Avatars of Matthew Lewis’s The Monk
Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian and Charlotte Dacre’s Zofloya: Or, The Moor
in Gothic writing 1750–1820
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Matthew Lewis's The Monk begins with an apparent non sequitur. The Monk's subversion of sensibility may have panicked Ann Radcliffe into a riposte, one imposing closure on Lewis's worrying gaps, but it also prompted a reassessment of her earlier work. Radcliffe's reassertion of the denotative function of language pulls The Italian back towards naturalism, as is evident from her stress on the veridical genealogy of her text. Radcliffe's development of the female Gothic sublime and interiority may be seen as examples of self-fulfilling exercises of power within a 'despotic' context; The Italian differs in trying to analyse that context. Charlotte Dacre's Zofloya: Or, The Moor, is in two respects a female version of Lewis's The Monk. A woman, Victoria di Loredani, occupies Ambrosio's role, while the sexual politics of the Gothic are viewed from a feminist perspective.

Editor: Robert Miles

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