A Very Tempting Texan. Fit for a Sheikh. Locked Up with a Lawman. Entangled with a Texan. Pregnant with the Rancher's Baby. Pretending with the Playboy. A Most Shocking Revelation. Remembering One Wild Night. Bound by a Child. Breathless for the Bachelor. Taming the Texas Tycoon. A White Wedding Christmas. The Secret Heir of Sunset Ranch. What the Prince Wants. A Lawman in Her Stocking.
The Rebel Tycoon Returns. Expecting the CEO's Child. Home for the Holidays. Two Hearts, Slightly Used. Rocky and the Senator's Daughter. Synopsis The documents collected in this volume, first published in , trace the development of novel criticism during one of the most formative periods in the history of fiction: from Buy New Learn more about this copy. Other Popular Editions of the Same Title. Search for all books with this author and title.
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Indeed, this is the pattern of Gothic as a genre that, in generating and refracting diverse objects of fear and anxiety, transforms its own shape and focus. In structuring this book along conventional chronological lines, cultural and historical discontinuities as well as continuities can be plotted, demonstrating the major shifts in Gothic production as well as the persistence of certain patterns.
Drawing on newer critical work as well as earlier studies, this introduction anticipates future examinations of the ways Gothic texts produce, reinforce and undermine received ideas about literature, nation, gender and culture. The British Critic 7, June , p. The lack of the former and abundance of the latter, in the eyes of the reviewer for the British Critic , distinguished M. The review is not extraordinary either in the tone it adopts or in the terms it employs, though The Monk achieved special notoriety.
While a few writers, now established as founders of the Gothic tradition—Horace Walpole and Ann Radcliffe particularly— received both critical and popular approbation, they were in the minority. Between and critics were almost univocal in their condemnation of what was seen as an unending torrent of popular trashy novels. Intensified by fears of radicalism and revolution, the challenge to aesthetic values was framed in terms of social transgression: virtue, propriety and domestic order were considered to be under threat. However, the basis for rejections of Gothic novels had been laid much earlier in the century.
The values that gave shape and direction to the Enlightenment, dominated as it was by writings from Greek and Roman culture, privileged forms of cultural or artistic production that attended to the classical rules. Buildings, works of art, gardens, landscapes and written texts had to conform to precepts of uniformity, proportion and order. Aesthetic objects were praised for their harmony and texts were designed to foster appreciation on these terms, to instruct rather than entertain, to inculcate a sense of morality and rational understanding and thus educate readers in the discrimination of virtue and vice.
The dominance of classical values produced a national past that was distinct from the cultivation, rationality and maturity of an enlightened age.
Manifestations of the Gothic past—buildings, ruins, songs and romances—were treated as products of uncultivated if not childish minds. But characteristics like extravagance, superstition, fancy and wildness which were initially considered in negative terms became associated, in the course of the eighteenth century, with a more expansive and imaginative potential for aesthetic production.
Gothic productions never completely lost their earlier, negative connotations to become fully assimilated within the bounds of proper literature. Implicated in a major shift in cultural attitudes, Gothic works came to harbour a disturbing ambivalence which disclosed the instability not only of modes of representation but also of the structures that held those representations in place.
Throughout the century important social, economic and political as well as cultural changes began to prise apart the bonds linking individuals to an ordered social world. Urbanisation, industrialisation, revolution were the principal signs of change. Enlightenment rationalism displaced religion as the authoritative mode of explaining the universe and altered conceptions of the relations between individuals and natural, supernatural and social worlds. Gothic works and their disturbing ambivalence can thus be seen as effects of fear and anxiety, as attempts to account for or deal with the uncertainty of these shifts.
They are also attempts to explain what the Enlightenment left unexplained, efforts to reconstruct the divine mysteries that reason had begun to dismantle, to recuperate pasts and histories that offered a permanence and unity in excess of the limits of rational and moral order. In this respect the past that was labelled Gothic was a site of struggle between enlightened forces of progress and more conservative impulses to retain continuity. The contest for a coherent and stable account of the past, however, produced an ambivalence that was not resolved.
The complex and often contradictory attempts either to make the past barbaric in contrast to an enlightened present or to find in it a continuity that gave English culture a stable history had the effect of bringing to the fore and transforming the way in which both past and present depended on modes of representation. The various developments in aesthetic practice that paved the way for Gothic fiction are themselves accompanied by similar concerns about the nature and effects of representation.
