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'Marginal gothic': mediating the monstrous in British romanticism

'Marginal gothic': mediating the monstrous in British romanticism

Williams, John R. (2009) 'Marginal gothic': mediating the monstrous in British romanticism. In: School of Humanities and Social Sciences Research Conference, 28 May 2009, University of Greenwich. (Unpublished)

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In this paper I look at texts from the Romantic Period which strategically employ elements of the Gothic genre in what I describe as a `marginal` relationship with the Gothic canon. My intention is both to explore the way the boundaries of the genre might be extended, and to cast fresh light on some of the texts discussed, specifically in relation to the ways in which the `monstrous` is perceived and portrayed as villainy. In the first half of the paper, using Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry on the Sublime and the Beautiful as a starting point, I consider Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, Godwin’s Caleb Williams, Radcliffe’s The Italian, and Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell as all in various ways examples of `marginal Gothic` that present evil doing as monstrous aberrations, also noting the contemporary reception of Beckford’s Vathek, praised in 1786 for its `accuracy and credibility`. In addition, I suggest that Wordsworth’s `Tintern Abbey` and Book VI of The Prelude provide evidence of marginal, but significant, Gothic influence that references Radcliffe’s and Burke’s explorations of a terror of the unknown. In the second half of the paper I focus on Scott’s Guy Mannering, or The Astrologer (1815) as an important example of a `marginal` Gothic novel. Scott’s reference to Vathek at a key point in his plot suggests that he had read Beckford’s novel as entirely `Gothic`. This discussion incorporates a comparison between Mannering’s youthful enthusiasm for astrological divination, and themes to be found in Shelley’s Frankenstein, notably with respect to the nature of Victor Frankenstein’s response to `old` and `new` science and medicine, and to the creation and control of Gothic monstrosity. In these and in other instances, it will be argued that the `marginal Gothic` of Scott’s novel may be read as a precursor to Shelley’s work. [From the Author]

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: British romantic period, gothic genre, literature,
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Humanities & Social Sciences
School of Humanities & Social Sciences > Department of Communications & Creative Arts
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Last Modified: 07 Oct 2019 12:08

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