A Trip to Bath, December 2019

At Cardiff University, we run a module for taught postgraduates entitled ‘Narrative and Nation: Politics, Gender and History, 1780-1830’. This course invites students to examine the key prose genres that dominated the Romantic period, with a close eye on those three thematic clusters: gender, politics and history. We look at authors such as Jane Austen, Frances Burney, Olaudah Equiano, William Godwin, Lady Morgan, Ann Radcliffe, Walter Scott, Horace Walpole and Mary Wollstonecraft (to name a few!). During the Romantic period, the idea of the ‘nation’ came under intense scrutiny, and this module allows students to explore how this was reflected in British literature and culture. MA students taking this module are often members of CRECS, attending the talks and writing on the authors that CRECS celebrates. Read more about studying for an MA in English Literature at Cardiff here.


Narrative and Nation MA students on the trip to Bath, December 2019

On 13 December 2019, the 2019-20 cohort of postgraduates and the module leader Anna Mercer went on a day trip to explore the city of Bath. It is well-established that a walking tour of this city is highly recommended for those interested in Austen – but we sought out some other literary sites/sights along the way that are perhaps less famous. Here’s some photos of our very successful trip, that also included a visit to No. 1 Royal Crescent, a stunning museum delivering a unique insight into Georgian spaces.

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The South Parade, where Frances Burney lived, and a plaque marks her lodgings. On 7 April 1780 she wrote of Bath: ‘this beautiful City, – which I really admire more than I did, if possible, when I first saw it. The Houses are so elegant, the streets are so beautiful, the Prospects so enchanting!’


The new plaque to Mary Shelley by Bath Abbey. We often think of Mary Shelley being in Geneva when writing her literary masterpiece and debut novel, Frankenstein (1818), but on her return from mainland Europe Mary Shelley took lodgings in Bath in a spot that is now part of the Pump Room extension. Although supposedly the idea for Frankenstein came to Mary Shelley on one stormy night in Switzerland, the manuscript of the novel required much revision and editing (with some assistance from her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley). Some of this literary labour took place in Bath.


The Frances Burney Memorial at Walcot Church (now: St Swithin’s Walcot). Hidden away up a hill away from the main tourist zones, you would be forgiven for walking past this modest memorial and not even noticing it. As Margaret Doody wrote: ‘Walcot Church was not, and is not in the fashionable area of Bath […] the other memorial [to Burney] is a street called d’Arblay Street in Soho, London, near the site of the old Burney residence in Poland Street. Walcot and Soho – Burney did not in death make an entrance into the fashionable world’.

We also spent time seeking out several key streets that appear in Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion (1818), the final text on our course, including Camden Crescent (for spectacular views: also where Sir Walter takes lodgings in the novel), Milsom Street (where Anne Elliot meets the Admiral), the Westgate Buildings (lodgings of Mrs Smith) and Bath Street (where Mrs Clay and Mr Elliot are spotted together).

We had an excellent lunch at Ponte Vecchio and ended up in the museum on the Royal Crescent…


Really bringing Georgian culture to life!


You can read about a previous MA Narrative and Nation trip to Bath in 2016 here.


Cardiff FrankenFest: Celebrating 200 Years of Frankenstein

When I placed my head on my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think. My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bounds of reverie. I saw—with shut eyes, but acute mental vision, —I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.—Mary Shelley, Introduction to Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus (1831 edn)

FrankenFestJoin CRECS in celebrating the bicentenary of the publication of Frankenstein, as we host a festival of events later this month that explore various aspects of Mary Shelley’s gothic classic. A collaboration between the School of English, Communication & Philosophy and Special Collections at Cardiff University, and directed by Prof. Anthony Mandal, Cardiff Frankenfest is part of the global Frankenreads initiative—a celebration of the novel’s anniversary by over 400 partners around the world, taking place in the lead-up to Halloween 2018.

We are delighted to be hosting four convivial, interactive events later this month, to which fans of the novel are warmly invited. Unless otherwise noted, events take place in the Special Collections of Cardiff University’s Arts and Social Studies Library.

