Reconsidering the relationship between early Gothic literature and the Greek classics: the cases of William Beckford and Matthew G. Lewis

Panopoulou, Maria (2016) Reconsidering the relationship between early Gothic literature and the Greek classics: the cases of William Beckford and Matthew G. Lewis. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The view that Gothic literature emerged as a reaction against the prominence of the Greek classics, and that, as a result, it bears no trace of their influence, is a commonplace in Gothic studies. This thesis re-examines this view, arguing that the Gothic and the Classical were not in opposition to one another, and that Greek tragic poetry and myth should be counted among the literary sources that inspired early Gothic writers. The discussion is organised in three parts. Part I focuses on evidence which suggests that the Gothic and the Hellenic were closely associated in the minds of several British literati both on a political and aesthetic level. As is shown, the coincidence of the Hellenic with the Gothic revival in the second half of the eighteenth century inspired them not only to trace common ground between the Greek and Gothic traditions, but also to look at Greek tragic poetry and myth through Gothic eyes, bringing to light an unruly, ‘Dionysian’ world that suited their taste. The particulars of this coincidence, which has not thus far been discussed in Gothic studies, as well as evidence which suggests that several early Gothic writers were influenced by Greek tragedy and myth, open up new avenues for research on the thematic and aesthetic heterogeneity of early Gothic literature. Parts II and III set out to explore this new ground and to support the main argument of this thesis by examining the influence of Greek tragic poetry and myth on the works of two early Gothic novelists and, in many ways, shapers of the genre, William Beckford and Matthew Gregory Lewis. Part II focuses on William Beckford’s Vathek and its indebtedness to Euripides’s Bacchae, and Part III on Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk and its indebtedness to Sophocles’s Oedipus Tyrannus. As is discussed, Beckford and Lewis participated actively in both the Gothic and Hellenic revivals, producing highly imaginative works that blended material from the British and Greek literary traditions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Gothic literature, classics, Greek tragedy, Greek myth, classical reception studies, eighteenth century, Gothic revival, Hellenic revival, William Beckford, Matthew Gregory Lewis, Sophocles, Euripides.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PA Classical philology
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Carruthers, Professor Gerard
Date of Award: 2016
Embargo Date: 30 October 2024
Depositing User: Ms Maria Panopoulou
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7733
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2016 12:23
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2023 07:23
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.7733

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