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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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Paradoxes of the Heart

Paradoxes of the Heart

Religious Anthropology in the Colonial Gothic of Charles Brockden Brown

(p.111) 5 Paradoxes of the Heart
God & the Gothic

Alison Milbank

Oxford University Press

Brockden Brown is linked to British rational dissenters such as the Aikins and William Godwin in Chapter 5. Their positive theological anthropology, which denies human fallenness, is evidenced in Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice in which familial and social bonds are denied in favour of a utilitarian social benefit. This leads to a difficulty in imagining what Mrs Barabauld called ‘the paradox of the heart’. Godwin’s novel, Caleb Williams, begins to admit an inner duality in the subject. Brockden Brown’s Wieland further questions political Whig secularized Providentialism and the utopian anthropology of rational dissent. The elder Wieland spontaneously combusts in a seemingly supernatural fashion. His ‘enlightened’ children are haunted by unexplained voices, causing the son to kill his family. Although the voices are revealed as natural, events begin to open a fissure in the modern, atomized, and buffered self and the possibility of a more paradoxical account of the subject.

Keywords:   Mrs Barbauld, John Aikin, William Godwin, Caleb Williams, Wieland, paradox, duality, sublime, Calvinism, Charles Brockden Brown

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