David Smith 1
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  • 1 Baylor University
The Gothic Temple
Epistemology and Revolution in Charles Brockden Brown‘s Wieland
in Gothic Studies
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In Wieland, Charles Brockden Brown attempted to negotiate varying forces confronting contemporary American religious and political life. Through the transformation of the temple into a Gothic zone Brown injects questions of epistemological uncertainty, clashing forces of rational Enlightenment and supernatural faith. Brown outlines the religiously motivated founding of the nation reacting to European oppression as allegorical to the Wieland patriarchs journey from the Old to New World, and his construction of the temple demonstrates the establishment of new institutions in the American landscape. Religious liberty turns into extremism, producing Gothic violence that transforms the temple into a site of horror and destruction. His children attempt to re-transform the temple along rational Enlightenment lines much the same as Brown perceived the need for America to distance itself from its revolutionary and religious extremist origins. Yet the failure of rationalism to expunge the supernatural aura from the temple allows for the tragic events to transpire that comprise the bulk of the novel. Ultimately, Brown‘s Gothic novel evinces the critical nature of the epistemological clash he sees taking place for the direction America will take, and his concerns that Gothic violence will reverberate throughout future generations find their expression in Wieland‘s temple.

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