Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School

English and Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Sharon Smith


Ann Radcliffe, conduct literature, female Gothic, Gothic, Jane Austen, women writers


The Gothic is often associated with the fantastical, with people and events that only take place within our darkest nightmares. In my thesis, I explore how, in the hands of Ann Radcliffe and Jane Austen, the Gothic exposes the hidden dangers of reality perpetuated by conduct literature. Within conduct manuals, thousands of regulations direct women’s behaviors and identify the perfect woman as one who exists passively within the safety of the domestic sphere. Radcliffe’s The Romance of the Forest (1791) and Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1817) engage in subterfuge against eighteenth-century conduct literature and expose the realities of the domestic sphere: it was often not safe, and women’s passivity did nothing to rescue them from its tyrannical gatekeepers. Through their heroines’ Gothic adventures, Radcliffe and Austen teach their readers that to escape suffocating and dangerous domesticity they must slough off their passivity, enact their sensibility, and actively pursue their desires.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Gothic fiction (Literary genre) -- History and criticism.
Women -- Conduct of life.
Austen, Jane, 1775-1817 -- Criticism and interpretation.
Radcliffe, Ann, 1764-1823 -- Criticism and interpretation.

Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright