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The Failure of GothicProblems of Disjunction in an Eighteenth-Century Literary Form$
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Elizabeth R. Napier

Print publication date: 1987

Print ISBN-13: 9780198128601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198128601.001.0001

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Techniques of Destabilization and Excess

Techniques of Destabilization and Excess

(p.44) 2 Techniques of Destabilization and Excess
The Failure of Gothic

Elizabeth R. Napier

Oxford University Press

This chapter shows that although the Gothic is in many important respects conventional and highly fixed in form, there appears among the writers of the genre not only a certain distrust in the stability of the conventions that they use but a sense that stability itself is less interesting than moments of suspense or irresolution. The artful disequilibrium of the Gothic is achieved in a number of ways. Not only do the Gothic writers make full conventional use of stylistic devices such as exaggeration, interruption, and fragmentation to destabilize their narratives; this stylistic instability is supplemented by a peculiar tonal imbalance as well as one that might be called modal or generic. The effect of these distortions is a stylistic reproduction of paradox, of irregularity and decay that is akin to the aesthetic values of Price, Knight, and Gilpin, the main theoreticians of the picturesque.

Keywords:   exaggeration, Gothic fiction, instability, paradox, picturesque

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