Sinister histories

Gothic novels and representations of the past, from Horace Walpole to Mary Wollstonecraft

By Jonathan Dent

Sinister histories


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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9597-9
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: June 2016
  • BIC Category: Literature, Romanticism, Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900, Gothic, LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / 18th Century, LITERARY CRITICISM / Gothic & Romance, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: c 1500 to c 1800, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900


Sinister histories is the first book to offer a detailed exploration of the Gothic's response to Enlightenment historiography. It uncovers hitherto-neglected relationships between fiction and prominent works of eighteenth-century history, locating the Gothic novel in a range of new interdisciplinary contexts. Drawing on ideas from literary studies, history, politics and philosophy, the book demonstrates the extent to which historical works influenced and shaped Gothic fiction from the 1760s to the early nineteenth century. Through a series of detailed readings of texts from The Castle of Otranto (1764) to Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman (1798), this book offers an alternative account of the Gothic's development and a sustained revaluation of the creative legacies of the French Revolution.


Introduction: history and the Gothic in the eighteenth century
1. Contested pasts: David Hume, Horace Walpole and the emergence of Gothic fiction
2. '[B]ringing this deed of darkness to light': representations of the past in Clara Reeve's The Old English Baron (1778)
3. 'Entombed alive': Sophia Lee's The Recess (1783-85), the Gothic and history
4. '[E]very nerve thrilled with horror': the French Revolution, the past and Ann Radcliffe's The Romance of the Forest (1791)
5. 'Things as they are': William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft and the perils of the present


Jonathan Dent is Lecturer in English

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