Shadows of the Enlightenment: Sorcery, Witchcraft, Devilry and the Transgression by Demonic Women in the Gothic Fiction Written in Late Eighteenth Century England.


  • Suman Chakraborty Research Scholar Vidyasagar University India


The gothic novels written in late eighteenth are replete with the representations of witchcraft, devilry, sorcery and supernatural events. Ann Radcliffe, Clara Reeve and other writers, who wrote in their tradition, tried to represent “explainedsupernatural†in their novels. Though they showed many supernatural incidentsin their novels, they rationalized it at the end with the help of reason and logic. These writers belonged to the tradition of the rational feminists of the eighteenth century who worked under the rubric of enlightenment values of reason and logic. But inthe other mode of writings popularized by M.G. Lewis, Charlotte Dacre and others, no such attempts were made to rationalize the supernatural events represented in their novels. The central female characters in their novels are shown as blood thirsty, demonic, murderous and dangerous. They practice sorcery and witchcraft. They arealmostequated with Devil. They violate the norms of the patriarchal order and are consequently punished for it. The present paper attempts to show that in this later group of novels, demonization of thewomen actually refers to their romantic transgressive spirit. Though the moralizing tone of the novels often tended to hide their subversive nature, their utter rejection of enlightenment values and sobriety aligned them with the alternative tradition that silently flowed alongside mainstream enlightenment culture and upheld the irrational, anarchic but creative, fertile andorganic principle of femininitythat symbolized wholeness and connectedness with nature.



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