Burkean Sublime In Ann Radcliffe's 'The Italian'

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Ann Radcliffe is normally associated with the school of ‘Conservative gothic’ literature. Her works, laden with aspects of the gothic, are developed in a way that explain the supernatural events and dispel any belief of an ‘otherness’ that is central to most gothic works. Despite this, Radcliffe’s novel ‘The Italian’, can be analysed for its gothic aspects through the ideas and concepts of the Burkean sublime. This essay aims to analyse the work of Radcliffe through the ideas of Burk such as his understandings of how a work is made sublime. In ‘The Italian’, Radcliffe deploys the concept of Burke’s sublime through his idea of vastness. Burke argues that a vast tower, looming over the reader or main character has more effect…show more content…
Within the text there are a lot of abrupt scenes that bring a fear or confusion to the character. In Burkean terms, a sudden sound or apparition strikes terror within the souls of the reader and character, making a scene sublime in nature (76). This technique is deployed in the very start of the text, creating one of the main foundations that make this text a gothic novel. ‘Vivaldi was stopped by the stranger on the preceding night, when he heard a sudden sound’ (Radcliffe 15), as Burke predicted, the sound stops Vivaldi, he is unable to precede without identifying this mysterious sound. It arouse his interests, almost compelling him to explore the source of the sound despite not knowing the nature of it. The terror cause by sudden incidents can be identified a few lines down as, ‘The monk was gone, and the darkness of the hour baffled’ (Radcliffe 15). Not only does this sudden disappearance startled the characters of Vivaldi and Bonarmo but confuses the reader as well. The suddenness deployed by Radcliffe in this text regarding the disappearing monk confuses the reader as we, and the characters, are left to ponder whether the monk is a spectre or not. Radcliffe uses the technique in a way that suggest the powers of supernatural forces are at play, bringing about the heart stopping terror that stops Vivaldi in his tracks. Vivaldi also displays a curious, almost aggressively curiosity, in finding out the nature of the disappearing monk. Paranoia consumes Vivaldi, leading him to strike out against Schedoni and to recklessly explore the caves at night, putting himself in danger (Schmitt 863). The emotion of paranoia is one of the passionate emotions of gothic novels, one that terrorizes its subject, often driving them into actions that lead to them playing into the hands of their opposing forces (Schmitt 867). In the case of Vivaldi, his paranoia concerning
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