Documents of Culture, Documents of Barbarism: Gothic Literature, Empiricism, and the Rise of Professional Science
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The trope of the discovered manuscript, in which a narrator or character finds a document and presents it to the readers or other characters, has been a part of the Gothic genre since its inception. The discovered manuscript trope persists, despite criticism and satire, in part because it enables Gothic stories to situate their readers. In the nineteenth-century, as the presence of lawyers, doctors, scientists, journalists and other experts grew in society, Gothic novelists drew upon their methodologies and their records to revise the discovered manuscript trope. This project examines the trope of the discovered manuscript throughout Gothic literature in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in order to discuss how the Gothic functions as a literature of terror and how its techniques evolved in response to the epistemologies espoused by empiricist philosophers and professional scientists. I draw upon Jacques Rancière's theories about the representative and aesthetic regimes for the identification of the artistic image to support three central, interrelated claims about the role, and evolution, of the discovered manuscript trope within Gothic fiction: 1) Gothic literature responds to an epistemological problem in the empiricist tradition revolving around the connections between sensory uncertainty and linguistic gaps; 2) reading and interpreting documents play vital roles in the Gothic tradition; and 3) examining documents in Gothic fiction as image operations illuminates how they participate in a story's epistemological drama. In order to support these claims, this project presents four chapters that discuss a broad range of Gothic texts from Walpole's <italics>The Castle of Otranto<italics> to Stoker's <italics>Dracula<italics>.