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Title: "Fine old castles" and "pull-me-down works" : architecture, politics, and gender in the Gothic novel of the 1790s
Author: Smith, Candice
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis examines the way in which four women writers of the 1790s appropriated the architectural metaphors of the Revolution debate in their Gothic novels. By transforming the political metaphor of the Gothic building into a material environment in their writing, this thesis argues that Charlotte Smith, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Robinson, and Jane Austen staked their own variant positions in contemporary debates regarding revolution and reform. In the 1790s, the more general struggle for political and social improvement was linked by writers such as Mary Wollstonecraft to the need for reform of sexual inequality in society. By closely examining the Gothic building – typically a hostile environment for its female inhabitants – this thesis argues that the Gothic house or castle functions in these novels as a critique of domestic, as well as state, politics. Chapter one begins by exploring the synergies between architecture, politics, and the Gothic novel in the eighteenth century. In this way, this thesis contributes to a neglected yet emerging area of Gothic scholarship: the complex and symbiotic relationship between architecture and the Gothic novel. Chapter two considers the way in which Charlotte Smith exploits contemporary associations of Gothic architecture in The Old Manor House (1793) to subvert the political ideology embedded in the architectural metaphors of Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). In chapters three and four, the architectural descriptions of Ann Radcliffe and Mary Robinson are read in dialogue with those of Edmund Burke, Hannah More, John Thelwall, and Mary Wollstonecraft: in Radcliffe and Robinson's novels, this thesis argues, the simple structure of revolutionary reform is favoured over the ancient castle of counter-revolutionary custom. Finally, chapter five challenges the critical conception of Jane Austen as a political reactionary by examining the way in which her depiction of architecture in Northanger Abbey (1817) destabilises the most perniciously gendered aspects of Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Gothic literature