Dreaming Change, Changing Dreams in the British Gothic Novel, 1765-1818

Richard W. Moore, Fordham University


This dissertation examines the centrality of dreams in British gothic novels. I explore how gothic dreams change across five novels: Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (1765), Clara Reeve's The Old English Baron: A Gothic Story (1778), Matthew G. Lewis's The Monk: A Romance (1796), Charlotte Dacre's Zofloya; Or, The Moor (1806), and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). Central to all of these works, the dreams serve vital roles in the novels' responses to the profound questions of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. My study departs from earlier ones as I examine dreams not as spaces for individuals, but as temporally and politically-charged spaces in which dreamers lose volition and confront questions concerning historiography, revolution, and empire: dreams of national stability change into those of revolution and finally into those of empire. In Walpole's and Reeve's novels, dreams are so unambiguously prophetic that they take on a teleological quality and serve either to parody the authority of Whig historiography, in The Castle of Otranto, or to reestablish its authority, in the case of The Old English Baron. After the French Revolution, however, prophetic dreams and moments in The Monk are complicated by a cloud of uncertainty and the awareness or emergence of monstrosity. I argue that although monstrosity appears buried in The Monk, it reemerges in the dream scenes in Zofloya and in Frankenstein as dream and reality become intertwined, the prophetic nightmare turns real, and the monstrous remains.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Moore, Richard W., "Dreaming Change, Changing Dreams in the British Gothic Novel, 1765-1818" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10815495.