The Road of Excess: Writing Trauma in Sentimental and Gothic Texts 1745-1810.
Abstract: This dissertation focuses on way in which telling stories of
traumatic suffering causes narratological excess in British gothic and sentimental
literature from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Informed by theories of
trauma from Freud to LaCapra and incorporating contemporary psychological practice-based
literature, my argument explores how these texts exceed formal and... read morestylistic boundaries in
three specific ways: narrative repetition, dark humor, and the role of narrators. My
interest lies in the way that trauma marks these texts in formal and structural ways.
Putting sentimental and gothic literature together for this project reveals both a
surprising similarity between these often-opposed genres. Furthermore, it reveals the way
that the formal qualities of narratives of suffering are similar across texts with
apparently very different explicit political or social messages. The introduction, "The
Narrative Effects of Traumatic Suffering," provides a theoretical and historical context
for my dissertation and outlines my argument. Chapter One, "Telling it Over, Over Again:
Repetition Compulsion, The Uncanny, and the Problem of Closure," reads Eliza Parsons'
gothic novel The Castle of Wolfenbach and Fanny Burney's sentimental novel Evelina as texts
structured by the repetitions and doublings symptomatic of trauma, and suggests that these
repetitions are not fully resolved within the texts. My second chapter is entitled
"Excessive Sorrow Laughs: Violent Humor, Pain, and Tonal Hybridity" and reads Matthew
Lewis' The Monk, Ann Radcliffe's The Italian, and Henry Mackenzie's The Man of Feeling,
focusing on the presence of humor as a narrative effect of psychological suffering and
sexual threat. The third chapter, "Moralizing Among Ruins: Christianity, Patriarchy, and
the Struggle for Narrative Authority," focuses on narrative voices in Samuel Taylor
Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Charlotte Dacre's Zofloya, and Samuel
Richardson's Clarissa as a location for inevitably incomplete attempts at explaining
trauma. My conclusion "The Sublime Pleasures of Trauma Narratives" explores the fact that
while all of the narratives I discuss are focused on pain and suffering, as imaginative
(rather than biographical or personal) narratives, they also provide pleasure for the
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2015.
Submitted to the Dept. of English.
Advisor: Sonia Hofkosh.
Committee: Carol Flynn, Christina Sharpe, and Deidre Lynch.
Keywords: British and Irish literature, Women's studies, and Literature.read less