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Ghosts of the Gothic

Ghosts of the Gothic: Austen, Eliot and Lawrence

Judith Wilt
Copyright Date: 1980
Pages: 324
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zv16n
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  • Book Info
    Ghosts of the Gothic
    Book Description:

    In a fascinating study of what, during the last decade, rekindled an avid readership, Judith Wilt proposes a new theory of Gothic fiction that challenges its reputation as merely a formula to be outgrown or a stock of images for the creation of terror. Emphasizing instead its status as an enduring component of the imagination, she establishes the Gothic as the mothering" form for three other popular genres--detective, historical, and science fiction.

    Originally published in 1980.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5750-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. PART I

    • INTRODUCTION: “THIS HERETIC NARRATIVE”: APPROACHES TO A GOTHIC THEORETIC
      (pp. 3-24)

      In the last fifteen years we have been experiencing a Gothic revival—again. By the early 1970s, observers of the national culture became aware of the culture’s increased fascination with things Gothic, and began studying it. The fascination lent itself partly to media analysis: like the similar interest of the 1950s, and for that matter of the formative period of the late eighteenth century, the Gothic explosion of the 1970s was sped by a new accessibility to the books—the circulating library phenomenon of the late eighteenth century, the paperback revolution of the 1950s, the move to paperback originals in...

    • ONE GOTHIC FATHERS: THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO, THE ITALIAN, THE MONK, MELMOTH THE WANDERER
      (pp. 25-61)

      Horace Walpole’sThe Castle of Otranto(1765) is a rather gormless tale for which Walpole claimed little, and even the claim he did make—“Terror, the author’s principal engine, prevents the story from ever languishing”¹—is not entirely true. Its merits are not in character, plot, or prose, nor as he had thought, in the dramatic structure, but in half a dozen memorable tableaux,² frozen moments of action, which are almost certainly lifted from Walpole’s dreams, and maybe yours and mine too.

      The narrative proper begins, like a primer in Gothic plot, with the father: “Manfred, Prince of Otranto, had...

    • TWO GOTHIC BROTHERS: FRANKENSTEIN, THE MEMOIRS AND CONFESSIONS OF A JUSTIFIED SINNER, DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, DRACULA
      (pp. 62-96)

      In the eighteenth century the place of separation is the monastery, and the tyrannizing force is passion, or superstition. When Mary Shelley comes to writeFrankensteinin 1816, the place of separation, though it is a “tower” like Schedoni/Marinelli’s, is now a laboratory, and the tyrannizing force is reason. But the structure is essentially the same, and so is the conflation of monk and priest in the identity of the separated one. Victor Frankenstein raises his hands over the mortal scraps on his table and calls down into them the ideal.

      In the ordinary celebration of this mystery, there is...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
  6. PART II

    • INTRODUCTION: THE GOTHIC HERITAGE
      (pp. 99-120)

      One wants to maintain some discretion in applying the Gothic measure to works of fiction. Few novels are entirely without that apparatus of suspense, hidden violence, ritual obsession, mysterious pursuits, and secret sins that we want to call Gothic. In his scrutiny of the ordinary paths of human behavior, the most “realistic” novelist must take into account the spiritually hypersensitive person, the bizarre event, the extreme feeling that outpaces its objective correlative. Gissing’s Mr. Biffin writes “Mr. Bailey, Grocer,” that scrupulously unfantastical ideal of a realistic novel, and it immediately becomes the focus of melodramatic flames, heroical rescue, poignant suicide;...

    • THREE JANE AUSTEN: THE ANXIETIES OF COMMON LIFE
      (pp. 121-172)

      Out of Walter Scott came a bad tradition; out of Jane Austen came a good one. So said Leavis. But their contemporaries saw it a bit differently. In Scott a bad old tradition continued somewhat redeemed;¹ in Austen a decisive break with that tradition produced “the modern novel.” What was broken at last, so they thought, was above all that Gothic “machinery” in which the Greek and the Elizabethan stage had delighted, which Fielding and Richardson had mocked, and which had held the imagination of the novel-reading public, especially the female one, for half a century.²

      The concept of machinery...

    • FOUR GEORGE ELIOT: THE GARMENT OF FEAR
      (pp. 173-230)

      In Austen’s novels the sublime fates of death and marriage function mostly offstage, and the condition of common life is, in softer phrase, anxiety: only by taking the considerable risk of using that double-edged tool, the imagination, does one enter that intenser realm of reality paradoxically and crucially perceived as the “happiest dream,” where dread waits, and also love. In George Eliot’s more spacious worlds the sublime thrusts constantly at the common, breaking dynamically through those wadded layers of “stupidity” and chatter with which humans protect themselves from “the roar which lies on the other side of silence.”¹ Where the...

    • FIVE D. H. LAWRENCE: GHOSTS IN THE DAYLIGHT
      (pp. 231-292)

      Austen holds us to the fruits of our anxiety, George Eliot to the promise of our fear and dread. For the modernists, whose conquering travels over the globe and through the newly-mapped thickets of mind-science and time-science have killed off numerous poets and immeasurably toughened the rest, the conditions of vision are nothing so tame. “The horror! the horror!” cries Conrad’s separated Kurtz when he reenters his old community at the end of his curve out and back through the Heart of Darkness, and Marlow, with the grim satisfaction of the artist, the stoic minimalism of the mariner, applauds: “Kurtz...

    • CONCLUSION: A HIGH, VIBRATING PLACE
      (pp. 293-304)

      When T. S. Eliot and F. R. Leavis met in debate over the virtues and vices of Lawrence, they often focused on the issue of tradition and the orthodoxy-heresy relationship that is implied in the concept of tradition. Eliot sees no tradition in Lawrence, no loyalty to guides and master-works like Dante, Goethe, or Donne, and therefore he sees an ignorance. He argues that without a “wise and large capacity for orthodoxy” an artist like Lawrence can hardly avoid “the solely centrifugal impulse of heresy.” Leavis replies that Lawrence’s tradition, less one of masters than of nonconformist and working-class ideals...

  7. INDEX
    (pp. 305-307)
  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 308-308)