  • A Stormy Night of Ghost-Telling: Fantasmagoriana and the Villa Diodati (22 Oct 2018, 5.30–7pm): In this seminar, Dr Maximiliaan van Woudenberg (Cambridge) will explore Fantasmagoriana, the collection of ghost stories in French read by Byron and the Shelleys during a summer stay in Switzerland. It was these tales that inspired the infamous ghost-storytelling completion, resulting in Mary’s creation of Frankenstein. The seminar will consist of a talk, followed by a hands-on discussion based on close readings of two short stories from Fantasmagoriana. This event is co-organised by CRECS and the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research.
  • ‘Of What A Strange Nature Is Knowledge’: Interdisciplinary Approaches To Frankenstein (24 Oct 2018, 5–7pm): This event explores the novel through various modes of analysis, led by Cardiff University researchers. Dr James Castell will discuss the ways in which Frankenstein anticipates key concerns of the environmental humanities; Barbara Hughes-Moore considers the relationship between legal culpability and the Creature’s status as a non-human; Prof. Keir Waddington examines how the laboratory space features in the novel. Each speaker will talk for about 15 minutes, with plenty of time for discussion.
  • Mary Shelley (29 Oct 2018, 6–9pm): A screening of Haifaa al-Mansoor’s 2017 biopic, starring Elle Fanning. The movie will be followed by a discussion of its representation of Mary’s life and love by Dr Anna Mercer (Cardiff/Keats House), whose work draws on her extensive research into the Shelley family manuscripts. This event is co-hosted by Cardiff BookTalk, and takes place in Cardiff University’s Optometry Building. 
  • ‘My Hideous Progeny’: Your Favourite Readings of Frankenstein and the FrankenQuiz (31 Oct 2018, 4–7pm): Start your Halloween celebrations by coming along to read and discuss your favourite passages from Frankenstein, at an event hosted by Rob Lloyd. The evening, and Festival, will conclude with a FrankenQuiz, in which you can prove your knowledge of all things Frankenstein—there will be suitably monstrous prizes for the winning team. For more information about readings, please contact Robert at LloydRS2@cardiff.ac.uk.

All events are free and everyone is welcome to attend. Refreshments will be available. However, please register using the Eventbrite link below so that we can plan accordingly: cardiff-frankenfest.eventbrite.co.uk.

Gender in Gothic Fiction, by Ella Moseley


 We are delighted to be able to publish the first of the winning essays from our CRECS Essay Prize 2015/16: ‘Gender in Gothic Fiction’, by Ella Moseley, which was the winner in our Second-Year BA category.

Ella Moseley is a third-year English Literature undergraduate at Cardiff University. She is particularly interested in Romantic and Victorian literature, as well as modern crime fiction. She hopes to pursue a career in either journalism or law. 


Gender in Gothic Fiction


In the 1790s, due to the French Revolution, the debate concerning the nature, capacity, and role of women ‘acquired a new urgency’.[1] In France civil marriage and divorce were now permitted by law; some women even asked that they be granted the same political rights as men. Male anti-Jacobin writers sought to establish ‘progressive ideas’ about women with regard to ‘revolutionary terror and social breakdown’ – perhaps because they believed that the ‘fear of women stepping out of their traditional sphere’ made for effective propaganda.[2] In light of this statement, it appears that crosscurrents of sex and gender, biology and genre, are ‘crucial to an understanding of gothic writing’.[3] For example, Female Gothic and Male Gothic are arguably two distinct types that correspond to the categories of ‘terror gothic’ and ‘horror gothic’. Such categories are epitomised in Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796) respectively.[4]  Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1798), however, parodies Radcliffe’s use of gothic conventions ‘whilst relying on them for her novel’s shape’.[5] Each text, regardless of the gender of the author, has the potential to challenge or subvert the patriarchal authority inherent within eighteenth-century society.[6]


Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho arguably disrupts ‘unquestioning acceptance of an upper-middle-class patriarchal order’.[7] Radcliffe introduces Montoni as ‘a man […] with features manly and expressive, but whose countenance exhibited […] a haughtiness of command’.[8] He possesses ‘an aggressive masculinity’ that renders him hostile towards women whom he deems as a form of ‘disposable property’.[9] Unlike Lewis’s Ambrosio, Montoni does not indulge in emotions of high passion as in doing so he risks indulging in aspects of male sentimentality. His characterisation is rather contradictory: as a gothic villain, he needs to be cruel; but as an example of non-sentimental masculinity, he must embody values of reason and moderation.[10] The manliness that Montoni manifests belongs to an older tradition of masculinity that presents emotionality as feminine, shameful and a deviation from self-control.[11] He sees femininity as a lamentable excess to be contained. This perception becomes apparent when he endeavours to give Emily a conventional lecture on female deportment:

You should learn and practise the virtues, which are indispensable to a woman – sincerity, uniformity of conduct and obedience. (p.270)

Montoni’s use of language could be seen to stress ‘the duty of a woman’s submission to paternal regulations’[12]; however, it is worth remembering that the author was a female and so could be mocking the strict regulations that women were subject to. Interestingly the idea of female submission is subverted in an exchange between Montoni and Count Morano. Montoni cannot comprehend Morano’s reluctance to use force on Emily. Montoni exclaims to Morano: ‘this submission is childish! – speak as becomes a man, not as the slave of a pretty tyrant’ (p.200). Here it is Morano that is portrayed as the submissive individual, at the mercy of Emily the ‘pretty tyrant’. Radcliffe’s subversion of traditional power dynamics questions eighteenth-century patriarchal authority.

Despite Montoni’s oppressive nature, Emily is awestruck by a display of ‘Italian music and Italian expression’ set beneath ‘the enchantments of the Venetian moonlight’ (p.177). Emily begins to wonder what life would be like as a ‘sea-nymph’: Emily is no longer the ‘pensive, sorrowing wanderer’; instead that role is given to a male, subject to her enchantment, in what is a clear subversion of conventional gender roles.[13] Emily writes a poem of her imaginings called ‘The Sea-Nymph’, allowing her to take ‘control of her own fate or story’.[14] In this poem, Emily speaks of ‘prov[ing] [her] charmful pow’r’ (p.179). Emily recognises her need to ‘prove’ her abilities highlighting the fact that she is aware of the speculation of female inferiority. However, the poem ends with Emily-as-sea-nymph appropriating her femininity to ‘hush the sailor’s fearful groan’ (p.181), subverting the stereotype of the silenced female. Emily’s imaginings could be read as an ‘escape from the tyranny of patriarchal authority’ to another mode of being that ‘gives her control of her own sexuality’ excluding both marriage ‘and all forms of pecuniary advantage’.[15] Emily’s envisioned ‘escape’ thus highlights her wishes to defy the patriarchal authority that she is subject to.

In the ‘Sea-Nymph’, Radcliffe parallels Emily’s sensibility with freedom, assertiveness and transgression of propriety; however Emily’s transgressive behaviour in the poem is undermined by her moral perfection.[16] On his deathbed, St Aubert (Emily’s father), asks that she burn some papers hid at La Valée without reading them. However on doing so, Emily is distracted by a vision of ‘the countenance of her dead father’ (p.103) and thus unintentionally disobeys her father’s instructions. Emily, ‘reanimated with a sense of her duty’, goes on to say:

I have given a solemn promise […] to observe a solemn injunction, and it is not my business to argue but to obey. Let me hasten to remove the temptation that would destroy my innocence. (p.103)

The lexis of submission evoked through the terms ‘obey’ and ‘injunction’ parallels that of the many conduct-books that were around at the time. For example, Dr John Gregory’s A Father’s Legacy to his Daughters speaks of the importance of the ‘consciousness of doing your duty’.[17] Emily’s sense of morality overrides her desire to transgress her father’s wishes and read the papers, highlighting that although Emily may want to break free from patriarchal restraints, her sense of duty as a daughter prevents her from doing so.

