Gothic literature and the recontextualization of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century moral philosophy

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Rockall, Liam
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The Gothic genre creates cautionary allegories on the dangers of immorality by illustrating moral philosophy in narrative form. Through horrific scenes of murder, rape, and supernatural forces, this literature demonstrates how vice perverts the mind, creating madness and spiritual damnation. This study considers how three Gothic writers from the Romantic period – Matthew Lewis, Charlotte Dacre, and James Hogg – recapitulate the theories of three prominent moral philosophers – John Locke, David Hume, and David Hartley, respectively – to examine the perils of iniquity. Accordingly, the analyses reveal that the Gothic genre invokes seventeenth- and eighteenth-century moral philosophy to explore immorality through themes of personal identity, narrative styles, and multiple perspectives. As in other Gothic novels, the Devil haunts the primary characters of Lewis’s, Dacre’s, and Hogg’s works by distorting the material world and manipulating sensory experience; in doing so, he exacerbates their immoral disposition and spreads his evil throughout the world. At the heart of this examination are questions about the origins, nature, and effects of evil, which Gothic literature investigates by delving into the darkest depths of the human mind and soul.
Gothic Literature, Moral Philosophy