1 The Literal and Metaphorical Meaning of the Church in the Gothic Novel. BA Thesis English Language and Culture, Utrecht University. C.G.J.A.M. Mulders 3667561 Supervisor: David Pascoe July 2015 2 The Literal and Metaphorical Meaning of the Church in the Gothic Novel. C.G.J.A.M.Mulders Index I. Introduction 3-4 II. The Gothic as Literary Genre 4-7 III. Religious Superstition 7-9 IV. Repressed Desires 9-12 V. The French Revolution 13-14 VI. Conclusion 14-15 VII. Works Cited 16-17 3 The Literal and Metaphorical Meaning of the Church in the Gothic Novel. I. Introduction The gothic and horror are popular genres in the contemporary entertainment industry of the 20th and 21st century. Ecclesiastical environments and practices are typical and recurring elements in horror films and modern novels with influences of the Gothic. Mariano Baino's film Dark Waters, released in 1993, is such an example in which the church plays a significant role in creating a dark and eerie atmosphere, and also in forming the story itself, by introducing superstition, mortification of the flesh, and other strange rituals. The Victorian themed horror television series Penny Dreadful, which was aired in 2014, creates its own story by bringing together different characters of famous Victorian and Gothic novels, such as Viktor Frankenstein, Mina Harker and Dorian Gray. The main plot of the series is based on the conjoining of two Egyptian gods which would cause an Apocalypse to happen such as is spoken of in Revelation (King James Version of the Bible, Revelation 21.1). This Apocalypse, however, would result in a darkness reigning over Earth. By blending both these Orientalist and biblical elements, the Gothic genre is established in Penny Dreadful, as uncanny creatures are brought into relation with Catholic superstition and the fulfilling of a biblical prophecy. The Church has always played a large role in the Gothic genre, even in the early Gothic writings of the 18th century. It is not always clear at first sight, however, what the significance is of the presence of monasteries, convents, nuns and monks in these Gothic novels. Sometimes, these characters and buildings just seem to be there for no apparent purpose, as may be experienced while reading Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho. It is the aim of this essay to investigate the significance of the presence of ecclesiastical elements in the Gothic genre, or in other words, to find out the literal and metaphorical meaning of the Church in the Gothic novel. This will be done by analysing a few Gothic novels, namely Matthew Lewis' The Monk: A Gothic Romance, Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho 4 and The Romance of the Forest, and Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto. To illustrate that the Gothic genre extended further than the British Isles, Denis Diderot's La Réligieuse will also be discussed. These novels will be analysed by placing them into their historical context, and also by applying theoretical frameworks of for example, E.J. Clery, George E. Haggerty and David Punter, important names within the field of Gothic studies and Romanticism. Firstly, however, it is necessary to have a clear idea of what the Gothic actually entails, to define the gothic novel and understand in which ways the genre sets itself apart from other novels and romances. This is what I would like to explain first, before discussing any answers to the research question. II. The Gothic as Literary Genre The gothic is generally associated with spectres, dark figures, medieval castles, Gothic churches, impenetrable forests and graveyards. It is interesting to ask why these elements are so profoundly present in the Gothic novel, as there is much more to them than simply creating an obscure atmosphere. The Gothic was initially an architectural style that flourished in Europe during the 13th and 14th century, also known as the period of the Middle Ages. The massive and tall cathedrals were meant to excite the flame of devotion within their visitors, and give them an idea of the power of heaven ruling over darkness (Gombrich 185-190). Sculptures and paintings found in these buildings were focused on the act of storytelling, rather than depicting lifelike figures. It was during the early 15th century that a new interest for the ancient writers and art of the Roman Empire was established. Following the example of ancient Greece and Rome, art had to be realistic, in opposition to the art of the Middle Ages. The Goths, an East Germanic tribe, were held responsible for the downfall of the Roman Empire, and for this reason, the art of the Middle Ages was given the name "Gothic," implying that it was tasteless and barbaric (Gombrich 223-224). Later, during the early 18th 5 century, there was a new interest for the past, the Middle Ages in particular, as a reaction to the Enlightenment, Industrialisation and French Revolution. The "Graveyard School" was a pre-Romantic literary movement, and was often considered as the predecessor of the Gothic as literary genre. Contemplation on life and death, sweet melancholy and strong nodes of feeling, were typical motifs in the works of these Churchyard Poets, most of them who were clergymen. Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is a famous example of graveyard poetry (Parisot, 1-9). Jerrold E. Hogle explains in his "Introduction" to The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction, that Gothic literature also received a lot of negative criticism, as it was considered tasteless, barbaric and populist (Hogle 8). Samuel Taylor Coleridge, for example, was not very positive in his review of Matthew Lewis' The Monk: The horrible and the preternatural have usually seized on the popular taste, at the rise and decline of literature. Most powerful stimulants, they can never be required except by the torpor of an unawakened, or the languor of an exhausted appetite. The same phenomenon, therefore, which we hail as a favourable omen in the belles lettres of Germany, impresses a degree of gloom in the compositions of our countrymen. We trust, however, that satiety will banish what good sense should have prevented; and that, wearied with fiends, incomprehensible characters, with shrieks, murders, and subterraneous dungeons, the public will learn, by the multitude of the manufacturers, with how little expense of thought or imagination this species of composition is manufactured. (Coleridge, 609) From this fragment of Coleridge's review it might already be clear that the Gothic genre was appointed a low cultural status and considered a genre of bad taste. The Gothic is rather graphical and brings to the surface, in a packaged form that is, our deepest fears and longings. It deals with the paradoxes of the time regarding a desire for a new future on the one hand, 6 and the fear of letting go of the past on the other (Hogle 5). As Neil Cornwell also points out in "The European Gothic," this results in the many dualistic themes that are so typical for Gothic literature: desire and repression, mysticism and materialism, religion and science, life and death, and ultimately, the supernatural as opposed to the natural (Cornwell 65). Michael Gamer points out in "Gothic Fictions and Romantic Writing in Britain" that several parameters can be distinguished in order to set apart the Gothic novel from other types of literature. He explains that the Gothic is a mixed genre, as it combines different types of narrative with dramatic and lyrical writing (Gamer 85, 86). Certain settings and events are very recurring in the Gothic novel as well, such as antiquated spaces in a distant country. One might think of Mediterranean castles, convents and hidden prison vaults. These places are usually haunted with dark secrets of the past, and these secrets manifest themselves in the form of ghosts and unearthly creatures. These apparitions usually have entered the earthly realm in order to set right feuds and other unresolved crimes or to secure the heredity of their family line (Hogle 2, 3). Emma Clery, however, also discusses in her book The Rise of Supernatural Fiction, 1762-1800, that a new form of Gothic writing had found its way into this controversial genre, namely the theme of the explained supernatural. Ann Radcliffe first introduced this literary device in her novel A Sicilian Romance, which was received positively by many readers, as it was in line with the rational thinking of the Enlightenment: superstitious events that create suspense and horror throughout the novel are given an earthly cause, a rational explanation at the end of the story (Clery 106-108). The Gothic, however, does not only deal with the supernatural, but also holds a mirror in front of the middle-class, which is trapped in between the high culture of the aristocratic with its decadent way of living, and the poor lower class with its deviant morals (Hogle 9). This is where the Church takes an important place in the Gothic genre. The meaning of the Church in the Gothic novel shall be further elaborated on in 7 the following part of this essay. III. Religious Superstition One of the important elements of the Gothic novel is superstition, and religion often serves as a vehicle through which the incredible can be made credulous, and religion may also be brought into relation with the Sublime. In Edmund Burke's influential work A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, he defines the Sublime as "the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling," (Burke) and it is generally evoked by terror and a sense of danger. It is then not surprising that the Sublime is present in the Gothic novel too, as it aims to excite within the reader feelings of awe and horror, while not truly being exposed to this danger. A Sublime feeling may be evoked by the awful sight of nature, which breathes out a sense of enormous power and eternity, and the architecture of large Gothic cathedrals may equally give forth a similar feeling of divinity and vastness. It is interesting to see that in the Gothic novel, religion and the Sublime are also often linked to each other. This is clearly visible in Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, where the protagonist Emily often makes journeys through the mountains, or looks out upon the scenes that expand right in front of her, while she leans out from the casements of the castle where she is imprisoned: The sun, soon after, sinking to the lower world, the shadow of the earth stole gradually over the waves, and then up the towering sides of the mountains of Friuli, till