I thought...

We see lines of demarcation drawn between so called "Traditional" Goths (Trad-Goths), Next Generation Goths, Wannabe Goths (teen-boppers in black), Newbie/Baby Goths, EBM/Electro Goths (a gothic version of the Raver), fetish goths (goths from the fetish scene), we also see new wave, dark wave, next wave and a lot of made up names with no meaning.

When I first encountered goths I encountered only the liberal, traditional and mostly Christian variety. I was taught about gothic sharing and friendliness. I was told of the new joke: "pink is the new black"; I was taken under the wing of many life long goths and I learned the culture I had discovered, loved and came to see it as mine (write what you know).

Let us get one thing clear “goth” is a word and a name it started in a very strange way with no idea where it would come from and it started like this:


goth  

n.

A member of a Germanic people who invaded the Roman Empire in the early centuries of the Christian era.

From Middle English Gothes, Goths, from Late Latin Goth , of Germanic origin; akin to Old English Gota, and Old Norse Goti, Goth.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition


This fits very well with the idea of “not classic” but where does that idea come from?

It comes from the gothic novel the often surprising and strangely twisted world that brought us Frankenstein, Edger Allen Poe and a thousand Ghost stories.

It was the "fault" of one man (Horace Walpole) who needed to invent a new word or give new meanings to an old one.


Goth adv.

Word History: The combination Gothic romance represents a union of two of the major influences in the development of European culture, the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes that invaded it. The Roman origins of romance must be sought in the etymology of that word, but we can see clearly that Gothic is related to the name Goth used for one of those invading Germanic tribes. The word Gothic, first recorded in 1611 in a reference to the language of the Goths, was extended in sense in several ways, meaning “Germanic,” “medieval, not classical,” “barbarous,” and also an architectural style that was not Greek or Roman. Horace Walpole applied the word Gothic to his novel The Castle of Otranto, a Gothic Story (1765) in the sense “medieval, not classical.” From this novel filled with scenes of terror and gloom in a medieval setting descended a literary genre still popular today; from its subtitle descended the name for it.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition


It was clearly to this (the 1765 new wave of literature) that the reference (first made by the media) was made. We could say that the gothic culture started back in 18th Century.

"I think a few people might be confusing an aesthetic which has been with us for centuries with recent manifestations of said aesthetic… 'Goth' will be around as long as people are. It's simply that in future times it will be expressed in ways we cannot yet imagine and probably wouldn't immediately recognize. However, looking more closely we might see the common thread back to our time and those which came before." -- VXL (SlashGoth)

But in and of itself the very word is rich and this richness is hidden by the vagueness of a culture for which it has been fashionable to deny membership thereof. Again, we boil back to the punk rebellion against the control of popular culture (among other things). It was this backlash against conformity that launched a sub culture to the point that it became a named sub-culture.

“As new ideas are embraced, things just get a bit more interesting. There was a time when even the Nephilim were considered to be bugger all to do with goth!!Would you really want to live in a world where nothing ever changed?

"We used to take the kiddie-goths under our wing rather than trying to keep them out of the scene. If they're really into it, then they'll stick around. If not, then sooner or later they'll bugger off back to top-shop.” -- Mav (SlashGoth)

Change as a stable component! But even with this change there will always be those that will cling with all they have to the moment fearful and unwilling to allow change this is human nature and will not easily bend to a culture.  

As a result there will always be those who consider themselves a goth and will try to define it differently.  (Not to mention those who don't know what their culture is a call themselves goth inappropriately).

“True gothicism comes from the inside not about wearing new rocks or black eyeliner. I have met people who claim toi be goths who have never heard of Edgar Allan Poe. What a Joke?” -- child_of_darkness (SlashGoth)

Lest even goths forget the history of the word (as they will and have):


goth  

adj.

  1.  
    1. Of or relating to the Goths or their language.
    2. Germanic; Teutonic.
  2. Of or relating to the Middle Ages; medieval.
  3.  
    1. Of or relating to an architectural style prevalent in western Europe from the 12th through the 15th century and characterized by pointed arches, rib vaulting, and a developing emphasis on verticality and the impression of height.
    2. Of or relating to an architectural style derived from medieval Gothic.
  4. Of or relating to painting, sculpture, or other art forms prevalent in northern Europe from the 12th through the 15th century.
  5. often gothic Of or relating to a style of fiction that emphasizes the grotesque, mysterious, and desolate.
  6. gothic Barbarous; crude.

n.

  1. The extinct East Germanic language of the Goths.
  2. Gothic art or architecture.
  3. often gothic Printing.
    1. See black letter.
    2. See sans serif.
  4. A novel in a style emphasizing the grotesque, mysterious, and desolate.

Or to put it without tact as one townie did for me once:  Goth is all about retro this is of course right but utterly wrong.

"Does music make the goth? Not entirely perhaps, but it's safe to say that shared musical taste is a defining aspect of the gothic subculture."-- http://www.netgoth.org.uk/music/

It must be said that eventually in order to pin down and head toward the Theory of Everything Gothic one must inevitably refer to music. Music culture likes to shock, surprise and draw attention to itself in any way it can. It is modern theatre. But do not confuse reality and drama. This mist of understanding is both the bane and the blessing:

“…it would be better for the goth scene to die out (and re-emerge, fresh, sometime in the future) than to become merged with the mainstream… however i think bands like slipknot and marilyn manson are a blessing to goths-- they confuse non-goths, and provide a 'safety net' into which all these wannabes (though i hate to use the word) fall before they come anywhere near us.”  --Deniel (SlashGoth)

“In the aftermath of the student and staff murders at Columbine high school... the media searched for simple reasons to explain the terrible tragedy. Some reporters bypassed the obvious causes (two teens having easy access to handguns and rifles... their lack of respect for human life... lack of hope for the future)... Some reporters mentioned that the alleged perpetrators followed the Goth culture. A few reporters have incorrectly associated Goth with Satanism, violence, white supremacy and intolerance. The implication was that the Goth culture had been the cause of the alleged perpetrators' obsession with revenge, and thus is at least partly responsible for the homicides.” -- http://www.religioustolerance.org/goth.htm

Clearly not everyone understands the Goth scene as it is now but this has not always been the case. Struggling to come up with a definition (a theory of everything) a forgotten media type used the word Goth - The word Goth is the theory of everything for the Gothic culture.

Now, I feel it only fair to let the last word go to another.

“As to the future, I suppose goth is bound to change, as it has done before. There are trad goths (like me), and there are cyber goths, which I only knew existed for about the past 4 years. That's not a mutation out of trad goth is it? It's a hybrid. I think we can look forward to seeing more hybridisation of goth in the future. There's bound to be a lot more crossover of skate punks and nu-metallers into the goth scene, which may dilute it somewhat. The answer to that is either to incorporate (and tame?) those influences or to go into retreat and maintain events like Whitby as refuges of goth 'purity';" -- David-in-Cardiff  (SlashGoth)


References: As stated plus:

  • Personal history
  • http://www.Dictionary.com
  • http://slashgoth.org
  • http://www.religioustolerance.org/goth.htm
  • http://www.netgoth.org.uk/

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