Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Lisi Schoenbach

Committee Members

Mary Papke, Amy Billone, Carolyn Hodges


Gothic Modernism: Revising and Representing the Narratives of History and Romance analyzes the surprising frequency of the tones, tropes, language, and conventions of the classic Gothic that oppose the realist impulses of Modernism. In a letter F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about The Great Gatsby, he explains that he “selected the stuff to fit a given mood or ‘hauntedness’” (Letters 551). This “stuff” constitutes the “subtler means” that Virginia Woolf wrote about when she observed that the conventions of the classic Gothic no longer evoked fear: “The skull-headed lady, the vampire gentleman, the whole troop of monks and monsters who once froze and terrified us now gibber in some dark cupboard of the servants’ hall. In our day we flatter ourselves the effect is produced by subtler means” (“Gothic Romance” 133). This project, therefore, identifies a “Gothic Modernism”—a strain of Modernism that makes use of the well-established language and conventions of the Gothic terms in order to express recognizably Modernist concerns about the nature of subjectivity, temporality, language, and knowledge. But, I argue, though these texts call upon and refer to the language and conventions of the classic Gothic, they also find ways of transforming and adapting them for a new historical era.

In chapters covering ghosts and hauntings, and other revised conventions of the classic Gothic, I continue the work begun by John Paul Riquelme’s Gothic and Modernism that begins to reveal how “history, as part of the condition of modernity, [has] become Gothic” (1). This project analyzes the gothicization of two narratives through which humans are expected to make sense of their lives—history and romance. Despite more than a century separating the classic Gothic from Modernism, the Gothic continues to be so useful to Modernist writers because, while these genres’ authors represent the nature of their anxieties as a result of specific socio-historical circumstances, there is a striking continuity between the types of anxieties expressed. Thus, this project contributes to Modernist Studies by expanding the boundaries of our conventional understanding of the genre’s thematic concerns and stylistic commitments, and the way in which it frames key narratives.

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