William Lane’s “horrid” writers: an exploration of violence in the Minerva Press Gothic, 1790–1799

Masters Thesis

Ravenwood, V. 2018. William Lane’s “horrid” writers: an exploration of violence in the Minerva Press Gothic, 1790–1799. Masters Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Faculty of Arts and Humanities
AuthorsRavenwood, V.
TypeMasters Thesis
Qualification nameMA

Through the exploration of a selection of Minerva titles from across the period of the Press’s dominance, 1790–1799, focussing on the recurring trope of violence, its varying portrayals by individual authors, and its censure by critics, this thesis argues that the Press makes a unique contribution to the Romantic literary marketplace with regard to its output of violent Gothic fiction. Gothic novels were very popular in the 1790s, but they were much critiqued for their impact on readers, with critics’ special concern being female readers’ exposure to violent themes, which were said to be unfeminine and immoral.

In this thesis, ‘Gothic violence’ is interpreted in several ways, extending its meaning beyond the obvious (physical harm inflicted on or by the characters in such novels), to include violence which is verbal, violence as inflicted on the reader, and violence manifested in extreme revolutions of feeling and/or in some peculiarly provocative transgression of social and ethical norms. Minerva authors capitalised on the Gothic’s popularity by using its conventions and themes, however their use of violence was not simply to entertain – it was also used to portray the horrors of war and its impact on women and the domestic space; to dramatise a fear of sinister and corrupt institutions supplanting the rightful province of others such as the family, marriage and church; and to explore contemporary concerns surrounding gender roles, parental authority in marriage, and the right ways for children to balance their personal desires with societal and familial duties. In this way, violence was far more than a conventional trope of the Gothic genre for writers at the Minerva Press, rather it was a way of eliciting and exploiting contemporary anxieties and exploring issues pertaining to these. Moreover, through their use of violence, Minerva authors can be seen to deviate from the works of other writers at the time, which this thesis argues ultimately supplants long-standing views of the Press as unoriginal and its works as homogenous.

Publication process dates
Deposited04 Dec 2018
Output statusUnpublished
Accepted author manuscript
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