Romances, the tales of magical occurrences and exotic adventures that drew on the customs and superstitions of the Middle Ages, met, from the late seventeeth century on, with general disapproval. Graveyard poetry, rejecting human vices and vanities through an insistence on mortality, encouraged an interest in ruins, tombs and nocturnal gloom as the frontiers that opened on to an afterlife of infinite bliss.
Natural and artistic objects were seen to evoke emotional effects like terror and wonder which marked an indistinct sense of an immensity that exceeded human comprehension and elevated human sensibility. The effusive and imaginative descriptions of objects both natural and supernatural that were recovered by scholars collecting the songs and ballads of medieval culture provided the examples of a romantic and sublime way of writing. Similarly, medieval architecture, with its cathedrals, castles and ruins, became a worthy model for evocations of sublimity.
The Gothic novel owes much to these developments. The marvellous incidents and chivalric customs of romances, the descriptions of wild and elemental natural settings, the gloom of the graveyard and ruin, the scale and permanence of the architecture, the terror and wonder of the sublime, all become important features of the eighteenth-century Gothic novel. Similarly, the emphasis on the limits of the neoclassical aesthetic project that occurs in reappraisals of romances, ruins and sublimity provides an important stimulus to the imaginative aspirations of Gothic fiction.
Neo-classical criticism throughout the eighteenth century found much to disapprove of, often without any attempt at discrimination, in novels and romances. Works of fiction were subjected to general condemnation as wildly fanciful pieces of folly that served no useful or moral purpose. Hence that flood of novels, tales, romances, and other monsters of the imagination, which have been either wretchedly translated, or even more unhappily imitated, from the French, whose literary levity we have not been ashamed to adopt, and to encourage the propagation of so depraved a taste.
Instead, the precepts of classical writers like Horace and Plutarch are recommended. Whereas romances and novels which turn upon characters out of nature, monsters of perfection, feats of chivalry, fairy-enchantments, and the whole train of the marvellously absurd, transport the reader unprofitably into the clouds, where he is sure to find no solid footing, or into those wilds of fancy, which go for ever out of the way of all human paths. It was not only the failure to attend to rules of imitation that proved to be an object of critical concern. The straying of fancy from the paths of nature demonstrated more than a depraved taste: it was also believed to exert a corrupting influence on the morals of readers.
Indeed, the danger of moral degeneration became the principal reason for the general condemnation of romances, tales and novels. Despite the prevailing indiscriminate dismissal of romances and novels, attempts were made to distinguish between modes of fictional writing and to admit a few examples of the latter within the parameters of acceptability.
Novels are divided into serious and comic forms. Included, with some approval, in these categories are works by writers who are now regarded as the core of the eighteenth-century novel tradition: Defoe, Richardson, Fielding and Smollett. In The Rambler , Samuel Johnson differentiated between romances and novels in similar terms. But he was also keen to stress the moral usefulness of the latter.
Romances were described as wildly extravagant and fanciful tales of knights, giants, fabulous entities and marvellous incidents. Novels were privileged as instructive observations on the living world. It was, however, more than accurate imitation of nature or polite society that separated good writing from bad. The realism of novels, moreover, was required to be selective: imitations of nature and life were to be chosen on the basis of their propriety and not be coloured by passion or wickedness.
Representations of vice as a monster conformed to an important strategy in that it defined the limits of propriety. The term monster also applied in aesthetic judgements to works that were unnatural and deformed, that deviated either from the regularity attributed to life and nature or from the symmetry and proportion valued in any form of representation. Thus it was less a matter of concern that monsters were represented and more a question of the manner in which they were represented and of the effects of those representations. Romances were easily categorised as examples of childish fancy, trivial and incredible tales of ignorance and superstition.
Their effects on readers, however, were of major concern. By displaying monsters in too attractive a light, vice rather than virtue might be promoted. For, if fiction, as Johnson maintained, should establish and reproduce moral and proper ideas of conduct, it could also become a manual of misconduct. Fiction was thus recognised as a powerful but ambivalent form of social education. The insistence on distinctions between romances and novels forms part of a wider process of teaching readers proper moral and rational understanding.
Distinguishing between good and bad modes of writing was more than a merely aesthetic enterprise: it marked an attempt to supplement an assumed inability on the part of romances and their growing readership to discriminate between virtue and vice, and thus to forestall their seduction along fictional paths that stimulated antisocial passions and corrupt behaviour.
