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Reading Gothic FictionA Bakhtinian Approach$
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Jacqueline Howard

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198119920

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198119920.001.0001

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Gothic Sublimity: Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho

Gothic Sublimity: Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho

(p.106) 3 Gothic Sublimity: Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho
Reading Gothic Fiction

Jacqueline Howard

Oxford University Press

This chapter attempts to illustrate the Bakhtinian argument more fully. It describes how Udolpho, with its setting in the ancestral past, participated in socio-political mythmaking about issues of class and gender during the ‘revolutionary’ decade in England. It shows how Radcliffe's recontextualization in this novel of late 18th-century discourses of sensibility, taste, and the sublime, together with elements of the fantastic, renders it distinctly ambiguous. While Udolpho condemns ‘excess’ of all sorts, including extreme sensibility and flights of fancy, and stresses bourgeois values of restraint, reason, benevolence, obedience, and fortitude, such ‘everyday legality’ is in turn relativized by the privileging of an uncanny prescience and aesthetic or romantic sensibility in artistic women.

Keywords:   Udolpho, novel, sensibility, taste, sublime

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