Kari Lokke has created a fantastic article in Project Muse about how to teach Letitia Landon’s “The Fairy of the Fountains” in a Gothic narrative course. Having often shied away from even thinking about teaching Gothic narrative, (because I have never taken a course about it specifically,) I felt this article was an eye-opening plethora of ideas about different works to pair together for comparison and contrasts in a Gothic course, in addition to specific ways of implementing “The Fairy of the Fountains” in the course.
The course about Gothic Literature began with the books The Castle of Otranto (Horace Walpole, 1764) and A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe. Suggested polemic pairings for a course about gothic narrative were “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Cristobel” by Coleridge and Keat’s “La Belle Dame sans Merci” and “Lamia.” Lokke states that she would put “The Fairy of The Fountains” alongside the canonical works of the romantic period. Lokke also states that she introduced her students to a theorist Michael Gamer who wrote Romanticism and the Gothic which argues that the romantic poets of the day, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats, “were strongly influenced by Gothic narratives and the women writers who excelled” in this genre.
Lokke then lays out some awesome ideas specific to “The Fairy of the Fountains.” She points out the trochaic tetrameter, which echoes the witches chant in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. She recommends comparing the maternal relationship to the passive and submissive mothers of the books The Castle of Otranto and A Sicilian Romance, along with the “dead ghost mother” in Coleridge’s poem.
There are definite psychoanalytic components to “The Fairy of the Fountains,” and one of them is about the mother-daughter conflict whereby the “mother’s role in dooming her child to repeat her same tragedys” is explored. Lokke informs us in the article that “The Fairy of The Fountains” was readily accepted by her students after reading “the convolution and dense classical allusion of “Lamia” and that in a survey she conducted about teaching romantic women’s poetry, students “found comparative analysis to be a strikingly effective means of opening new perspectives onto the poetry.”
Lokke also shares that Hans Christian Anderson’s Christian and sentimental version of the Undine fairy tale (which some of the romantics are referencing in the Gothic) “The Little Mermaid” is published three years after Landon’s “The Fairy of the Fountains” and that comparisons between these texts was very appealing to the students.
I thought that these were wonderful ideas and really appreciated the insights, it seems like it would be a fun class!