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The Failure of GothicProblems of Disjunction in an Eighteenth-Century Literary Form$
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Elizabeth R. Napier

Print publication date: 1987

Print ISBN-13: 9780198128601

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198128601.001.0001

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Techniques of Destabilization and Excess

Techniques of Destabilization and Excess

Chapter:
(p.44) 2 Techniques of Destabilization and Excess
Source:
The Failure of Gothic
Author(s):

Elizabeth R. Napier

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198128601.003.0003

This chapter shows that although the Gothic is in many important respects conventional and highly fixed in form, there appears among the writers of the genre not only a certain distrust in the stability of the conventions that they use but a sense that stability itself is less interesting than moments of suspense or irresolution. The artful disequilibrium of the Gothic is achieved in a number of ways. Not only do the Gothic writers make full conventional use of stylistic devices such as exaggeration, interruption, and fragmentation to destabilize their narratives; this stylistic instability is supplemented by a peculiar tonal imbalance as well as one that might be called modal or generic. The effect of these distortions is a stylistic reproduction of paradox, of irregularity and decay that is akin to the aesthetic values of Price, Knight, and Gilpin, the main theoreticians of the picturesque.

Keywords:   exaggeration, Gothic fiction, instability, paradox, picturesque

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