La representación cultural del sur en la novela gótica inglesa: Otredad política y religiosa

Student thesis: Doctoral thesis

Abstract

This doctoral thesis aims at exploring the causes that led English gothic novelists to place a significant part of their novels in a Mediterranean setting, and the political, religious and cultural background underlying this choice. At an international level, we have intended to cover a gap in literary criticism. Regarding national criticism, this is one of the few studies that have been made on English Gothic, and the comparative perspective between English and Latin elements is relevant since it is a recurrent feature in English culture and literature.
We have intended to prove that the use of this Mediterranean setting in many gothic novels of the classical period -from 1764 to 18200150- implies the consideration of this element as an integral feature in the world of gothic fiction. The exploitation of this southern European scenery can be directly connected to the anti-catholic, political and cultural prejudices strongly held by the English against catholic countries in the south of the continent.
The gothic corpus is made up by close on 5,000 novels, 1,200 of which have been kept. This research has been done on twenty works, half of them being canonic literature while the other half has barely received any critical attention. The methodology applied is based on the assumption that Gothicism is a cultural mode and thus it follows the lines of literary Cultural Studies.
This dissertation is divided in five chapters: in chapter 1 the different elements of English gothic novel are presented and then we establish the sociological aspects and cultural elements which contributed to the process of adopting Latinness as a fictional feature. Gothic evolution, conventions and subject matter are analized in the first part of the chapter and then we give an account of gothic criticism.
Chapter II is devoted to exploring the representation of the south in gothic fiction and in English culture, in an attempt to discern the cultural context which created a favourable atmosphere for its development. This context attracted western imagination in the last decades of the 18th century and beginnings of 19th. In the first part of this chapter we deal with the cultural and historic context while the focus in the second part is both on non-literary sources (travel books) and literary ones- drama and narrative fiction.
In gothic fiction, the south (especially the scenery developed in the last decade of the 18th century) is not a mere geographic construct, but can be considered as fundamentally cultural, and the political context as well as religious and historic tradition point to a specific setting, namely the south of France, all Spain and Italy.
In chapter III the setting is analyzed from the direct perspective of the autor as a traveller, or indirectly when he or she uses other gothic novels as fictional materials, as well as travel books as a documentary source of information.This analysis is justified by the fact that travelling authors have a direct experience of the scenary which they incorporate and recreate in their novels from a personal point of view. On the other hand, those authors who have not travelled to the places they describe resort to stereotypes which are developed following drama and narrative conventions, but they also take remote and unknown places in southern settings from travel books.
Chapter IV is divided in two sections. In the first one, the south is presented as the cultural and political antithesis of England, which intended to expand its control over the other British cultures. In the second part, nationalism is explored through the use of this specific geographic setting in gothic fiction. Nationalism is thus accounted for from these two complementary perspectives: geographic and cultural.
In that precise moment in history, this southern scenario was the perfect setting for the development of a contrast between ideal Englishness, embodied by gothic heroines, and the foreign other, deformed and amplified to fantastic proportions. And by no means could this contrast have been as effective if gothic novels had been set in England.
Chapter V aims to study the presence of Catholicism in gothic fiction. With a view to covering different aspects of the influence of this religion in gothic fiction, we first considered the function of catholic icons in English protestant imagination, both from a political and cultural point of view, and then moved on to analizing catholic rhetoric. Protestant hostility against Catholicism acted as constituent element in the emergent nationalist and imperialist ideology spread in the 17th and 18th centuries.
It is in the south where we can find this symbiosis Catholicism/politics which is embodied in the other, the destructive force par excellence of the continent's agression against English national protestant identity. The study of the texts analyzed reveals that this view of the south in gothic fiction plays an active part in English protestant imagination in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Date of Award13 Apr 2007
Original languageSpanish
SupervisorSara Martin Alegre (Director)

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