it extinguished even the last upward beams that had lingered on their summits, and the melancholy purple of evening drew over them, like a thin veil. How deep, how beautiful was the tranquillity that wrapped the scene! All nature seemed to repose; the finest emotions of the soul were alone awake. Emily's eyes filled with tears of 8 admiration and sublime devotion, as she raised them over the sleeping world to the vast heavens, and heard the notes of solemn music, that stole over the waters from a distance. (Radcliffe, Ch. 2) In these lines, Radcliffe first describes the scenery which may evoke a sense of the Sublime, and is then brought into relation with religious devotion. During the Middle Ages, not only churches, however, were built in the Gothic style, but castles as well. Radcliffe brings the architecture of Gothic castles and Sublime together too: Emily gazed with melancholy awe upon the castle, which she understood to be Montoni's; for, though it was now lighted up by the setting sun, the gothic greatness of its features, and its mouldering walls of dark grey stone, rendered it a gloomy and sublime object. As she gazed, the light died away on its walls, leaving a melancholy purple tint, which spread deeper and deeper, as the thin vapour crept up the mountain, while the battlements above were still tipped with splendour. From those, too, the rays soon faded, and the whole edifice was invested with the solemn duskiness of evening. Silent, lonely, and sublime, it seemed to stand the sovereign of the scene, and to frown defiance on all, who dared to invade its solitary reign. (Radcliffe, Ch. 5) The solemnity and especially the Sublime dread that is spoken of in this passage, is also manifested in the form of superstition. Diane Long Hoeveler discusses in her book The Gothic Ideology: Religious Hysteria and Anti-Catholicism in British Popular Fiction, 1780-1880, that Catholicism and its followers, usually people of the lower classes, elicit the belief in spectres and daemons (Hoeveler 1-3). By making use of ecclesiastical settings and characters of the peasantry in the Gothic novel, the idea of supernatural events and apparitions suddenly becomes credible. The Gothic surroundings of a ruined abbey then become the stage where everything is possible, and the imagination has free reign. A clear example can be found in 9 another famous novel by Ann Radcliffe, namely The Romance of the Forest, where the protagonist Adeline and her protectors end up having to pass the night at the remains of a perished and desolate abbey: The almost expiring light flashed faintly upon the walls of the passage, shewing the recess more horrible. Across the hall, the greater part of which was concealed in shadow, the feeble ray spread a tremulous gleam, exhibiting the chasm in the roof, while many nameless objects were seen imperfectly through the dusk. Adeline with a smile, inquired of La Motte, if he believed in spirits. The question was ill-timed, for the present scene impressed its terrors upon La Motte, and, in spite of endeavour, he felt a superstitious dread stealing upon him. He was now, perhaps, standing over the ashes of the dead. If spirits were ever permitted to revisit the earth, this seemed the hour and the place most suitable for their appearance. (Radcliffe, 18) Firstly, a description is given of the location to give the reader knowledge of the atmosphere of the desolate abbey, and then the atmosphere affects the emotions of the visitors, evoking the dreadful sensation of the Sublime which Burke speaks of. IV. Repressed Desires A second element which is recurring in the Gothic novel is the theme of repressed desires, and is often brought into relation with the Church. It could be argued that the Gothic novel criticises the way in which females are viewed by a male dominant society during the 18th century and the Victorian Era. In Unnatural Affections, George E. Haggerty elaborates on this idea of finding pleasure in victimisation and abusing female sexuality, by analysing Ann Radcliffe's The Romance of the Forest. He explains that Adeline finds herself in the hands of 10 masculine strangers repeatedly, and always becomes subject to their desires (Haggerty 159164). The Gothic deals with paradoxes between past and present, and it was during the Enlightenment that Europeans thought themselves to be the offspring of the intellectual Roman and Greek empire. With this renewed interest for the Antiquity, a lot of Classical art was brought to Western Europe, through which the Europeans were confronted with a much more primitive side of these ancient civilisations: among the sculptures were present a large amount of sexually explicit images. This may have caused a paradoxical clash within the consciousness of the prude Victorians, but also may have confronted them with their own sexuality (Beck). Haggerty explains that in The Romance of the Forest, Radcliffe also confronts the reader with the masochism and paternal love that was so very much present in the 18th and 19th century (Haggerty 166-170). This paternal love often takes erotic forms, for example when La Motte first becomes acquainted with the innocent Adeline after his encounter with a group of ruffians: La Motte now turned his eyes upon his unfortunate companion, who, pale and