In this study, I assert that prior to the French Revolution, early eighteenth-century Gothic works such as Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto and Clara Reeve’s The Old English Baron attempt to understand the potential consequences revolution could have on British society and that both texts conclude that society can only be maintained by upholding behavioral expectations through proper manners. However, the French Revolution acted as an inflection point within the genre, and—through the analysis of the polemic texts Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman—I argue that the French Revolution was domesticated in England, shifting the debate in England from a political argument to a moral argument. Therefore, I claim that the Gothic fiction of the late eighteenth-century—Matthew Lewis’s The Monk and Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian—investigates the fundamental stability of a society built on the morality of sentiment and sympathy rather than testing the merits of manners as a form of social control that was present in early Gothic fiction. By contextualizing the French Revolution as the catalyst for the thematic shift in Gothic fiction, I assert that through the investigation of manners, gender expectations, sentimentality, sympathy, and morality, the Gothic genre attempted to resolve the social and political anxieties that existed in England prior to and after the French Revolution.
Level of Honors
magna cum laude
Stein, Katherine E., "A Revolution in Gothic Manners: The Rise of Sentiment from Walpole to Radcliffe" (2019). Lawrence University Honors Projects. 134.