That these boundaries were difficult to police accounts for the repeated critical effort to maintain them. Even the clear classifications proposed by Beattie and Johnson fell foul of the way in which their terms were framed. As examples, Beattie cites texts by the late seventeenth- century French writer Madeleine de Scudery which he goes on to describe: In them, all facts and characters, real and fabulous; and systems of policy and manners, the Greek, the Roman, the Feudal, and the modern, are jumbled together and confounded: as if a painter should represent Julius Cesar drinking tea with Queen Elizabeth, Jupiter, and Dulcinea del Toboso, and having on his head the laurel wreathe of antient Rome, a suit of Gothick armour on his shoulders, laced ruffles at his wrist, a pipe of tobacco In his mouth, and a pistol and tomahawk stuck in his belt.
Williams, p. These romances, however, are the fore-runners of the strange mixture of forms that appeared as Gothic tales later in the century. Despite critical and novelistic attempts to sustain distinctions, fiction continued to upset conventions of reading and codes of behaviour. In her The Progress of Romance , Clara Reeve, herself a writer of Gothic and historical romances, outlined in very Johnsonian terms a definition of romance and novel while acknowledging the seductive power of fiction: The Romance is an heroic fable, which treats of fabulous persons and things.
The Romance in lofty and elevated language, describes what never happened or is likely to happen. The concern about the effects of fiction becomes paramount in eighteenth-century criticism. That these are representations is not at issue. What is more important are the values that are reproduced as natural or real rather than the actual form of nature or everyday life. Fiction becomes distinctly, though ambivalently, ideological.
Able to reproduce a set of dominant ideas about the relationship of individuals to their social and natural world, all narratives were acknowledged, if only at times tacitly, to possess the capacity to order or subvert manners, morals and perceptions. In the response to Gothic architecture, too, the operations of enlightenment ideology are apparent. Privileging uniformity and proportion over scale and extravagance, eighteenth-century critics classified any deviations from symmetrical structure as the deformities exhibited by the absence of taste of a barbaric age.
As in criticism of romances, chronological differences tended to be elided so any constructions that were wastefully over-ornamented or unwielding and cumbersome were described as Gothic. Comparisons between Gothic and classical architecture served only to display the superiority of the latter. Joseph Addison, for example, praised the great and amazing form of the Pantheon in Rome and contrasted it with the meanness he found in Gothic cathedrals.
Alexander Gerard, in his Essay on Taste , denied Gothic structures any claim to beauty because they lacked proportion and simplicity Monk, pp. The insistence on neoclassical rules of composition manifests the importance attached to the manner in which eighteenth-century culture constructed and reproduced its own idea of itself.
Architecture told the story of its development and represented its values; it was interpreted accordingly. This somewhat fastidious way of accounting for the appropriate taste displays a serious effort to privilege classical cultivation over the barbarity of the past. But deviations are also monstrous in that they offer a lesson in what is not proper. When ruins are Gothic rather than classical they conform to an idea of enlightened progress.
The ruins stand as testaments to the ascendancy of knowledge and reason and also, since they were of an old Catholic institution destroyed during the Reformation, Protestantism. The Gothic revival marked a major change in attitudes towards medieval styles. Though an increasing number of buildings in this style were commissioned, it was literary works that provided the impulse for the new taste. Antiquarianism, the vogue for the Graveyard school of poetry and intense interest in the sublime were significant features of the cultural environment that nurtured the Gothic revival.
While the Gothic past continued to be constructed as the subordinated and distanced antithesis to Enlightenment culture, the events, settings, figures and images began to be considered on their own merits rather than as neoclassical examples of poor taste. Gothic style became the shadow that haunted neoclassical values, running parallel and counter to its ideas of symmetrical form, reason, knowledge and propriety. Shadows, indeed, were among the foremost characteristics of Gothic works. They marked the limits necessary to the constitution of an enlightened world and delineated the limitations of neoclassical perceptions.
Darkness, metaphorically, threatened the light of reason with what it did not know.
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Gloom cast perceptions of formal order and unified design into obscurity; its uncertainty generated both a sense of mystery and passions and emotions alien to reason. These were the thoughts conjured up by Graveyard poets. Graveyard poetry was popular in the first half of the eighteenth century. Its principal poetic objects, other than graves and churchyards, were night, ruins, death and ghosts, everything, indeed, that was excluded by rational culture. It did not, however, idly or uncritically, celebrate them for its own sake.
