Andrew W. Mellon Regional Fellow in the Humanities
2008—2009 Forum on Change
Assistant Professor, English, Rutgers, Camden
Popular Reforms: Progressive Ideology and Gothic Writing 1760-1820
Popular Reforms argues that gothic texts work to change their contemporary political world by offering viable alternative solutions for vexed problems such as slavery, economic disparity, gender inequality, and institutional corruption. I trace the gothic’s evolving social consciousness—using drama, poetry, and chapbooks in addition to prose fiction—to reveal the gothic’s reform message reaching segments of the British public at nearly all class levels. During its zenith, the gothic mode dominated almost every type of artistic expression. By exposing the ways that gothic texts not only criticize society but also demand that it improve, Popular Reforms recasts the gothic as a deeply idealistic, and even optimistic, mode that changes political thinking in the street, in the theater, and within the walls of parliament.