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Contesting the Gothic Fiction, Genre and Cultural Conflict, 1764-1832 by James Watt

Contesting the Gothic Fiction, Genre and Cultural Conflict, 1764-1832

Part of the Cambridge Studies in Romanticism Series


Contesting the Gothic Fiction, Genre and Cultural Conflict, 1764-1832 by James Watt

James Watt's historically grounded account of Gothic fiction, first published in 1999, takes issue with received accounts of the genre as a stable and continuous tradition. Charting its vicissitudes from Walpole to Scott, Watt shows the Gothic to have been a heterogeneous body of fiction, characterized at times by antagonistic relations between various writers or works. Central to his argument about these works' writing and reception is a nuanced understanding of their political import: Walpole's attempt to forge an aristocratic identity, the loyalist affiliations of many neglected works of the 1790s, a reconsideration of the subversive reputation of The Monk, and the ways in which Radcliffean romance proved congenial to conservative critics. Watt concludes by looking ahead to the fluctuating critical status of Scott and the Gothic, and examines the process by which the Gothic came to be defined as a monolithic tradition, in a way that continues to exert a powerful hold.


James Watt argues that generic labels need to be re-examined, with greater attention given to the historical specificity of certain so-called Gothic works. This is an exciting historicist study that provides important contextual material for Gothic scholars.

British and American Literatures ...Contesting the Gothic is impressively researched, well-documented, and convincing in its claims.

Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts The exposition is lucid, the reasoning scrupulous, the tone measured and never polemical. The book can be recommended to anyone as the model of a focused and thoroughly professional investigation that carves out a niche of originality in a very crowded literary shelf.

Eighteenth-Century Studies

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Book Info

Publication date

16th March 2006


James Watt

More books by James Watt
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Cambridge University Press


220 pages


Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers
Literary studies: c 1500 to c 1800



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