Date of Award

4-17-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Malinda Snow - Chair

Second Advisor

Murray Brown

Third Advisor

Tanya Caldwell

Abstract

“The Third Person in the Room: Servants and the Construction of Identity in the Eighteenth-Century Gothic Novel” explores the eighteenth-century Gothic novelists’ use of the stock servant character device to illustrate the tenuous nature of identity construction in a novelistic world torn between an admiration for its feudalistic past and a desire to embrace rising notions of individualism. I examine representations of real and literary servants to argue that the servant figure offers a convenient avenue for the discussion of class, social expectation, and economics, for as both family members and participants in the economy of the outside world, servants bridge the gap eighteenth-century authors find between their reclusive, feudalistic past and their social, individualistic present. Further, servants’ ties to the household associate them with the feminine perspective and provide authors, particularly authors of the Female Gothic, with a means of presenting the female voice in cases where it had otherwise been silenced by male oppression. In this work, I focus specifically on usurpation in Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto¸ Robert Jephson’s The Count of Norbonne, and William Godwin’s Caleb Williams, maternal history in Clara Reeve’s The Old English Baron, Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian, and Sophia Lee’s The Recess, sexual surrogacy in Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, and aristocratic criminalization in Charlotte Smith’s The Old Manor House. I examine these works in the context of eighteenth-century realistic literature, social criticism and historical frameworks as well as through the lens of current theoretical examinations of the eighteenth-century Gothic.

Share

COinS