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Shapes half-hid : psychological realisation in the English and American Gothic novel.

Davies, Helen D. F (1989) Shapes half-hid : psychological realisation in the English and American Gothic novel. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94298) (KAR id:94298)


This study explores the paradox that the delineation of mind, the dominant concern of the English and American Gothic novel, is both obscured and revealed through its method of presentation. The mind of the character is filtered through every defining feature of the Gothic novel: the focus on terror, the presence of the supernatural, complex plots, narrative structure, symbolic incidents and a landscape distanced from everyday existence; it is consummately expressed in spectral shapes of uncertain reality. The apparitions that haunt these novels--what Mrs. Radcliffe calls "the dubious forms that float, half veiled in darkness"--are both expressions of the characters’ minds and images for the strategies implemented to depict them. The result is a resourceful attempt to render the processes of the individual imagination, to make real the protagonist’s psyche.

Rehearsing problems of definition, I suggest that the Gothic novel is a natural concomitant of the eighteenth century’s philosophical interest in the workings of the human mind. The Gothic novel’s fascination with terror stems from Burke’s theory that terror produces "the strongest emotion the mind is capable of feeling." Terror provides a way of examining the psyche under a metaphysical microscope.

Every Gothic novel presents an ambiguously charged conflict based on Clarissa. Otranto introduces the supernatural and the role of settings to convey emotion. Using representative works, I show how the mind of the protagonist is revealed--how the monster, the most explicit of Frankenstein’s phenomenological selves, is one of the ghosts glimpsed in Mrs. Radcliffe’s novels, viewed up close--how Falkland and Caleb in Caleb Williams are each the half-hidden shape of the other--how in Wieland, Carwin is the phantasmal embodiment of Clara’s madness. My final chapter discusses the transfiguration of the Gothic in Jane Evre and The Scarlet Letter, illustrating that while Jane Eyre’s phantoms are fleshed out, Hawthorne’s protagonists become physically attenuated.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94298
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Gothic novel and terror
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2023 11:24 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2023 11:24 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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