This much longer poem develops evangelical themes, but in a more extravagant fashion. In Night Thoughts the contemplation of death and decay serves to encourage speculations on the life to come. Fears of mortality and associated superstitions are unwarranted if one has faith. Confronting and overcoming the limits of material existence, Night Thoughts is organised by a play of images which double the significance of life and death, light and dark. For Young, the life of the body entombs the soul in darkness, while death and darkness enable the apprehension of a transcendent and immanent brilliance.
It is for these reasons that night and darkness are so valued: Darkness has more Divinity for me, It strikes Thought inward, it drives back the Soul To settle on Herself, our Point supreme! V, —30 Darkness enables a person to perceive the soul within, it expands the mind by producing a consciousness of its own potential for divinity. Although Night Thoughts alters the significance of Enlightenment metaphors of light and dark and goes beyond the limits of rationality and empirical knowledge in its efforts to inspire the individual imagination with a sense of religious mystery and wonder, its power as a moral text was beyond question.
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Like other poems of its kind, Night Thoughts criticises ignorance and superstition. Without fear the spectres and ghosts that haunt superstitious minds disappear. In the face of death, moreover, science remains impotent and blind. Graveyard poetry, its injunctions to nocturnal speculation on human finitude and the vanity of earthly ambitions, uses tombs, ruins, decay and ghosts as a mode of moral instruction rather than excitement.
The attractions of darkness, however, and the power of the images and visions it engendered were not lost on other poets associated with the melancholy evocations of the Graveyard school. These figures testify less to the power of the grave in elevating thought to spiritual matters and more to the power of imagination: Dark power, with shuddering meek submitted thought, Be mine, to read the visions old, Which thy awakening bards have told. To these the ode appeals for an imaginative power, a sense of nature and a capacity to evoke feelings unavailable in neoclassical compositions.
Shakespeare and Spenser were considered to be the inheritors of a tradition of romantic writing that harked back to the Middle Ages. Like the songs of bards and minstrels, the emotional power of their descriptions of nature and visionary images were held up as examples of a more imaginative form of literary creation. Wildness of natural scenery, marvellous figures and lyrical style became signs of a re-evaluation of writing which privileged inventiveness and imagination over imitation and morality.
The thoughts that it encourages are on the visionary and mystical power of writing, not to produce moral understanding, but to evoke intense feelings. This power, moreover, is linked, in the many images of storms, rocks and caverns to a dark and wild nature. Thomas Warton was himself a major figure in this process. His History of English Poetry —81 traces the origins of romantic fiction to Arabia.
From there it had started its migration across Europe during the period of the Crusades. Other scholars queried the idea of the Eastern origins of romances and preferred to identify the beginnings of romance among the Celtic, Saxon and Norse tribes of northern Europe. Of this opinion was Thomas Percy who, in his Reliques of Ancient English Poetry , published a collection of romantic songs and ballads. While the precise origins of romances remained a matter of scholarly dispute, their importance lay chiefly in the fact that they were not classical.
Moreover, the recovery and validation of romances enabled certain neoclassical prejudices to be challenged. Thomas Warton wrote of how Gothic romances, though shaken by classical fictions, maintained their ground: the daring machineries of giants, dragons and enchanted castles, borrowed from the magic storehouse of Boiardo, Ariosto and Tasso, began to be employed by the epic muse.
These ornaments have been censured by the bigotry of precise and servile critics, as abounding in whimsical absurdities, and as unwarrantable deviations from the practice of Homer and Virgil. IV, p. In his Letters on Chivalry and Romance , Richard Hurd is critical of the violence of neoclassical prejudices. The Letters argue that romances are derived from societies structured by chivalry and feudal customs.
The argument, however, does not make its case with an analysis of medieval romances but focuses on writings that draw heavily upon them for their poetical effect. These writers, Hurd states, included Ariosto, Tasso, Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton, and were seduced by these barbarities of their forefathers; were even charmed by the Gothic Romances.
Was this caprice and absurdity in them? Or, may there not be something in the Gothic Romance peculiarly suited to the views of a genius, and to the ends of poetry? And may not the philosophic moderns have gone too far, in their perpetual ridicule and contempt of it? The Letters on Chivalry and Romance not only challenge the prejudices of neoclassical criticism, they also begin a process of reevaluation. Cultural productions, Hurd insists in an important displacement of neoclassical dominance, demand consideration on their own terms: When an architect examines a Gothic structure by Grecian rules, he finds nothing but deformity.
