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Domestic, Imperial, and Botanical Monsters in Nineteenth-Century Gothic Fiction

Andrew Del Mastro, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation explores representations of monsters and the monstrous in nineteenth-century British and American Gothic fiction. The nineteenth century was a time of social and political upheaval, and writers often expressed their anxieties about progress and social instability in Gothic terms. Using monster theory as a foundation for understanding these anxieties, this dissertation explores monsters and monstrous imagery in domestic, imperial, and botanical contexts across the nineteenth century. Monsters in culture signify something other than themselves, and this study looks at how authors engaged with Gothic motifs to create monsters as symbolic representations of their fears and anxieties about the changing world around them. The dissertation begins with Gothic literature written by women whose work highlights how domestic entrapment produces monsters. The study then focuses on the Imperial Gothic, and explores how authors used two common monster subjects in the century—the reanimated, vengeful mummy and carnivorous, predatory plants—to articulate apprehensions regarding empire-building and to scrutinize the notion of progress. The dissertation then ends with an overview of using monster fiction in a literature class to promote interdisciplinary connections between literature and non-English related fields of study.

Subject Area

Literature|American literature|British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Del Mastro, Andrew, "Domestic, Imperial, and Botanical Monsters in Nineteenth-Century Gothic Fiction" (2023). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI30575629.