Past PhD students
Title: From Libraries to Landscapes: Travel Writing and the Gothic, 1700-1797
My project examines the development of a relationship between the Eighteenth Century Gothic and the Imaginative Geographies produced and maintained within dominant traditions of tourism and travel-writing. In the process I observe the significance of the Picturesque movement in maintaining the Gothic imagination during the 1770s and 80s (when relatively few Gothic novels are published); draw attention to the work of relatively neglected Gothic writers, such as Charlotte Smith; and finally reappraise Ann Radcliffe’s oeuvre as a progressive intervention in the field of travel and travel-writing: completing the Gothic’s (re)location within a modern, enlightened, cultural imagination at the end of the Eighteenth Century.
Title: The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Blurring the Boundaries
My project concerns the crystallisation of an adolescent age group through the medium of gothic readership, and how the tropes of gothic literature gradually came to be allied, and arguably transferred, to literature for children and adolescents. Evidence of children’s reading of gothic literature in the eighteenth century is not as sparing as might be expected, and in this light a reading of gothic tropes reveals considerable pertinent interest value to an adolescent audience which anecdotally implicitly comprises a large proportion of the reading audience, and not coincidentally frequently coincides with the age and class circumstances of gothic protagonists themselves.
Title: The Geographical Domestication of Gothic Fiction, 1800-1820
My research investigates the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century transition from foreign to domestic settings in the British Isles in Gothic fiction. I explore the social, political and religious contexts for this geographical change; including the rise of Jacobin and anti-Jacobin literature during and after the French Revolution, the burgeoning anxieties about liberty and freedom among the British population, and Protestant concerns surrounding the increase in Catholic sympathisers. My thesis is divided into four chapters which deal with the four British nations, analysing their individual Gothic literary output to assess what contemporary issues influenced their work.
Title: Servant narratives and their impact on identity in early Gothic fiction
My research interrogates how the servant narratives found in late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Gothic literature are part of an evolving British literary tradition. This tradition explores servant narrative as both a subversive and confirming method of controlling identity constructs, both individually and in a broader social sense. The Gothic novels of Walpole, Radcliffe, Lewis, Dacre, Shelley and others draw from a literary tradition of servant narrative control going back to Shakespeare and closely linked with the development of the novel. The persistence of this tradition suggests an understanding of identity as subjective, changeable, and a product of self-creation and class-transcending imagination.
Title: A Women’s Gothic? : 1780 to 1820
My research explores the relationship between the female writers of the Gothic tradition, their depictions of gender and their relationship with their female readers in the late eighteenth century. The eighteenth century saw the development of a British middle class and in turn a significant increase of literacy amongst women. These newly literate women sought suitable entertainment and so the Gothic found not only a devoted audience, but also a vast number of authors to sustain it. Arguably, for the first time women were able to engage in a direct discourse: novels written by women, specifically to be read by women. My thesis explores how female readers and writers used the Gothic to define femininity and to what extent the Gothic was a ‘female sphere’.
Title: The Book of Levi: Ouroboric Fiction and the Future of Metafiction.
My research looks at the role of the Gothic in investigating post-postmodern modes, specifically analysing how the genre can be employed in exploration of Vermuelen and van den Akker’s Metamodernism. This involves an analysis of the use of metafictional techniques, the search for sincerity, and the swing between modernist and postmodernist ideologies in contemporary Gothic fiction (from ~ 1990 onwards). I am particularly interested in the Gothic as a site for the exploration of these new critical landscapes, how an emergent neo-romanticism and a desire to be free of a postmodern ironic past which constantly returns to disrupt the present can be, and increasingly are, transposed onto atypical Gothic narratives.
Title: ‘(Re)presenting the Brontës: A Study of Female Representation Through Mirrors, Windows and Paintings in Five Brontë Novels’
The Brontës have been considered proto-feminist writers due to the way their adult works deal with the limitations of the female position in mid-nineteenth century society in ways that have been deemed rebellious or subversive. This thesis contributes to feminist studies on the Brontës by providing a nuanced understanding of the at times subversive but at other times more conventional ways they depicted women’s role in patriarchal society by arguing that a set of analogous images – mirrors, windows, and paintings – held a significant space in the Brontës’ literary imagination and were utilised to explore both the potential liberations and limitations for the female position and its representations.