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Botany and Empiricism in The Mysteries of Udolpho

In The Mysteries of Udolpho, characters practice science in home laboratories, libraries, green houses and gardens, using observation, instruments, and books to study botany, astronomy, and chemistry. By integrating these moments of everyday science into her novels - and making them integral to the development of her heroines - Ann Radcliffe presents a landscape in which both reason and sensibility are enlisted to gather and process information and create meaning in a way that echoed the popular scientific discourse of the day. To date, there has been no sustained study of Radcliffe’s incorporation of scientific practice and rhetoric into her Gothic novels. By looking closely at the scientific engagement within her texts, we can broaden the basis for understanding her work as a part of the broader culture that not only included, but was in many ways predicated upon the shifting landscape of science at the end of the eighteenth century.

Gothic Studies