But the Gothic architecture has its own rules, by which when it comes to be examined, it is seen to have its merit, as well as the Grecian. Poetical truth, he argues, lies beyond the bounds of a natural order. Instead, poetry should indulge imagination and range in marvellous, magical and extraordinary worlds, worlds that are associated with forms of nature that evoke a sense of wonder pp. Natural scenery, for example, was being perceived differently.
Mountains, once considered as ugly blemishes, deformities disfiguring the proportions of a world that ideally should be uniform, flat and symmetrical, began to be seen with eyes pleased by their irregularity, diversity and scale. The pleasure arose from the range of intense and uplifting emotions that mountainous scenery evoked in the viewer.
Wonder, awe, horror and joy were the emotions believed to expand or elevate the soul and the imagination with a sense of power and infinity. Mountains were the foremost objects of the natural sublime. For Burke, beautiful objects were characterised by their smallness, smoothness, delicacy and gradual variation. They evoked love and tenderness in contrast to the sublime which produced awe and terror. Objects which evoked sublime emotions were vast, magnificent and obscure.
Loudness and sudden contrasts, like the play of light and dark in buildings, contributed to the sense of extension and infinity associated with the sublime. This excess, which confronted the individual subject with the thought of its own extinction, derived from emotions which, Burke argued, pertained to self-preservation and produced a frisson of delight and horror, tranquility and terror. The terror was akin to the sense of wonderment and awe accompanying religious experience.
Sublimity offered intimations of a great, if not divine, power. This power was experienced in many objects and not only in the grandeur of natural landscape. Gothic romances and poetry, which drew on the wildness and grandeur of nature for their inspiration, partook of the sublime. The awful obscurity of the settings of Graveyard poetry elevate the mind to ideas of wonder and divinity, while the similar settings of poems by Collins and the Wartons attribute a sacred, visionary and sublime power to the supernatural figures of ancient bards as well as to the wildness of nature.
The irregularity, ornamentation, immensity of Gothic buildings overwhelmed the gaze with a vastness that suggested divinity and infinity. The interest in the sublime is crucial in the reappraisal of artefacts from the Gothic ages. Implicated in the transformation of ideas concerning nature and its relation to art, both Gothic and sublime objects also participated in a transformation of notions of individuality, in the minds relation to itself as well as to natural, cultural and metaphysical worlds.
Elevating and expanding mental powers to an almost divine extent signified the displacement of religious authority and mystery by the sublimity of nature and the human imagination. Sacred nature, glimpsed in sublime settings and evoked by old poetry and buildings, ceded to the genius and creative power of a sacred self. By means of natural and cultural objects of sublimity the human mind began its transcendence. In its imaginary ascendancy over nature, it discovered a grander scale and a new sense of power and freedom for itself.
This sense of freedom was neither purely subjective nor simply a matter of exceeding previous aesthetic forms. Freedom, in a political sense, was evoked in the process of recovering old texts, themselves markers of a history in which endured a different idea of nation and culture. It was a culture, if not entirely indigenous to Britain, that was distinguished from those of Greece or Rome and possessed of a history which had the permanence identified in Gothic architecture. Moreover, it was a culture believed to foster a love of liberty and democracy.
It was among the nations of northern Europe and Scandinavia that European hatred of slavery and tyranny originated: is it not well known that the most flourishing and celebrated states of Europe owe originally to the northern nations, whatever liberty they now enjoy, either in their constitution, or in the spirit of their government? For although the Gothic form of government has been almost every where altered or abolished, have we not retained, in most things, the opinions, the customs, the manners which that government had a tendency to produce?
Is not this, in fact, the principal source of that courage, of that aversion to slavery, of that empire of honour which characterize in general the European nations; and of that moderation, of that easiness of access, and peculiar attention to the rights of humanity, which so happily distinguish our sovereigns from the inaccessible and superb tyrants of Asia? Closer to home was the tyranny that attended the decline of the Roman empire which became a site of despotism, degradation and barbarity and was itself overthrown by the Germanic tribes.
The significance of Gothic culture was cited in British political discussions from the mid-seventeenth century. Parliaments and the legal system, it was believed, were derived from Gothic institutions and peoples who were free and democratic. The word was employed loosely, embracing Celtic and Germanic tribes. The native culture that it referred to was one composed of those indigenous peoples and invaders whose occupation preceded the invasions of the Romans. Any relics of a non-Roman past were taken as evidence of a native and enduring tradition of independence.
