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date: 21 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the critical history of Charles Brockden Brown’s Ormond; or, The Secret Witness from its early reception as a formally flawed novel through more recent scholarship that reads the novel through the lenses of gender and sexuality, revolutionary politics, and the birth of Gothic fiction in America. However, by focusing on narratives of contagion and conspiracy in Ormond, this chapter also argues that scholars should embrace the novel’s transgressive form not as flawed but as a radical commentary on the possibility of political and biological indistinction. Set in a young nation besieged by pestilence and revolutionary ideals, Ormond invites readers to contemplate the impossibility of maintaining rigid physical (or ideational) boundaries in a transatlantic world bound together by bodies (and ideas) in perpetual contact.

Keywords: Charles Brockden Brown, Ormond, secret witness, American Gothic, Illuminati, conspiracy, contagion, miasma, yellow fever, cross-dressing

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