By the end of the novel however, as if to reverse the ‘cumulative tendency’ of gothic plots concerning domestic violence (encapsulated when Annette voices to Madame Montoni ‘I suppose the Signor has been beating my lady’ (p.306)), the novel ultimately legitimises such discipline of women by presenting it as justified.[18] It attempts to eradicate all the stories of suffering women and to refigure them about men instead. The ‘brief history of LAURENTINI DI UDOLPHO’ (p.655) arguably rationalises the patriarchal discipline of women by presenting it as ‘deserved’.[19] Whilst on her deathbed ‘Sister Agnes’ revealed herself to be Laurentini; but through this ‘history’ the reader discovers the crime that drove her to insanity was murder. The ‘brief history’ dramatically re-genders ‘almost all the guilt and suffering’ in the novel.[20] For example, no longer a victim of Montoni’s greed, Laurentini is now a murderess who ‘conducted her scheme with deep dissimulation’, hoping to estrange ‘the affectations of the Marquis from his wife’ (p.658). While the Marquis, who actually committed the murder, is presented as sympathetic: subject to ‘a deep dejection’ that ‘hung over him ever after’ (p.659). In deflating Montoni, and faulting Emily for believing in ‘the power of men when it is actually women who have the power and tendency to harm’, Radcliffe has arguably dealt ‘a pro-feminist blow’.[21] However, far from liberating, this criminalisation of women and collapse of masculine power merely conceals the male to female violence throughout the novel and thus reaffirms notions of patriarchy.


In Northanger Abbey, under the cover of parodying Gothic fiction (in particular Radcliffe’s Udolpho) and so appearing to be ‘inoffensive’, Jane Austen could arguably be taking a satiric swipe at the ‘the literary and social patriarchy’ of the time.[22] At the age of ten, Northanger Abbey’s heroine Catherine Morland, was ‘noisy and wild’ and ‘hated confinement and cleanliness’.[23] As Mary Wollstonecraft approved in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Catherine had been brought up to be ‘fond of all boys’ plays’ (p.15).[24] However from fifteen to seventeen ‘almost pretty’ Catherine was ‘in training for a heroine’ (p.17). Catherine becomes aware of the importance of sensibility for women and a ‘new feminine but superficial awareness governs her reading’[25]:

she read all such works as heroines must read to supply their memories with those quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the vicissitudes of their eventful lives. (p.17)

The repeated use of the term ‘so’ not only mocks the ‘conventions of the Sentimental novel’, but also Dr Johnson’s popular concept that novels and other literary works should serve as ‘lectures of conduct’, as well as the expectation that women should ‘conform to a didactic paradigm’.[26] Here Northanger Abbey could be seen as a challenge and reply to those that would belittle women’s intelligence, underestimate their reading, restrict their education and seek to impose stereotyped expectations and responses.[27]

There are multiple passages throughout the novel that ‘satirize dominant assumptions by men about women’s intellectual powers and education’.[28] Chapter fourteen sees the narrator give a mock approval of Catherine’s ignorance in the practice of drawing:

She was heartily ashamed of her ignorance. A misplaced shame. Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind, is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can. (p.106)

Austen parodies with satiric intent the sort of conduct-book discourse that publicised such moralistic and sexist beliefs seriously. For example in Dr Gregory’s A Father’s Legacy to his Daughters he tells women that ‘if [they] happen to have any learning, keep it a profound secret, especially from the men’.[29] Austen could also arguably be parodying Emily’s moral perfection mentioned previously (of which also parallels A Father’s Legacy): Emily ‘hastens to remove the temptation that would destroy [her] innocence’ (p.103) behaving as one of the ‘sensible’ people mentioned by Austen’s narrator. Both Radcliffe and Austen appropriate familiar eighteenth-century discourses, through their allusion to conduct-book literature, in ways which question and challenge ‘official’ patriarchal values.[30]

