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Theses Doctoral

Framed, Imprisoned, Overheard: The Gothic Inheritance of Victorian Poetry

Moy, Olivia Loksing

A lonely damsel's imprisonment within a castle or convent cell; the eavesdropping of a prisoner next door; the framed image of a woman with a mysterious past. These are familiar themes from 1790s gothic novels, which exploded onto the scene with milestone works like Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho and Matthew Lewis' The Monk. They are also key features, however, of canonical nineteenth-century poems, from Tennyson's "Mariana" to Browning's "My Last Duchess." In this dissertation, I argue that tropes of the gothic novel became disseminated in poetry of the Victorian era, manifesting as formal features that have not heretofore been recognized by scholars as essentially gothic. While most scholars recognize gothic poetry only in a small subset of poems that include ghosts, graveyards or superstition, I contend that gothic tropes became definitive of what we now regard as quintessentially "Victorian" poetic forms: the dramatic monologue, women's sonnets, and Pre-Raphaelite picture poems. "Framed, Imprisoned, Overheard" explores feminist arguments and interdisciplinary crossings between painting and poetry, focusing on both canonical and lesser-known poems of major Victorian poets. Close reading fiction by Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis and Mary Wollstonecraft, and poems by Charlotte Smith, John Keats, William Wordsworth, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, D. G. Rossetti and G. M. Hopkins, I offer a revisionist history that looks beyond the small subset of poems about ghosts or other "gothic" themes, demonstrating how innovations in 1790s sensation fiction contributed to the evolution of major Victorian verse forms.

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More Information

Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
Thesis Advisors
Gray, Erik I.
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
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