exhausted, leaned for support against the wall. Her features, which were delicately beautiful, had gained from distress an expression of captivating sweetness: she had “An eye As when the blue sky trembles thro’ a cloud Of purest white.” A habit of grey camlet, with short flashed sleeves, shewed, but did not adorn, her figure: it was thrown open at the bosom, upon which part of her hair had fallen in disorder, while the light veil hastily thrown on, had, in her confusion, been suffered to fall back. Every moment of farther observation heightened the surprize of La Motte, and interested him more warmly in her favour. (Radcliffe, 6, 7) 11 On the one hand, La Motte feels paternal affection for her, and is also given the task to let her stay with his company and bring her far away from the spot they encountered the ruffians. On the other hand, however, her beautiful aspect seems to incite inside of him a flame of erotic desire. This same idea of desire that cannot be satisfied is typical for the chastity of the Church, however, these repressed desires are not easily subdued. It is then that these desires are given free rein in some Gothic novels, novels which are often critical of the Catholic Church. A well-known example of Gothic fiction where a clergyman loses the fight against his sexual desires, is The Monk: A Gothic Romance, written by Matthew Lewis. These desires are depicted in various ways, in a literal sense, but also symbolically. The monk Ambrosio, who is admired for his piety, chastity and solemnity by almost all his listeners, is in fact the opposite of what everyone deems him to be. He struggles with his desire for female affection on a daily basis, and his desires are often intensified by the aspect of his portrait of Madonna: How graceful is the turn of that head! What sweetness, yet what majesty in her divine eyes! How softly her cheek reclines upon her hand! Can the Rose vie with the blush of that cheek? Can the Lily rival the whiteness of that hand? Oh! if such a Creature existed, and existed but for me! Were I permitted to twine round my fingers those golden ringlets, and press with my lips the treasures of that snowy bosom! Gracious God, should I then resist the temptation? (Lewis, Ch. 2) Ambrosio here sexualises the picture of his Madonna, and it makes him wonder if he should give up his vows and give in to the temptations he is exposed to. He indeed ends up satisfying his desires when his apprentice reveals to him she is actually a woman, but instead of feeling satisfied, he wants more. He has found a new object of his desire, a young girl named 12 Antonia. By making a pact with the devil and partaking in rituals of black magic, Ambrosio ends up abducting Antonia and locking her up inside the dark dungeons underneath the convent. Antonia becomes a victim of a the repressed desires of a paternal figure, though in a very extreme sense, as she becomes a rape victim, which may be compared with Adeline in The Romance of the Forest, but also with Isabella in Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, who is pursued by Manfred, the man who was meant to become her father-in-law (Haggerty 159, 160). Convents, ruined abbeys and dark subterranean vaults and alleyways, however, have become typical settings in the Gothic genre, and can also be brought into relation with the idea of suppressed desire. The architectural design of these Gothic buildings play a symbolic role in depicting this repression: nuns and monks have to subdue their passions and conceal them from the outer world, by almost literally hiding them in these dark vaults and mazes, as the monk Ambrosio does with Antonia. The church's architecture, however, does not only symbolise deviant desires, but the characters often present within these walls are representative for the sexual morals of the middle class too: beautiful young women who are forced into convents and are subject to the desire of lesbian abbesses (Hoeveler 52). An example is Denise Diderot's La Réligieuse, a French Gothic novel about a young girl, Suzanne, who is sent to a convent and refuses to take her vows. Eventually she does take the veil, but she gets dejected and she is regularly tortured in order to make her repent her disobedience to her vows. The torture techniques are sometimes of a sexual nature, in which Suzanne temporarily loses her subjectivity and becomes an object of constant observation. Later on, she is sent to another convent, where she again becomes the victim of erotic desire as the abbess of that convent has developed a desire for Suzanne, which she cannot satisfy. As a consequence of the abbess's troubled conscience, she ends up suffering from hysteria. 