Radcliffe and inferiority
Towards the making of The Mysteries of Udolpho
in Gothic writing 1750–1820
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The shape of Ann Radcliffe's career, culminating in The Mysteries of Udolpho, is towards the creation of a narrative structure and a narrative method. Here, a feminine subject is 'haunted' by a phantom bearing witness to the buried secrets of the father. The most compelling attempt to historicize the shift in readerly sensibility noted by David H. Richter is found in Terry Castle's brilliant essay 'The Spectralization of the Other in The Mysteries of Udolpho'. Syndy M. Conger helpfully sums up the drift of Richter's argument. 'German scholars have begun to explore ways in which Empfindsamkeit offered powerless citizens living under despotism an alternate interior realm in which to exercise power, over themselves: the experience of fulfilment in self-fulfilment'. Richter's exemplary figure is the 'unguarded door': the Gothic protagonist suddenly finds an unopposed egress from an apparently fast prison.

Editor: Robert Miles


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