Women’s Gothic and Romantic Fiction: A Reference Guide

Greenwood Press
Westport, Connecticut
Publication year

Mussell writes that:

This volume is a guide to research on two broad and overlapping types of women's fiction: the gothic and the romantic. Because of the relatively undeveloped state of scholarly study of these forms, I prefer to cast a wide net, leaving the fine critical delineations for later when the primary materials will be more accessible for analysis than they currently are. In this context, the definitions of gothic and romantic fiction are simply stated, revolving around the traditional role of women in culture. Both of these overlapping formulas of fiction address conventional women's concerns, although in slightly different ways. Both posit similar fictional worlds, although the significant elements upon which they concentrate differ to some extent. If gothic and romantic fiction are placed upon a continuum, the gothic novels would represent the more adventurous end and the romantic novels, the more domestic. In the world of gothic fiction, danger often threatens in the form of a villain; in that of romantic fiction, obstacles to happiness are more often of the characters' own making. (x)

Here's a description (with a focus on the gothic) from Angela Toscano's chapter on the gothic romance in The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction (2021):

A more in-depth treatment of the Gothic romance is evident in Mussell’s 1981 book, Women’s Gothic and Romantic Fiction. She called this work a reference guide, and, indeed, it remains one of the most useful texts on the modern Gothic romance. She provides a history of the genre, connecting it to earlier works. This is followed by a formidable bibliography of references and sources for study, before she goes on to explore related genres. The final chapters outline different methodological approaches to the Gothic, before covering popular commentary in newspapers, magazines, etc. Although Mussell again critiques the genre for its conservatism, the depth and breadth with which she approaches the Gothic romance not only offers a valuable resource for scholars of popular romance, but also provides an excellent model of a comprehensive, archival methodology. (110)


Works in this collection