Following Henry Tilney’s ‘lecture on the picturesque’, Catherine goes on to predict that ‘something very shocking indeed, will soon come out of London’ (p.107). Henry’s sister (Eleanor) is mistaken and assumes that Catherine is referring to the possibility of riots and rebellion in London. Henry then goes on to correct his ‘stupid sister’ by saying to her:

My dear Eleanor, the riot is only in your own brain. The confusion there is scandalous. Miss Morland is talking of nothing more dreadful than a new publication which is shortly to come out, in three duodecimo volumes, two hundred and seventy-six pages in each, with a frontispiece to the first, of two tombstones and lantern – do you understand? (p.108)

Henry’s use of phrases such as ‘my dear Eleanor’ and ‘- do you understand?’ suggest a very patronising tone, one that wouldn’t be ill-suited if used to address a young child. The nature of Henry’s response alludes to Mary Wollstonecraft’s point about the ‘false system of education’ which was perpetuating in women what she called a ‘barren blooming’.[31] The juxtaposition of the term ‘barren’ with ‘blooming’ shows Wollstonecraft insinuating the redundancy of women’s supposed ‘education’ due to its lack of quality. Despite Henry’s obvious playfulness in clearing up his sister’s ‘confusion’, shown through Henry’s fictionalisation of the ‘riot’ in a mock-historical report, Henry is made to speak from the position of male superiority which ‘his education, profession, broader experience and relative independence […] have bestowed’.[32] He expects and does in fact gain amusement at Catherine and Eleanor’s expense. Thus the power is shifted into ‘the camp of the male preceptor’ meaning that Austen’s ‘feminism’ is uncertain.[33]

Henry responds to Catherine in a similar manner after realising the outcome of her overindulgence in the realm of Gothic fiction. Upon first meeting Henry’s father, General Tilney, Catherine attributes his ‘air and attitude’ (p.176) to that of Montoni; thus presenting him as a verified version of Radcliffe’s villain: ‘different, but also disturbingly similar’.[34] After discovering the absurd conceptions entertained by Catherine concerning the sincerity of his father, Henry protests:

Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions that you have entertained. […] Remember the country and age in which we live. […] – Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? […] Could they be perpetuated […] in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing; where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting? (p.186)

Henry’s response is arguably a ‘transformed repetition of his mock rebuke’ to Eleanor about the ‘riot’ in her mind (p.108).[35] The pleasure Henry takes in feeling superior to Catherine undercuts his perceptions; while Catherine’s presumptions are slightly bizarre, it is not irrational to assume that a concealed murder could occur in Christian England, or to assume that women are always safe. [36] Both of Henry’s responses to the two girls are ironic. Each depends largely on the reader’s ideological knowledge regarding the late eighteenth- century riots in the English Midlands and elsewhere, and to the ‘repressive practices’ circulated in response to fear of domestic Jacobinism.[37] However Catherine soon realises that, ‘in suspecting General Tilney of either murdering or shutting up his wife, she had scarcely sinned against his character, or magnified his cruelty’ (p.230). As in Udolpho, after all the misapprehensions have been cleared, Catherine (like Emily) still has something to fear: ‘patriarchal tyranny’.[38] Rather than an exaggeration of the father’s familial role, Northanger Abbey provides ‘a sober reconsideration’ – the father may be able to dampen the spirits of his family, may ‘interfere in their marital plans’ due to ‘snobbish ambition’, but the children can always ‘assert their rationality’; they are not his passive victims.[39]


The Monk arguably defines itself against Udolpho: the positive visionary aspects of sensibility that are so prominent in Radcliffe’s text are almost absent. Cynical statements made by the narrator ‘place women in inferior and passive roles as objects of male desire’; thus making it difficult to argue that The Monk is ‘potentially subversive of patriarchal roles governing women’s sexuality’.[40] The opening scene of The Monk is that of a church ‘thronged with auditors’ in which ‘the Women came to show themselves, the Men to see the Women’.[41] Due to the full capacity of the church Leonella and her niece Antonia struggle to find a seat. Upon expressing her wish to return home, Antonia’s ‘tone of unexampled sweetness’ (p.9) is heard by two cavaliers: Don Christoval and Don Lorenzo. They longed to behold the face to which the voice belonged however ‘this satisfaction was denied them’:

