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date: 18 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that Edgar Huntly is the foundational text for the American Gothic, a genre that shadows American history. Noting the strange similarity between Charles Brockden Brown’s romance and Francisco Goya’s The Sleep of Reason, produced in the same year, the chapter argues that Brown and Goya are alike in ironizing the Enlightenment by noting that violence as often arises from reason as from its repression, as much from intellectuals striving to do good as from irrational impulses. Like many Gothic texts, the romance’s presiding metaphor is live burial, in a cave but also in language, in the very instrument of reason. The romance parallels the sleepwalking of the ambiguous foreign other, Clithere, and narrator Edgar; and just as Clithero’s narrative proves to be a compromised tissue of intertextual fantasies and lies, ostensibly benevolent but ultimately murderous, so doubt is cast on the narrator, also dangerously fettered by reason.

Keywords: Enlightenment, history, American Gothic, reason, irrational, live burial, intertextuality

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