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The Figure of the Gothic Author in Nineteenth-Century America

Bulford Welch, Ellen (2020) The Figure of the Gothic Author in Nineteenth-Century America. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This study comprises an investigation into the figure of the Gothic author in nineteenth-century America. Overall, it demonstrates that the persistent critical attribution of Gothic identities to practitioners of the Gothic genre — what I term the Gothicisation of the Gothic author — exerted a profound impact upon the perception and practice of Gothic authorship. Tracing this trend back to the biographical approach to literary criticism which dominated nineteenth-century literary discussion, I argue that a method of textual exegesis which read the content of an author's work as an index of their character posed a particular threat to the public reputations of practitioners of the Gothic. Conflated with their troubled protagonists, diagnosed with dysfunctional psychological traits and aligned, both metaphorically and literally, with Gothic character types, this discourse created a cultural climate in which Gothic authorship had to be strategically negotiated. As I illustrate, this was primarily achieved through the adoption of evasive writing strategies that were designed to distance the author from their chosen mode of writing. Whilst this thesis places the gothicised discourse surrounding Gothic authorship in a transatlantic context, it is especially concerned with the unique ramifications that it held for notions of American national identity during the nineteenth century. Following the American Revolution, when the process of nation-building became tightly bound up with the creation of a successful and authentically American national literary canon, the figure of the American author assumed a nationally representative status. This was instantly problematised, I argue, by the Gothic's prominence within America's emerging literary tradition. As well as examining the ways in which authors navigated the negative personal connotations attached to Gothic authorship, therefore, this study also interrogates the rhetorical strategies that American critics used to de-gothicise the Gothic works of authors whose writing was deemed to be of significant national value.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Gothic; American Gothic; Nineteenth-century Gothic; Figure of the Author; Reception History; Nathaniel Hawthorne; Louisa May Alcott
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.805442
Depositing User: Miss Ellen Bulford Welch
Date Deposited: 14 May 2020 16:23
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2020 09:53
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/26843

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