13 V. The French Revolution A third element that recurs in the Gothic novel in relation to the Catholic Church, is the French Revolution, which took place from 1789-1799. Even though the Revolution is usually not explicitly mentioned in the novels, they often allude to it. Ronald Paulson discusses in his article "Gothic Fiction and the French Revolution," the active role the circumstances regarding the Revolution that was taking place in France affected the British Isles and also the literature that was written at the time. People feared that the violence and terror of the Revolution in France would soon reach Great Britain as well. Paulson explains that this fear was reflected in the Gothic novel, but also that the novel was used as a means of coming to terms with the violence in France (534). An interesting remark of Paulson is when he explicated how the Gothic novel is neither necessarily critical or supportive of the French Revolution, but that it rather shows the consequences of both sides of a revolution: liberty and conservatism (536, 537). Matthew Lewis' The Monk, shows the consequences of freedom: Ambrosio was in search of erotic liberty, which was made possible by the distraction of a riot on the streets where the Abbess was lynched by a mob (Paulson 538, 539). The riot soon escalated and the church and convent were burnt down, which is a typical representation of riots during the French Revolution: The Rioters poured into the interior part of the Building, where they exercised their vengeance upon everything which found itself in their passage. They broke the furniture into pieces, tore down the pictures, destroyed the reliques, and in their hatred of her Servant forgot all respect to the Saint. Some employed themselves in searching out the Nuns, Others in pulling down parts of the Convent, and Others again in setting fire to the pictures and valuable furniture which it contained. These Latter produced the most decisive desolation: Indeed the consequences of their action were more 14 sudden than themselves had expected or wished. The Flames rising from the burning piles caught part of the Building, which being old and dry, the conflagration spread with rapidity from room to room. The Walls were soon shaken by the devouring element: The Columns gave way: The Roofs came tumbling down upon the Rioters, and crushed many of them beneath their weight. Nothing was to be heard but shrieks and groans; The Convent was wrapped in flames, and the whole presented a scene of devastation and horror. (Lewis, Ch. 3) During these events, Ambrosio could carry out his decadent conduct, which eventually brought him down to a state of perpetual suffering. The narrator makes the reader aware of the violence of the Revolution, but also shows how it is able to put an end to the corruption of the Catholic Church. Percy Bysshe Shelley writes in his "A Defence of Poetry," that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World" (Shelley 869). When the meaning of this phrase is extended to all writers, it may be said that they, and especially writers of the Gothic genre, are like mediators between the present and the past. They are able to foresee a part of the future by using the imagination, and make the future visible by writing them down in fictitious stories. In this way, Gothic writers were able to show the reader the violence of the Revolution, but also how to come to terms with this violence. VI. Conclusion To conclude, this paper has discussed the role of the church in the Gothic novel. First an overview was given on what the Gothic novel is, how this literary genre has come about and what connection it has with the Gothic mode of building in the Middle Ages. Then three different aspects of the Catholic Church in the Gothic novel were discussed. Firstly, I argued that ecclesiastical environments and religious superstition enable the author to make use of 15 supernatural creatures and apparitions as a manifestation of the terrors that evoke a sense of the Sublime. Secondly, I elaborated on the theme of repressed desires that are an important element of the Gothic novel. These repressed desires can be brought into relation with the vows of chastity of those who choose to live a pious life in the service of God within the walls of convents. In this way, the Church becomes in the Gothic novel an embodiment of the longings and devious sexuality of Victorian England society that are repressed. Lastly, this paper touched on the relation of the Church with the French Revolution, as the Revolution was important for the loss of influence of the Church in France. The Gothic novel lends a lot of its violence from the events in France, as a means of coming to terms with the horrors of the Revolution. One could argue then, that without the Catholic Church, the Gothic novel would not be the same as we have come to know it, and might have been an entirely different genre altogether. It is unfortunate, however, that the study did not elaborate further on the use of torture in the Church and the Gothic novel, and in which ways the Gothic genre is deviant from, but also similar to the Romantic movement. Some interesting findings could be the result of such literary research, as piety and natural devotion are also terms that can be found in the works of Romantic poets, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge for example, who both were interested in the idea of pantheism. The relevance of Mediterranean settings was not discussed in further detail either, as to not deviate from the thesis too much. For future research, it would also be interesting to investigate why these distant locations matter as much as ecclesiastical settings. 16 VII. Works Cited Beck, Marianna. " Victorian Obsessions and Fin-de-Siècle Predilections". Libido: The Journal of Sex and Sensibility. Web. 23 June 2015. Burke, Edmund. 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