Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Degree Granting Department
Regina Hewitt, Ph.D.
Laura Runge, Ph.D.
Pat Rogers, Ph.D.
Marty Gould, Ph.D.
British literature, ecocriticism, landscape, nature, nonhuman, supernatural
This dissertation looks at the ways in which humans interact with and respond to other humans and nonhumans in Ann Radcliffe's and Mary Shelley's novels. I argue that in light of the social and political turmoil surrounding the French Revolution, Radcliffe and Shelley call not so much for Revolution or drastic reform but for a change in the ways in which individuals respond to the needs of others, both human and nonhuman, and take responsibility for each other. The ways in which humans interact with the nonhuman inform the positive and negative practices that they should use to interact with other humans and vice versa.
Chapter One considers the connection between nature and culture in Radcliffe'sA Sicilian Romance, The Romance of the Forest, The Mysteries of Udolpho, and The Italian to argue that Radcliffe's "explained supernatural" occupies a liminal space between nature and culture. Furthermore, some of the upper class are able to discern that the "real," or material, supernatural does not exist while still acknowledging that some form of spiritual supernatural presence is possible, thus reflecting a heightened awareness of concepts beyond the material.
Chapter Two looks at Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian to argue that characters who are able to appreciate nature, particularly landscape, are more admirable than those who ignore it. Specifically, these characters indicate an openness to forming reciprocal relationships with the landscapes, allowing the views offered by the landscapes to offer them peace or comfort while simultaneously respecting the power the landscapes hold. Drawing from the theories of place theorists Tim Cresswell and Yi-Fu Tuan, this chapter posits that landscapes can be classified as being on the verge of place.
Chapter Three looks at Frankenstein and The Last Man to argue that Shelley demonstrates the types of reciprocal relationships people should form with both humans and nonhumans. Donna Haraway's idea of "contact zones"--places where the human and nonhuman can communicate--inform this reading of the relationships between the human and nonhuman in these two novels. It investigates how Victor Frankenstein and the creature define "human" and then asserts that in Frankenstein the creature cannot form a place for communication with any of the humans whose acceptance and companionship he seeks because no one is willing to do so. The Last Man's Lionel Verney, on the other hand, is able to form reciprocal relationships with both the human and the nonhuman, thus enabling him to ultimately become the "last man."
The fourth and final chapter looks at Shelley's Valperga, Lodore, and The Last Man, set in the past, present, and future, respectively, arguing that Shelley uses these different time settings in order to demonstrate that many of the struggles people have are similar to ones that others had in the past and will continue to have in the future if people do not adjust the ways in which they respond to disaster. By presenting readers with specifics about location and environment, Shelley creates settings that readers can connect to and then entertain the idea that these characters' struggles are like their own.
Scholar Commons Citation
McGee, Katherine Marie, "Responsibility and Responsiveness in the Novels of Ann Radcliffe and Mary Shelley" (2014). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.