Date of Award

5-2010

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

English

First Advisor

Joseph Bartolomeo

Second Advisor

Jordana Rosenberg

Third Advisor

Banu Subramaniam

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature

Abstract

In 1790s England, an expanding empire, a growing diaspora of English settlers in foreign territories, and spreading political unrest in Ireland and on the European continent all helped to contribute to a destabilization of British national identity. With the definition of “Englishperson” in flux, Ireland, France, and Italy—nations which are prominently featured in William Godwin’s Caleb Williams (1794), Ann Radcliffe’s The Romance of the Forest (1791), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), and The Italian (1797), and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818)—could be understood, similar to England’s colonies, as representing threats to the nation’s cultural integrity. Because the people of these European countries were stereotypically perceived as being economically impoverished victims of political and “popish” tyranny, it would have been easy to construct them in popular and literary discourse as being both socially similar to the “primitive” indigenous populations of colonized territories and as uneasy reminders of England’s own “premodern” past. Therefore, the overarching goal of this project is twofold. First, it attempts to account for the Gothic’s frequent—albeit subtle—use of imperialist rhetoric, which is largely encoded within the novels’ representations of sublimity, sensibility, and domesticity. Second, it claims that the novels under consideration are preoccupied with testing and reaffirming the salience of bourgeois English identity by placing English or Anglo-inflected characters in conflict with “monstrous” continental Others. In so doing, these novels use the fictions of empire to contain and claim agency over a revolutionary France, an uncertainlypositioned Ireland, and a classically-appealing but socially-problematic Italy.

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