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The Orders of Gothic

Foucault, Lacan, and the Subject of Gothic Writing

By Dale Townshend

September 2007
LC 2006045333
ISBN-10: 0-404-64854-1 / ISBN-13: 978-0-404-64854-1
Clothbound $87.50

AMS Studies in the Eighteenth Century, No. 54

“. . . a significant achievement being comparable, in its way, to Michael Gamer’s Romanticism and the Gothic: Genre, Reception, and Canon Formation and E. J. Clery’s The Rise of Supernatural Fiction, both landmark studies of recent years. . . . Townshend’s chapters are a heady mix of historical scholarship, high theory, and close reading. . . . the book succeeds in its stated aim of giving voice to a threeway conversation between the Gothic, Foucault, and Lacan. For anyone interested in Romanticism as the literature of modernity, The Orders of the Gothic will prove a necessary book.”

—Robert Miles, 1650–1850: Ideas, Æsthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era

“Voilà un livre monumental pour une lecture du Gothique à la lumière de la philosophie française contemporaine et autour d’une poétique du sujet et de l’essor de la modernité.”

—Max Duperray, Études Anglaises

“Townshend’s work delivers on its promises, entirely justifying the author’s initial argument in favour of a subtle suturing of Foucault, Lacan and the orders of the Gothic. Moreover, it exposes the intimate, paradoxical implication of the Gothic in a modern symbolic order stained by a perverse enjoyment that often escapes, as it were, the New Historicist critical gaze. Foucault needs a Lacanian supplement and this work provides that, and more: it offers some of the richest and most nuanced theoretical and historical readings of early Gothic fiction in recent years.”

—Sue Chaplin, British Association for Romantic Studies Review and Bulletin

The Orders of Gothic discusses a selection of Gothic romances, dramas, and chapbooks written and published in Britain between Walpole’s 1764 The Castle of Otranto and Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer of 1820. It is only in its chronological boundaries that this study is conventional; Townshend’s unusual theoretical approach utilizes Foucauldian new historicism and Lacanian psychoanalysis to understand the construction of subjectivity and modernity in British Gothic literature. Townshend employs theories from Foucault’s The Order of Things and History of Sexuality as a primary—and typical—conceptual framework through which the apparent “modernity” of the Gothic is systematically explored. But he also addresses the ways in which Foucault’s theories fall short of a full explanation of the often horrific excesses of Gothic writing. With these oversights in mind, Townshend turns to the psychoanalytic perspectives of later theorists including Freud, Žižek, and Lacan as more satisfactory articulations of those Gothic matters upon which Foucault is silent. But as Lacan is shown to supplement Foucault, so Foucauldian theory anchors an otherwise ahistorical psychoanalytic tradition, in an unending process of exchange.

Townshend’s readings of primary texts (by Horace Walpole, Clara Reeve, Sophia Lee, Ann Radcliffe, Maria Regina Roche, Matthew Gregory Lewis, William Beckford, William Godwin, Charlotte Dacre, and Percy Bysshe Shelley) describe the construction of subjectivity in Gothic fictions of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but his study is as much concerned with the relationship between historicism and psychoanalysis as it is with literary history. Of interest to scholars and students of Gothic fiction and critical theory alike, The Orders of Gothic provides a fresh understanding of early Gothic writing and its central place in the history of the modern subject.

Chapter 1: Gothic Modernity and the Subject of Psychoanalysis
Chapter 2: Father Walpole, Walpole’s Fathers
Chapter 3: Gothic Paternity from Ann Radcliffe to Mary Shelley
Chapter 4: Gothic’s Incestuous Thing
Chapter 5: Gothic and the Fantasy of Other Enjoyment
Chapter 6: Gothic Panoptics and the Persistence of Torturous Enjoyment
Chapter 7: Gothic Subjects, Gothic Objects
Afterword: Gothic and Its Deathly Conclusions

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Townshend, Dale.
The orders of Gothic : Foucault, Lacan, and the subject of gothic writing, 1764–1820 / Dale Townshend.
     p. cm. — (AMS studies in the eighteenth century ; no. 54)
     Includes bibliographical references and index.
     ISBN 0-404-64854-1
     1. English fiction—18th century—History and criticism.
     2. Psychoanalysis and literature—Great Britain.
     3. Horror tales, English—History and criticism.
     4. English fiction—19th century—History and criticism.
     5. Gothic revival (Literature)—Great Britain.
     I. Title.
PR858.T3O73 2007
808.83'8729—dc22                                                       2006045333