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Darkness and Light: Exploring the Gothic

‌‌Thursday, 16 July 2015 to Sunday, 10 January 2016, free entry

This exhibition has been extended until 10 January 2016.

Housed in the neo-Gothic grandeur of The John Rylands Library, Darkness and Light reveals how Gothic architecture and anatomy inspired and influenced a literary genre, and how the lasting legacy of Gothic can be found in art, films and subculture today.

From the fantastical to the macabre, this intriguing exhibition unearths Gothic treasures from the Library’s Special Collections to investigate subjects as varied as the role of women in the Gothic movement, advances in medical science and classic literature.

Amongst the fascinating items on display is Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), the first Gothic novel. With a Gothic medieval castle, doomed love and restless spectres of the past, it sets the scene for the genre and sits alongside a whole host of Gothic bestsellers including The Monk, Udolpho and Jekyll and Hyde.

The booklet for this exhibition is available to download as either a PDF or as an accessible, plain text word document:

Darkness and Light exhibition booklet A5.pdf

Darkness and light booklet plain text.docx


The exhibition also showcases artwork by students from the University of Salford and a gallery of photographic portraits of 'Goths', celebrating diversity and inviting visitors to explore what Gothic means to them.

Alongside the exhibition, experience a ghostly Gothic tour of the Library or come along to screenings of classic Gothic films, including FW Murnau’s Nosferatu, in the striking Historic Reading Room.

Join the conversation at #JRLGothic

You can browse the images from our Special Collections that relate to Darkness and Light on LUNA, the Library's special collections image database.


With thanks to the following for their contribution to this exhibition: 

Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes, Lecturer in English, 
Manchester Metropolitan University 

Dr Linnie Blake, Principal Lecturer in English and Head of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies, 
Manchester Metropolitan University 

Rachel Fairburn, Visitor Engagement Assistant, 
The John Rylands Library 

Rosie Garland, Author of Vixen and The Palace of Curiosities 

Liza Leonard, Visitor Engagement Coordinator, 
The John Rylands Library 

Dr Peter Lindfield, Post-Doctoral Tutor, School of Art History, 
University of St Andrews 

Jill Randall, Senior Lecturer in Visual Arts, 
University of Salford 

Students from the School of Arts and Media, 
University of Salford 

The Sophie Lancaster Foundation 

Dr Dale Townsend, Senior Lecturer in English Studies, 
University of Stirling 

Photography by Gwen Riley Jones