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In Factitious Airs: Radcliffe’s Priestley

In Factitious Airs: Radcliffe’s Priestley

(p.190) 8 In Factitious Airs: Radcliffe’s Priestley
Air’s Appearance
Jayne Elizabeth Lewis
University of Chicago Press

Ann Radcliffe’s popular romances of the 1790s marked the widespread literary practice of gothic fiction—the key signature of which is atmosphere. Atmosphere in the gothic sense, however, can pertain to two things. Frist is Deidre Lynch’s illuminating view that the shroud which surrounds the gothic page signals a separation with the Enlightenment’s presumptions of transparency. Second is the fact that gothic fiction is concerned with weather to a much greater extent than any other novelistic subgenre. This focus on and rise in atmosphere in gothic fiction is noted by Radcliffe as a method to produce more chills, to tingle the spine. Joseph Priestley, the leading “aerial philosopher,” is another figure not to be forgotten in this respect, one with whom Radcliffe identified. This chapter is an investigation of Radcliffe’s and Priestley’s sense of atmosphere, and how Radcliffe’s work was possibly influenced by that of Priestley.

Keywords:   gothic fiction, Ann Radcliffe, Deidre Lynch, gothic signature, atmosphere, Joseph Priestley

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