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The ‘Explained Supernatural’, Gothic Sublime, and Aristocratic Villainy – Lesson Summary

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The Mysteries of Udolpho
The Mysteries of Udolpho is a Gothic novel by Ann Radcliffe, published in 1794. It was one of the most popular novels of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was then and continues to be widely regarded as a key text in the development of the Gothic genre.

The Plot of The Mysteries of Udolpho
The Mysteries of Udolpho is set in France and Italy in the late 16th century.
The main character is Emily St. Aubert, a beautiful and virtuous young woman. When her father dies, the orphaned Emily goes to live with her aunt.
Her aunt’s husband, an Italian nobleman called Montoni, tries to force Emily to marry his friend. Montoni is a typical Gothic villain.
He is violent and cruel to his wife and Emily, and locks them in his castle.
Eventually, Emily escapes, and the novel ends happily with Emily’s marriage to the man she loves.

Prime Characters of The Mysteries of Udolpho
Emily: The Gothic Heroine
Valancourt: The Gothic Hero
Montoni: The Gothic Villain

Castle of Udolpho
Situated on a towering mountain in the Apennines, the Castle of Udolpho is silent, lonely and sublime. It seemed to stand the sovereign of the scene, and to frown defiance on all, who dared to invade its solitary reign.

Gothic Sensibility
Gothic Sensibility is defined as a specific set of iconography comprising dark castles, shadows, ghosts or other supernatural creatures. However, more than anything, the Gothic has been argued to be a sensibility, a set of feelings that the audiences have to experience in order to re-evaluate their own beliefs.

Gothic and Tourism
The connection between the landscapes and Gothic novels and Travel Journals just that gothic novels are Armchair Tourism. By reading Radcliffe's scenic descriptions which are both influenced by landscape paintings and travel journals the reader does not have to leave his or her chair in order to travel through the landscapes the reader is once more put into the position of the observer.

Conclusion
If the supernatural aspects of Udolpho now seem a little outmoded, Radcliffe’s central concern with female rights and male power has lost none of its relevance. Located within the genre of ‘Female Gothic’, written and largely read by women, Radcliffe’s novels explore issues of patriarchal control, women’s property rights and the underlying threat of sexual violence, whether through forced marriage or rape.