Ambiguities in the Textual Body of The Castle of Otranto Essay

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Incongruous Corpus: Ambiguities in the Textual Body of The Castle of Otranto

While the relationship of the Gothic to the Romantic is debatable, the persistent desire of some critics to see it as pre-Romantic should not disguise the possibility that the genre is “actually sending out very contradictory impulses about its own intentions, [and] adopting certain strategies that thwart the very perceptions it seems to be on the brink of achieving” (Napier, 4). This uncertainty in form and intent has produced imprecision and imbalances in Gothic novels that are partly the result of instability within the Gothic form. Although the Gothic achieves stability by repeating a certain pattern of accepted conventions, leading to remarkable coherence
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In the preface to the first edition, Walpole as translator presented the tale as a found manuscript whose historicity serves as its own defense for authenticity. The manuscript recorded events that happened in “the darkest ages of Christianity” (Walpole, 5), in days of “ancient errors and superstitions” (Walpole, 5), but is now “laid before the public at present as a matter of entertainment” (6). The document’s claimed historicity is enough to persuade readers of its credibility. Walpole, feeling no pressure to provide any commentary, insisted on the text’s unorthodox qualities: “miracles, visions, necromancy, dreams and other preternatural events” (6). Walpole was so confident in the validation offered by antiquity that he felt history justified the incredible elements in Otranto.

To further generate acceptance for his work, Walpole pit the tale against the “familiar conventions of the dramatic unities and the moralistic aims of romance” (Napier, 76). Walpole pointed out the unity of the plot, and the credibility and consistency of the characters. He told his reader that there is “no bombast, no similes, flowers, digressions, or unnecessary descriptions… [for] everything tends directly to the catastrophe” (Walpole, 6). He also praised the work for its ability to evoke the emotions of pity and terror in accordance with the “rules of the drama” (6) so that “the mind is kept up in a constant vicissitude of interesting passions” (6). Walpole

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