The gothic novel in Ireland, c. 1760–1829

Christina Morin
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The gothic novel in Ireland, 1760–1830 offers a compelling account of the development of gothic literature in late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Ireland. Against traditional scholarly understandings of Irish gothic fiction as a largely late-nineteenth century development, this study recovers to view a whole body of Irish literary production too often overlooked today. Its robust examination of primary texts, the contexts in which they were produced, and the critical perspectives from which they have been analysed yields a rigorous account of the largely retrospective formal and generic classifications that have worked to eliminate eighteenth-century and Romantic-era Irish fiction from the history of gothic literature. The works assessed here powerfully demonstrate that what we now understand as typical of ‘the gothic novel’– medieval, Catholic Continental settings; supernatural figures and events; an interest in the assertion of British modernity – is not necessarily what eighteenth- and nineteenth-century readers or writers would have identified as ‘gothic’. They moreover point to the manner in which scholarly focus on the national tale and allied genres has effected an erasure of the continued production and influence of gothic literature in Romantic Ireland. Combining quantitative analysis with meticulous qualitative readings of a selection of representative texts, this book sketches a new formal, generic, and ideological map of gothic literary production in this period. As it does so, it persuasively positions Irish works and authors at the centre of a newly understood paradigm of the development of the literary gothic across Ireland, Britain, and Europe between 1760 and 1830.

Winner of the Rhodes Prize for Literature and Language, 2019


‘Christina Morin's The gothic novel in Ireland c. 1760–1829 is a significant intervention in the study of Anglo-Irish literature and the gothic tradition. Combining a masterful overview of Romantic era print culture with close readings of hitherto under examined novels, this book suggestively explores the generic interconnectedness between gothic fiction, the national tale and the historical novel. In doing so, it brings to light a much earlier tradition of fiction that emerged from Ireland in the mid-eighteenth century and had a clear impact on the British novelists who followed. As such, The gothic novel in Ireland confidently dispatches long-held views of Irish gothic as a belated phenomenon that emerged in the later nineteenth century. At the same time, Morin delineates acutely the specific conventions and tropes that characterised a distinctively Irish variant of the gothic. Marshalling an impressive range of literary sources, bibliographical evidence and statistical data, Morin provocatively disrupts long-held assumptions about the formative role played by Irish writers at a crucial moment in the history of the novel, making a compelling case for a more nuanced and accurate understanding of the literary relationship between Britain and Ireland during the Romantic century.'
Anthony Mandal, Professor of Print and Digital Cultures, Cardiff University

‘The Gothic Novel in Ireland is a very welcome mapping of an almost completely unknown body of fiction – the early Irish Gothic novel. Morin not only brings to an end the literary historical amnesia which allowed so much interesting, important and often compelling fiction to be forgotten, but effectively rescues these novels from what Franco Moretti calls the "slaughterhouse of literature". This study will provide Irish Studies and Gothic Studies scholars with a comprehensive sense of the sheer amount of early Irish Gothic fiction, as well as clarifying how this body of work relates to "canonical" Irish and, indeed, European fiction, and performing exemplary close readings of a sensibly chosen selection of neglected novels. Crucially, Morin carefully refocuses attention on what eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century writers, critics, and readers understood as "gothic", rather than retrospectively applying twentieth-century reformulations, and offers a compelling alternative to the current terminological impasse in Irish Gothic scholarship. Morin's writing itself is a model of clarity and critical generosity, meaning the study is immensely readable and can be enthusiastically recommended to students as well as critics and scholars. This is the most significant intervention in Irish Gothic Studies for years.'
Jarlath Killeen, Lecturer in Victorian Literature at Trinity College Dublin

‘When does the gothic novel begin and end? What are its characteristics? And where does Ireland fit in the literary terrain marked out by modern critics? In this valuable exploration, Christina Morin remaps time, place, and content. She argues that by giving sustained attention to Irish gothic literature we can (and should) widen, deepen, and redefine a field whose formal and generic properties have been at once slippery and overly restrictive… Morin carefully dismantles stereotypes and brings fresh eyes to established conventions. She asks probing questions about why some writers fall into neglect—what Franco Moretti dubbed the slaughterhouse of literature—and looks anew at those judged worthy of the attentions of posterity. For students of the period, this will be an essential text: meticulously researched and attractively written.
Eighteenth-Century Fiction
January 2020

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