Often, too often, many people consider the Midwest to be synonymous with boring. But look again; things are more complicated than they first appear. Look closer still and you’ll see the Midwest is not just a place to flyover or pass through to more exciting destinations. There is a literary movement quietly happening: Midwest Gothic.
While Midwest Gothic shares many similar traits with Southern Gothic and Gothic literature, such as the grotesque, characters with strained mental states, and elements of the supernatural, it is not just a mere transportation of these elements to the Midwest. Two key ideas inform Midwest Gothic: restraint and the unspoken. Emotional restraint keeps characters revealing their secrets and also isolates them from others. A lot is left unsaid between Midwesterners — this is how they can be outwardly friendly, surrounded by people, yet still be utterly and hauntingly alone. Geography mirroring the psychological landscape is also an important element in the Midwest Gothic aesthetic. At first, the flatness of the landscape appears one-dimensional, static, and dull — until you realize the vastness is overwhelming, limitless, and eternal. The void can swallow you. Running underneath all of this is a current of horror, which is sometimes overt and sometimes only alluded to or implied.
Stories in the Midwest Gothic vein refuse to comply with the plain and ordinary expectations of the region and reveal the darkness and complexity of the Midwest.