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Open Access Dissertation

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First Advisor

Michael Scrivener


Servant Voices and Tales in the British Gothic Novel, 1764-1847 explores the intersectionality of class, race, and gender positions in the Gothic novel’s portrayal of lower-class identity, constructing an argument framed on the following questions: how do servant voices manifest in the marginal spaces surrounding the dominant narrative of rational discourse; in what ways do servants’ discourse resist and negotiate the narrative of individual experience; how do servants subvert dominant narratives; and what ideological implications do such subversions and resistance entail? The argument emphasizes servants’ discourse within the context of domestic ideology, and as a result, analyzes class, gender, and racial positions within the home. To delineate the opposition between the rational/skeptic and credulous/superstitious voice, it further explores eighteenth-century anti-Gothic rhetoric, highlighting hierarchical patterns of relations structuring the ideological boundaries of the home. Lower-class discourse is disruptive to rational domesticity for servants function as both producers and consumers of superstitious tales. Through marginal subtexts, they validate the supernatural tale within frame narratives, reports, testimony, and gossip, constructing a pedagogy for reading Gothic texts that opposes oppressive patriarchal structures by employing the same literary mechanisms, oral tales of ghostly haunting, demonic possession, and illicit desire, that rational discourse categorizes as vulgar and gratuitous.

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