Narratives of descent
in Gothic writing 1750–1820
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The Castle of Otranto and The Old English Baron are 'genealogical' texts concerned with the assertion of dynastic claims. Both plots revolve around murder, usurpation and restitution. In each, a young man of questionable pedigree establishes the legitimacy of his claims to his 'house', a process historically authenticated through the ostensible provenance of the text. It is over the equation between descent and authority that they mainly differ, The Old English Baron seeking to eliminate questions scandalously posed by The Castle of Otranto. From The Castle of Otranto to The Scarlet Letter, Gothic texts insist on the historical residue that authenticates their truth. These two aspects of genealogy are endemic in the Romance genre. In Romance, the usurped and dispossessed find their rights restored; the lost are found, and a true genealogy reasserts itself. It is a Romance convention to locate the story in some historically true narrative.

Editor: Robert Miles

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