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Visions of Evil

Origins of Violence in the English Gothic Novel


Martin-Christoph Just

In this thesis, which strives to re-focus the view on a seminal era of English literature, four major Gothic Novels are subjected to a thorough textual analysis. The central hypothesis is that the superior Gothic Novels are finely honed psychological studies which concentrate on the moral deterioration of individual characters. This deterioration leads to different forms of destructive social interaction: it causes psychotic behaviour patterns, violence directed against oneself, and sexual abuse of others. The Gothicists show persons who in an austere patriarchal society develop strategies to satisfytheir personal, essentially anti-social needs. The major Gothic Novels unmask bourgeois society as a system which creates the frame conditions for indulgence of public and private violence, and thus fails to fulfil its original task of providing shelter for the individual.
Contents: Analysis of four Gothic Novels - Social restrictions as origin of individual neuroses - Analysis of strategies to reconcile individual immorality and social demands - Aestheticism of sexual deviation - Delineation of mental deterioration - Literature as vehicle of social criticism.