The Orders of Gothic: Foucault, Lacan, and the Subject of Gothic Writing, 1764-1820

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AMS Press, 2007 - Literary Criticism - 365 pages
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The Orders of Gothic discusses a selection of Gothic romances, dramas, and chapbooks written and published in Britain between Walpole's 1764 The Castle of Otranto and Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer of 1820. It is only in its chronological boundaries that this study is conventional; Townshend's unusual theoretical approach utilizes Foucauldian new historicism and Lacanian psychoanalysis as his focus for understanding the construction of subjectivity and modernity in British Gothic literature. Townshend employs theories from Foucault's The Order of Things and History of Sexuality as a primary - and typical - conceptual framework through which the apparent modernity of the Gothic is systematically explored, but addresses the ways in which Foucault's theories fall short of a full explanation of the often horrific excesses of Gothic writing. With these oversights in mind, Townshend turns to the psychoanalytic perspectives of later theorists including Freud, Zizek and Lacan as more satisfactory articulations of those Gothic matters upon which Foucault is silent. an otherwise ahistorical psychoanalytic tradition, in an interminable process of exchange. Townshend's readings of primary texts (by Horace Walpole, Clara Reeve, Sophia Lee, Ann Radcliffe, Maria Regina Roche, Matthew Gregory Lewis, William Beckford, William Godwin, Charlotte Dacre, and Percy Bysshe Shelley) describe the construction of subjectivity in Gothic fictions of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but his study is as much concerned with the relationship between historicism and psychoanalysis as it is with literary history. Of interest to scholars and students of Gothic fiction and critical theory alike, The Orders of Gothic provides a fresh understanding of early Gothic writing and its central place in the history of the modern subject.

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