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God & the GothicReligion, Romance, & Reality in the English Literary Tradition$
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Alison Milbank

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198824466

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198824466.001.0001

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‘Beyond the Awful Veil’

‘Beyond the Awful Veil’

Melancholic Theology and the In-Between in Ann Radcliffe

Chapter:
(p.86) 4 ‘Beyond the Awful Veil’
Source:
God & the Gothic
Author(s):

Alison Milbank

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198824466.003.0005

Radcliffe’s Anglican orthodoxy is established in Chapter 4, along with her attempt through her fiction to offer a theology of mediation and participation. She works with Shaftesbury’s Platonic moral realism in contrast to Mrs Barbauld’s associationist view of taste and develops a mode of mystical ascent through the interplay of vertical and horizontal experiences. The sublime allows ascent through an awareness of one’s created nature, which is linked to Shaftesbury’s taxonomy of forms. It is an inherently social and virtuous experience, as in James Thomson’s Seasons, and centred on melancholy—an awareness of fallenness, which again allows for a mediation through this distantiation. Twilight’s veiling inbetweenness restores a sense of the lost Eden, while music and liturgy offer humanity’s articulate praise as an example of a Shaftesburian ‘form that forms’. Radcliffe’s explained supernatural is revisioned as a false idolatrous sublime that mistakes an effect for a cause and refuses the mystical ascent.

Keywords:   Ann Radcliffe, melancholy, sublime, Lord Shaftesbury, James Thomson, The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne, The Romance of the Forest, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Italian, On the Supernatural in Poetry

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