Her features were hidden by a thick veil; but struggling through the crowd had deranged it sufficiently to discover a neck which for symmetry and beauty might have vied with the Medicean Venus. (p.9)

The veil epitomises Lewis’s use of the Male Gothic; a genre that: presupposes ‘a masculine subject dazzled by actual, or self-produced stimuli with a tendency to an eroticisation figured through the female body’.[42] Both Christoval and Lorenzo are the masculine subjects, dazzled by actual stimuli (Antonia). Their objectification of Antonia through the allusion to the ‘Medicean Venus’ not only subjects her to an ‘active male gaze’[43] but eroticises her through reference to the statue (commonly depicted as having one hand covering her genitalia). The apparent focus on Antonia’s physical ‘beauty’, aligned with that of a statue, assigns her to the inferior role as an object of male desire.

The inset narrative of the ‘Bleeding Nun’ provides us with Antonia’s antithesis:

Beatrice de las Cisternas took the veil at an early age […] But no sooner did her warm and voluptuous character begin to develop, than She abandoned herself freely to the impulse of her passions. (p.173)

It culminates with Otto von Lindenberg, Beatrice’s lover, plunging the dagger ‘still reeking of his Brother’s blood’ (p.175) into Beatrice’s bosom after she has used it to kill her former lover The Baron (Otto’s brother). The narrative portrays Beatrice as a passionate and ‘uncontrollable female’ – everything that Antonia is not.[44] The juxtaposition between Antonia and Beatrice provides a ‘double image of the veil’: while Beatrice appears penetrated and bloody, Antonia ‘remains fixed within the discourse of modesty’.[45] Thus, once dead, Beatrice becomes the female principle that haunts the patriarchal symbolic order. The antithesis present between Beatrice and Antonia recalls one seen between Emily and Laurentini in Udolpho, also by means of a ‘veil’. Toward the end of Udolpho the reader discovers that ‘had [Emily] dared to look again’ she would have discovered that the figure beneath the veil ‘was not human, but formed of wax’ (p.662). The image is actually ‘a wax memento mori of indeterminate sex’; it is Emily ‘who engenders it through projection’.[46] However as Emily ‘explicitly identifies her situation with Laurentini’s’, she finds herself in the ‘object’ position that the veil creates ‘for those who wear it’.[47] This is a classic example of Radcliffe’s endorsement of the Female Gothic, a genre that: presupposes a female subject position disciplined through a male presence; however whereas in Lewis’s use of the Male Gothic the subjects (Christoval and Lorenzo) adopted the gaze, here the subject (Emily) is also the object of that gaze. Both cases present the endorsement of patriarchy by presenting the female characters as objects of the gaze.

The concept of uncertain, indeterminate sex manifests itself in the character of Rosario/Matilda. In the ‘Abbey-Garden’ Rosario reveals her ‘true’ identity to Ambrosio, exclaiming ‘’I am a Woman! […] I am Matilda’’ (p.50/1). Matilda’s masking of her supposed ‘true’ identity could allude to the chapter epigraph in Radcliffe’s Udolpho (p.670): a quotation from Milton’s Comus. Comus was a popular masquerade figure during the eighteenth-century and by the 1770’s it was ‘common practice for women to appear in male attire at masquerades’, perhaps demonstrating where Lewis found his inspiration for Matilda.[48] Whilst in the garden Matilda asks Ambrosio to pick her a flower as ‘a token of [his] regard’ (p.71); however on doing so he utters ‘ a piercing cry’ having been bitten by ‘A Serpent’ that was ‘concealed among the roses’ (p.71). Lewis’s ‘Serpent’ parallels that of the Garden of Eden, presenting Ambrosio as an Eve figure in what is a clear subversion of traditional gender roles and thus partriarchy. This subversion is arguably more poignant as it occurs in the Monastery garden – one that possesses context of patriarchal education (a monastery being one definition of fatherly austerity).[49]

