Historicizing Gothic writing implies a narrative of descent, of change over time. Michel Foucault's theory of discourse will enable the readers to gain an historical purchase on Gothic writing. There are two related ways in which circularity arises to balk the theorist. First, he or she may find that their theory is predicated on the very 'gap' they seek to historicize. Marxist, feminist and psychoanalytical readings are particularly vulnerable here in that they read the repression on which their theories are based back into Gothic texts, thus closing the hermeneutic circle. Foucault instructs us to see the atavistic as circumscribed within the discursive practices of the new. In both Madness and Civilization and The History of Sexuality the specificity of the Gothic moment arises from the clash of incommensurate 'archives'.
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.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book investigates discursive structures intermittently recurring through Gothic writing. It explains that the intertextual readings form the methodological lynchpin for interpreting Gothic writing as self-aware debate on the character of the subject. The book argues that before one can theorize the Gothic as a response to a 'gap in the social subject' one needs to recoup the Gothic's contemporaneous meanings, itself a theoretical task. The book adopts Michel Foucault's 'genealogy' as the theoretically sensitive model of literary history. The book discusses the common usage of 'ideology' as referring to configurations of national or class values individuals might find themselves associated with, as for instance, 'liberalism' or the 'Freeborn Briton'.
The Catholic other in Horace Walpole and Charles Maturin
Portraying a continent disfigured by the Inquisition, Jesuitical conspiracy, and mob violence, Charles Maturin's most famous novel has often been taken as the high-water mark of Gothic anti-Catholicism and Europhobia. Turning to Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, the prototype of Gothic romance, is the quickest way of taking one's generic bearings when discussing early Gothic. The tendency of the Shakespearian romance plot to come unstuck in the Gothic is attributable to the cultural ambivalence generated by the Glorious Revolution. The settlement that followed left Englishmen imaginatively suspended between Divine Right and the ancient constitution, or monarchy and abstract rights. The representation of the European other in early Gothic, is not part of a single binary of Protestant/Catholic, Briton/European, but a complex fabric 'haunted' by the issue of legitimacy inevitably provoked by the task of forging nations.
The aim of this book is to make available a body of texts connected with the cultural phenomenon known as Gothic writing. The book includes many of the critical writings and reviews which helped to constitute Gothic as a distinct genre, by revisions of the standards of taste, by critique and by outright attack. Together, this material represents a substantial part of the discursive hinterland of Gothic. The chapters on supernaturalism, on the aesthetics of Gothic, and on opposition to Gothic contain a number of the standard references in any history of the genre. They are juxtaposed with other more novel items of journalism, religious propaganda, folk tradition, non-fictional narrative, poetry and so on. The book also includes chapters on the politics of Gothic, before and after the French Revolution. Therefore, it includes extracts from Tacitus and Montesquieu, the authorities that eighteenth-century commentators most often referred to. The story of Britain's Gothic origins, although implicitly progressivist, was to be re-fashioned in the cultural and sociological theories critical of modern society: that vital eighteenth-century trend known as primitivism. The book also broadly covers the period from the height of the Gothic vogue (in the mid-1790s) to the mid-nineteenth century. The author hopes that the book will encourage students to follow new routes, make new connections, and enable them to read set works on the syllabus in more adventurous and historically informed ways.
This chapter contains collection of texts between 1670 and 1826 connected with the Gothic Aesthetic. A rash of translations from the German in the early 1790s, including Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller's novella The Ghost-Seer, had a decisive impact on the development of Gothic fiction in Britain. Ann Radcliffe's final work of fiction, Gaston de Blondeville, was published posthumously in 1826. This was first published separately in the New Monthly Magazine, as an independent essay in aesthetic theory. It suggests the continuing importance of Shakespeare, and contemporary methods of staging his plays, as an example for modern writers employing effects of terror, specifically the supernatural. The originality of William Collins's Ode lies in the fact that personified Fear is positively wooed rather than avoided by the aspiring poet. It can be measured against another, far more conventional, 'Ode to Fear' by Andrew Erskine.
This chapter contains a collection of gothic texts between 1709 and 1814 connected with the Anti-Gothic. John Dunlop's magisterial history deals briefly with English Gothic fiction. The extracts include his general comments on the genre, bracketing a survey of works by Horace Walpole, Clara Reeve and Ann Radcliffe. But Horace's Ars Poetica was by far the most frequent resort of opponents of Gothic fiction and drama. Sophia Lee's The Recess, which relates the adventures of two invented daughters of Mary, Queen of Scots, provoked some unease concerning the mingling of fiction and recorded history. William Beckford was the author of the orientalist Gothic tale Vathek, which was compared to the Arabian Nights on its first appearance. In spite of the praise lavished on Shakespeare's scenes of supernatural terror, and their popularity with audiences, there was strong critical opposition to the introduction of the marvellous into contemporary dramatic writing.
This chapter contains collection of texts between 1777 and 1818 connected with Gothic origins. In terms of debate about Gothic origins, Thomas Warton's other main contribution was his controversial claim that romance was ultimately of Saracen origin. Julius Caesar's De Bello Gallico and Germania of Cornelius Tacitus are two important classical sources for the political debate on the Goths. The most striking feature of the Letters is Richard Hurd's insistence that Gothic art has its own distinct logic, derived from the social structure of feudalism, and its cultural expression, chivalry. The works of 'Ossian' appeared at the same time as the first Gothic fictions, and together they represented a new area of taste within literary culture. In the Dissertation, John Pinkerton takes issue with earlier writers on a variety of points, including the place of origin of the Goths, which he locates in Scythia, in the Middle East.
This chapter contains a collection of gothic texts between 1706 and 1750 connected with supernaturalism. It is a commonplace that Gothic writing developed in reaction against the rules of neo-classical criticism. The aim of John Dennis's treatise as a whole was to show the necessary interdependence of religion and poetry, and the importance of strong emotions in both. Shakespeare saw how useful the popular superstitions had been to the ancient poets: he felt that they were necessary to poetry itself. Although William Collins ostensibly eschews the use of 'false themes' for himself, his emotive treatment of the supernatural material he recommends to Home makes him a precursor of the Gothic novelists. In the 1790s, Ann Radcliffe frequently cited his poetry in her fiction and journals.