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Illuminating the darkness: The naturalistic evolution of Gothicism in the nineteenth-century British novel and visual art

Cameron Dodworth, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The British Gothic novel reached a level of very high popularity in the literary market of the late 1700s and the first two decades of the 1800s, but after that point in time the popularity of these types of publications dipped significantly. However, towards the end of the nineteenth century, the British Gothic novel rebounded in popularity, though not to the level of the early 1800s. This dissertation seeks to address why the publication of truly Gothic novels in Britain decreased during the middle of the century, only to increase once again at the fin de siècle. What this dissertation discovers is that the primary focus on Gothicism in the early Gothic novels in the late 1700s and very early 1800s is no longer given a primary role in the Realist novel, as the unreality and supernaturalism of the early Gothic novel is not conducive to the emerging focus on the real. However, the British Realist novel does indeed maintain more realistic aspects of the Gothic, and therefore expresses the Gothic as a mode rather than as a primary focus of expression. This dissertation looks to relevant works of visual art from the European Continent and Britain in order to establish a network of international, interdisciplinary influence in the Realist movement of the mid-nineteenth century, particularly focusing on the element of Gothicism in that network. As Realism evolves into Naturalism, that international, interdisciplinary network of influence is again revealed in the nineteenth-century novel and visual art of select works from the Continent that had major influence on the novel and visual art of Britain, particularly in terms of the role of Gothicism within that network of Naturalistic evolution. This dissertation establishes that it is as a direct result of Gothicism's role within this Naturalist network of influence that the British Gothic novel rebounds in popularity at the end of the nineteenth century.

Subject Area

European history|Art history|British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Dodworth, Cameron, "Illuminating the darkness: The naturalistic evolution of Gothicism in the nineteenth-century British novel and visual art" (2013). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3590314.