The danger of female power and unpredictability that unsettles the patriarchal order is personified through Matilda. She ‘exploits Ambrosio’s weakness for the feminine through his own “feminine” side, his inherent carnality’.[50] At this point Matilda appears as dominant stating that she ‘shall seize every opportunity to excite [Ambrosio’s] desires’ (p.89). However Matilda does refer to herself as ‘prey’, presenting herself as a victim as well as a seductress: she must conform to the conventions of sensibility in order to tempt Ambrosio into sleeping with her.[51] After ‘satisfying his desires’ (p.84) by sleeping with Matilda, Ambrosio’s response to her sexual and intellectual dominance is ‘to pursue a “feminine” ideal of chastity and submissiveness’ in the form of Antonia.[52] Although Ambrosio’s encounter with Matilda initially appears to be subverting traditional gender power dynamics, he then undermines this, reaffirming male dominance by pursuing and raping Antonia, an endorsement of the feminine ideal.


Feminist writers claim that ‘Gothic fantasy has been appropriated differentially by men and women’.[53] Yet while male and female authors may appear to deal with matters differently, the outcome seems to be the same. For example, although at times Radcliffe and Austen appear to challenge ‘official’ patriarchal codes, they are still ultimately confined by the restrictions of their sex as both The Mysteries of Udolpho and Northanger Abbey endorse the reaffirmation of patriarchal structures. However, The Monk is predominately concerned with the fear of female sexuality, and Lewis deals with this anxiety in a manner typical of a male of the era: he presents women as weaker in the binary opposition of Male/Female, thus asserting patriarchal authority. In each text, traditional patriarchal values are questioned at some point; however ultimately, the restrictions and attitudes of eighteenth-century society prevent these texts from fully proclaiming the subversion of patriarchal values.


Primary Texts

Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2003)

Lewis, Matthew, The Monk (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)

Radcliffe, Ann, The Mysteries of Udolpho (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)


Secondary Sources

Castle, Terry, Watch Out! Boss Ladies: Essays on Women, Sex, and Writing (New York: Routledge, 2002)

Gregory, John, A Father’s Legacy to his Daughters (London: W Strahan, T Cadell, 1774)

Howard, Jacqueline, Reading Gothic Fiction: A Bakhtinian Approach (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994

Johnson, C.L., Equivocal Beings: Politics, Gender, and Sentimentality in the 1790’s – Wollstonecraft, Radcliffe, Burney, Austen (London: University of Chicago Press Ltd, 1995)

Miles, Robert, Gothic Writing, 1750-1820: A Genealogy (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2002)

Stafford, William, English Feminists and Their Opponents in the 1790’s: Unsex’d and Proper Females (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002)

Watt, James, Contesting the Gothic: Fiction, Genre, and Cultural Conflict, 1764-1832 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)

Williams, Anne, The Art of Darkness: A Poetics of Gothic (London: The University of Chicago Press Ltd, 1995)

Internet Sources and Websites

Bondhus, Charlie, ‘Sublime Patriarchs and the Problems of the New Middle Class in Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian’, Gothic Studies, 12.1 (2010), 13-32. Available at http://literature.proquest.com.abc.cardiff.ac.uk/pageImage.do?ftnum=2342383181&fmt=page&area=abell&journalid=13627937&articleid=R04388611&pubdate=2010&queryid=2919702940373 [accessed 2 April 2016].




[1] William Stafford, English Feminists and Their Opponents in the 1790’s: Unsex’d and Proper Females (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002), p.1.

[2] Stafford, English Feminists, p.2.

[3] Robert Miles, Gothic Writing, 1750-1820: A Genealogy (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2002), p.7.