In the mid-eighteenth century the tyranny of Rome signified more than a period in early European history. After the Reformation, Protestantism constructed Roman Catholicism as a breeding-ground of despotism and superstition. The resistance to the imposition of classical aesthetic values also vindicates an enduring idea of British national culture as both free, natural and imaginative. At issue were the differently constructed and valued meanings of the Enlightenment, culture, nation and government as well as contingent, but no less contentious, significances of the family, nature, individuality and representation.
A long gallery, with a great many doors, some secret ones. Three murdered bodies, quite fresh. As many skeletons, in chests and presses… Mix them together, in the form of three volumes, to be taken at any of the watering-places before going to bed. Shocks, supernatural incidents and superstitious beliefs set out to promote a sense of sublime awe and wonder which entwined with fear and elevated imaginations. Though many devices and settings were repeated, they were inflected differently. A hybrid form from its inception, the Gothic blend of medieval and historical romance with the novel of life and manners was framed in supernatural, sentimental or sensational terms.
The consistency of the genre relied on the settings, devices and events. While their project was the production of terror, their repeated use turned them into rather hackneyed conventions and then into objects of satire. Indeed, sublime aspirations often veered towards the ridiculous. Detailing the absurdities, confusions and silly artifices of Gothic novels, satirical judgements regarded them negatively for their failure as representations of human life and manners and their lack of moral instruction.
A Companion to Romance- From Classical to Contemporary
Like romances before them, Gothic novels were irrational, improper and immoral wastes of time. What was worse, however, was that they were popular as T. Though it was the blueprint for a new mode of writing, the framework that was established by the The Castle of Otranto underwent a number of significant changes in the hands of later writers, under pressure from different historical circumstances. The relative consistency of Gothic settings and plots, however, in conjunction with the romance tradition from which it drew, enabled the Gothic novel to be recognisable as a distinct type of fiction and also exposed it to the attacks of literary satirists.
Framed as another manifestation of the romance form or as a pastiche of the productions of uncivilised ages, Gothic novels could be readily criticised by the literary establishment. The tone, however, of the criticism became increasingly ambivalent: ridicule serves to reinforce social and literary values while simultaneously acknowledging some degree of anxiety.
Indeed, the increasing popularity of the genre exacerbated the neoclassical fear that all romances and novels could produce antisocial effects and lead to social disintegration. Despite being associated with literary and moral impropriety, many Gothic novels set out to vindicate morality, virtue and reason. They were thus caught between their avowedly moral and conventional projects and the unacceptably unrealistic mode of representation they employed.
This tension produced the ambivalence internal to the novels themselves as well as the critical reception they received. It also contributed to the subsequent changes in narrative strategy and setting. While a certain ambivalence characterises both the structure of Gothic narratives and their relation to the literary codes of the time, it is an ambivalence that cannot be restricted to the sphere of literature itself.
What literature was, its nature and function, was undergoing significant revision. Fiction was becoming less a mode of moral instruction, a guide to proper behaviour, a way of representing society as natural, unified and rational, and more an invitation to pleasure and excitement, a way of cultivating individual emotions detached from the obligations of the everyday world. While it freed the writer from neoclassical conventions, it also imaginarily liberated the reader from his or her place in society.
These changing attitudes to literature were part of wider shifts in the mode of literary production and consumption. Markets for and access to texts of all kinds were expanding as a result of cheaper printing processes and the emergence of circulating libraries. The growing reading public included larger numbers of readers from the middle class, especially women, and reflected a change in the distribution of power and wealth from an aristocratic and landed minority to those whose interests lay in a mercantile economy.
While this meant that individual writers were bound to sell their work, it also made them dependent on the market that consumed fiction. The popularity of the Gothic novel highlights the way that the control of literary production was shifting away from the guardians of taste and towards the reading public itself, much to the chagrin of those interested in maintaining an exclusive set of literary values. Women constituted an important part of this market, and not only as avid consumers of fiction.
An increasing proportion of novels were written by women, often in order to maintain themselves and their families. These shifts in the class and gender composition of readers are linked to social and political changes as well as economic ones. All areas of British society were rendered unstable, as were its ways of representing and regulating itself according to rational and moral principles. While much Gothic fiction can be seen as a way of imagining an order based on divine or metaphysical principles that had been displaced by Enlightenment rationality, a way of conserving justice, privilege and familial and social hierarchies, its concern with modes of representing such an order required that it exceed the boundaries of reason and propriety.
It is in this context that Gothic fiction can be said to blur rather than distinguish the boundaries that regulated social life, and interrogate, rather than restore, any imagined continuity between past and present, nature and culture, reason and passion, individuality and family and society.