Skip to main content


Showing posts from January, 2017

Things as They Are: Ironic Gothic in Caleb Williams

Nine months away from seminars - and pretty much the same away from this blog - and I'm back in the thick of things, facing a blur of John Clare, Charlotte Smith, Thomas de Quincey and, for the second time, William Godwin's strange novel of the 1790s, Caleb Williams.

I find this quite an odd book to place and position, and the first thing I asked my students to do was to scattergun ways of reading it as a gothic novel, a political novel, a psychological novel and a self-reflexive/aesthetically experimental novel respectively. As we worked this through - and especially in contrasting the first two genres - I queried how we reconcile the intensely inward plane of gothic distortions and anxieties with the realist promise of the text's subtitle: 'things as they are'.

After all, here is a narrative that freely appropriates gothic conventions - fires, secrets, murders, bandits, imprisonments, vengeances, pursuits - whilst also coming from the pen of one of the era's …