The claustral gaze : visions of imprisonment in the gothic novel and French melodrama
This thesis provides a critique of the gaze in Gothic novels and French melodramas between 1790 and 1825. After situating itself historically in relation to the eighteenth century's prioritization of vision, the thesis then progresses in chapters two to seven to textual examinations of visual critiques provided by Gothic novelists. It examines the following authors: Sophia Lee; Ann Radcliffe; Matthew Lewis; the Marquis de Sade; Charles Maturin; James Hogg, and William Godwin. The thesis contends that these Gothic novelists demonstrate the function of the gaze in its most violent and reductive light. In the novels examined, the thesis posits that vision is used as a tool of power, rather than one of education and enlightenment. An examination is made of the imprisoning function of the gaze with reference to psychoanalytical essays on the gaze written by Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. These essays help to promote the theory that the Gothic novels studied all portray some form of transgressive gazing: the punishment for this lies in the characters' temporary transition into some form of inanimate image. Whether this be a portrait, a statue, or a dramatic tableau, the transition is indicative of the regressive gaze to the past that the characters have been using. The eighth and final chapter of the thesis turns the focus from Gothic novels to French melodramas. This is done to represent the failure of French melodramatists to regulate the visual responses of their audiences. By examining their critical projects, and the results of them, the thesis concludes by demonstrating the practice, and failure, of the gaze.