Gothic: The Passages that Lead to Nothing

Fiona Robertson

in Legitimate Histories

Published in print April 1994 | ISBN: 9780198112242
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670725 | DOI:

Series: Oxford English Monographs

Gothic: The Passages that Lead to Nothing

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


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This chapter focuses on the subjects and styles of Gothic itself, interpreting Gothic in a way which establishes parameters for the analysis of the narrative and historiographical techniques of the Waverley Novels. It brings together Gothic's dual preoccupation with history and narrative, relating both to anxieties of literary origin by way of the figure of the recess. The frame narrative of The Monastery, which describes the search for the lost heart of the Abbot Ambrosius in the ruins of St Mary's at Kennaquhair, makes architecture the focus of a search which is really about ways of telling, or narrating. So, too, in Gothic, narrative and historical processes are repeatedly figured as tortuous approaches through hidden subterranean passageways to a secret which may finally be revealed, but which can never be an adequate recompense for the terrors of the quest. The interpretation of Gothic in the chapter is allusive rather than exhaustive, and it does not engage in the kind of comparative analysis which would allow it to claim that the techniques and preoccupations which it highlights in late 18th-century Gothic are exclusive to that form. It does, however, emphasize certain matters rather more than has been done in previous criticism, paying particularly close attention to devices of historical authentication in Gothic, to questions of literary and historical origin, and to the problems which arise when Gothic conventions intrude into non-Gothic works.

Keywords: Walter Scott; Gothic fiction; Gothic structure; Gothic style; The Monastery

Chapter.  19641 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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