[4] Jacqueline Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction: A Bakhtinian Approach (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), p.57.

[5] Linda Hutcheon,A Theory of Parody: The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms’, quoted in Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.147.

[6] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.105.

[7] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.7.

[8] Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), p.23. All further references are to this edition and are given parenthetically in the body of the essay.

[9] Claudia L Johnson, Equivocal Beings: Politics, Gender, and Sentimentality in the 1790’s – Wollstonecraft, Radcliffe, Burney, Austen (London: University of Chicago Press Ltd, 1995), p.103.

[10] Johnson, Equivocal Beings, p.103.

[11] Johnson, Equivocal Beings, p.103.

[12] Johnson, Equivocal Beings, p.103.

[13] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p. 136.

[14] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p. 136.

[15] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p. 136.

[16] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.138.

[17] John Gregory, A Father’s Legacy to his Daughters (London: W Strahan, T Cadell, 1774), p.22.

[18] Johnson, Equivocal Beings, p.113.

[19] Johnson, Equivocal Beings, p.113.

[20] Johnson, Equivocal Beings, p.114.

[21] Johnson, Equivocal Beings, p.115.

[22] Hutcheon, ‘A Theory of Parody’, quoted in Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.147.

[23] Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2003), p.16. All further references are to this edition and are given parenthetically in the body of the essay.

[24] Mary Wollstonecraft, ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’, quoted in Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.163.

[25] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.163.

[26] Samuel Johnson, ‘Johnson: Prose and Poetry’, quoted in Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.163.

[27] Howard, Reading Gothic, p.174.

[28] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.168.

[29] Gregory, A Father’s Legacy, p.26.

[30] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.170.

[31] Wollstonecraft, ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’, quoted in Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.177.

[32] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.177.

[33] Miles, Gothic Writing: A Genealogy, p.138.

[34] Miles, Gothic Writing: A Genealogy, p.142.

[35] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.167.

[36] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.167.

[37] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.167.

[38] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.166.

[39] Miles, Gothic Writing: A Genealogy, p.144.

[40] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.8.

[41] Matthew Lewis, The Monk (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), p.7. All further references are to this edition and are given parenthetically in the body of the essay.

[42] Miles, Gothic Writing: A Genealogy, p.47.

[43] Miles, Gothic Writing: A Genealogy, p.47.

[44] Anne Williams, The Art of Darkness: A Poetics of Gothic (London: The University of Chicago Press Ltd, 1995), p.119.

[45] Miles, Gothic Writing: A Genealogy, p.158.

[46] Miles, Gothic Writing: A Genealogy, p.72.

[47] Miles, Gothic Writing: A Genealogy, p.72.

[48] Aileen Ribeiro, ‘Dress Worn at Masquerades in England’, quoted in Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.140.

[49] Miles, Gothic Writing: A Genealogy, p.153.

[50] Williams, The Art of Darkness, p.117.

[51] Miles, Gothic Writing: A Genealogy, p.159.

[52] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction, p.201.

[53] Howard, Reading Gothic Fiction,

CRECS Essay Prize Winners

In 2015/16, we established the CRECS Essay Prize, an annual award open to undergraduate and MA students registered in Cardiff’s School of English, Communication and Philosophy. The prizes are intended to reward the most impressive student essays addressing English Literature of the eighteenth century and Romantic period over the academic year. They are also intended to facilitate engagement with the field of eighteenth-century and Romantic studies, and to encourage the winners to consider further study in this area.

We are delighted to be able to announce the winners for 2015/16: Ella Moseley (second-year BA), Alexander Diggins (third-year BA), and Charlotte Pruce (MA). Congratulations to all three of our winners! We are also delighted to be able to publish Ella and Alexander’s essays on this blog, with their permission. Please see the following blog posts.

We will be running the prize again in the 2016/17 academic year, and we hope that all English Literature students taking modules in our period will be inspired to take part. There is no need to enter your work, as all eligible essays will automatically be entered for the prize. Good luck!