The Gothic aesthetic
The Gothic as discourse
in Gothic writing 1750–1820
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This chapter traces the genealogy of a particular strand, the 'Gothic aesthetic', where a chivalric past was idealized at the explicit expense of a classical present. It deals with a Foucauldian genealogy dealing in the descent of discourses which inform Gothic writing. The Gothic aesthetic declares its discursive nature through its claims to know proper writing, writing as it ought to be. The Letters on Chivalry and Romance may have been read as a manifesto for the Gothic romance, but the essays reveal the discursive tensions underlying the Gothic aesthetic. The pedagogic consequences of ideal presence in the Gothic aesthetic are evident in Clara Reeve's The Progress of Romance. In the Gothic pastoral, the primitivist ideal projected onto the past is always stalked by its shadow, its dark opposite.

Editor: Robert Miles


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