Venus in Chains: Slavery, Connoisseurship, and Masculinity in The Monk
in Gothic Studies
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This article considers the allusions to classical statuary in Matthew G. Lewis’s novel The Monk (1796) and his Journal of a West India Proprietor Kept during a Residence in the Island of Jamaica (1816). Drawing on John Barrell’s account of civic discourse on the fine arts after Shaftesbury, I explain and contextualise the centrality of the Venus de’ Medici statue to Lewis’s representations of male desire and male virtue. Images of Venus, both in The Monk and in the Journal, function as tests of civic virtue and articulate the conditions of Lewis’s entitlement to hold and govern slaves in Jamaica. Lewis’s colonial inheritance underpins the narratives of desire in The Monk, and inflects his authorship more generally.

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