Reema Barlaskar1
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  • 1 Oakland University
The ‘Contagion’ of ‘Ridiculous Superstition’
Representations of Lower-Class Voices in Ann Radcliffe’s Novels
in Gothic Studies
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This paper investigates lower-class voices within the context of anti-Gothic criticism, using Ann Radcliffe’s novels and early Gothic critic Joseph Addison’s essays to highlight the ways in which Radcliffe reassigns value to the Gothic aesthetic. It further emphasizes Radcliffe’s reconfiguration of domestic roles as she positions patriarchal figures as anti-Gothic critics, the heroine as reader of gothic narratives, and lowerclass voices and tales as gothic texts. The Mysteries of Udolpho and Romance of the Forest subvert critical discourse and its motif of servants’ contagious irrationality. In Radcliffe’s novels, ‘vulgar’ narratives as superstitious discourse do not spread fear to susceptible heroines, embodiments of bourgeois virtue, but demonstrate the ways in which fear is a construct of patriarchal discourse. Servants and country people, in turn, construct a pedagogy for reading gothic texts that permit heroines to deconstruct metaphors of ghostly haunting embedded in their tales and resist patriarchal hegemony and interpretative authority over gothic texts.

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