Mapping Gothic Cumbria : An Alternative Literary History

Eddy-Waland, Chelsea and Spooner, Catherine and Bainbridge, Simon (2022) Mapping Gothic Cumbria : An Alternative Literary History. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This thesis constructs an alternative literary history of the English Lake District, thereby making a case for a spatially specific Cumbrian Gothic. Criticism has tended to concentrate on the region’s exemplary beauty and the Romantic influences of the Lake Poets, neglecting to consider the prevalence of the Gothic mode. This study remedies this scholarly absence by investigating understudied texts and conducting alternative readings of canonical Romantic literature. In doing so it recognises the diversity of Cumbria’s cultural legacy and demonstrates the pervasive presence of the Gothic from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century. It argues that whilst fictional incarnations of Cumbrian Gothic have become more popular in this century, they draw on a long history of such representation. This diachronic research identifies three key moments in the development of a distinctive Cumbrian Gothic. It firstly explores how the Romantic period tourist experiences and literary responses of Ann Radcliffe and William Wordsworth were shaped by Gothic narratives that reframed unappealing mountainscapes into sources of the sublime and topographical terror. It then examines how the construction of a Gothic region is compounded by nineteenth-century perceptions of local legends, people and place. This construction was influenced by Victorian-era interests in folklore and antiquarianism, which appropriated oral traditions to make monsters of marginal figures. Lastly, it analyses the self-awareness of contemporary Cumbrian fiction which uses preexisting Gothic narratives to comment on political and environmental issues. It engages with ecocritical and EcoGothic debates to reconsider ‘nature’; it evaluates disability inclusion; and proposes rewilding the region as a remedy for ecophobia. This thesis presents Cumbrian Gothic as a multivalent mode that can suitably convey the often unpleasant aspects of rural life. Its revelation of the repressed ‘dark side’ of the Lake District communicates inarticulable social and environmental crises particular to Cumbria and provincial Britain.

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Thesis (PhD)
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10 Oct 2022 14:50
Last Modified:
26 Jan 2024 01:01