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A Prehistory of Cognitive PoeticsNeoclassicism and the Novel$
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Karin Kukkonen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190634766

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190634766.001.0001

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Ann Radcliffe and the Abdication of the Superpunisher

Ann Radcliffe and the Abdication of the Superpunisher

(p.79) Chapter 5 Ann Radcliffe and the Abdication of the Superpunisher
A Prehistory of Cognitive Poetics

Karin Kukkonen

Oxford University Press

This chapter traces the narrative strategies around the situational logic of poetic justice in Ann Radcliffe’s Gothic fiction. On the one hand, Radcliffe constructs tightly coiled “comeuppance clockworks” in which the villains of her narratives are swiftly and appropriately punished. On the other hand, she also hides many instances of delayed comeuppance in the manuscripts, interrupted stories, and effigies that fill her narratives, thereby creating a narrative “Zeigarnik effect.” Because comeuppance is either too tight or too loose in Radcliffe’s novels, it never seems to correspond to a human measure of strong reciprocity. At the same time, however, Radcliffe does not introduce any mechanism, such as divine intervention or a strong author figure, which could explain such supernatural reciprocity. Fitting Radcliffe’s strategy of the explained supernatural, the specter of the “superpunisher” (and its epistemic comforts) is raised and disavowed, creating a particularly uncanny situational logic of poetic justice.

Keywords:   Gothic, Ann Radcliffe, uncanny, poetic justice, superpunisher, Zeigarnik effect

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