Catholicism, Sexual Deviance, and Victorian Gothic Culture by Patrick R. O'Malley

By Patrick R. O'Malley

It has lengthy been acknowledged that the Gothic style sensationalised ideals and practices linked to Catholicism. usually, the rhetorical tropes and narrative buildings of the Gothic, with its lurid and supernatural plots, have been used to argue that either Catholicism and sexual distinction have been essentially alien and dangerous to British Protestant tradition. finally, despite the fact that, the Gothic additionally supplied an inventive area during which unconventional writers from John Henry Newman to Oscar Wilde may well articulate another imaginative and prescient of British tradition. Patrick O'Malley charts those advancements from the origins of the Gothic novel within the mid-eighteenth century, in the course of the mid-nineteenth-century sensation novel, towards the tip of the Victorian Gothic in Bram Stoker's Dracula and Thomas Hardy's Jude the vague. O'Malley foregrounds the continued value of Victorian Gothic as a style during which British authors outlined their tradition and what used to be outdoor it.

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As you Madona [sic]. . ” (40; ellipses in Lewis). Trailing off in breathless anticipation, Ambrosio resumes with a blazon steeped in Petrarchan erotics: What Beauty in that countenance! . How graceful is the turn of that head! What sweetness, yet what majesty in her divine eyes! How softly her cheek reclines upon her hand! Can the Rose vie with the blush of that cheek? Can the Lily rival the whiteness of that hand? Oh! if such a Creature existed, and existed but for me! Were I permitted to twine round my fingers those golden ringlets, and press with my lips the treasures of that snowy bosom!

36). Yet the object behind that veil – the central mystery for the bulk of the novel – turns out to be merely a figure of wax. Like Austen’s Catherine, surely almost every first-time reader of the novel imagines that her or his fantasy of a dead body must be the very least sensationally horrid possibility for the secret contents of the hidden alcove. ”9 Indeed, when Radcliffe’s text finally Goths and Romans 37 resolves the mystery in its very last pages, it rapidly deflates the multitude of horrible possibilities, feigning an insouciance about the detail that would so exercise its contemporary and later readers: “It may be remembered,” the narrator notes, as if the reader at this point could be fixated on anything else, “that, in a chamber of Udolpho, hung a black veil, whose singular situation had excited Emily’s curiosity.

Like Walpole’s double prefaces which first argued that the Gothic’s seductions were the work of a crafty priest and then that they were the product of an essentially English national literature, the neo-Gothicists of the nineteenth century, in their very attempt to write Catholicism and sexual deviance as continental perversions, wrote them into English national and literary history. This epistemological crisis of identificatory structures and systems of classification is, I will argue, precisely the hallmark of the English concept of the Gothic, especially as the nineteenth century progresses.

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