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Priestley’s Radcliffe and the Experimental Gothic

Priestley’s Radcliffe and the Experimental Gothic

(p.219) 9 Priestley’s Radcliffe and the Experimental Gothic
Air’s Appearance
Jayne Elizabeth Lewis
University of Chicago Press

It is conclusive that Ann Radcliffe’s writing is a despondent version of Joseph Priestley’s contemporary experiments on, and in, the “different kinds of air. ” Priestley’s relationship with and romance of atmosphere could be said to be somewhere between the romantic organicism of the future and the corpuscular and mechanistic paradigms of the past. Fixed air, or carbon dioxide—the gas that made Priestley’s name—would be the perfect example of this romance, resulting in Priestley seeing what other kinds of “factitious air” might make up “common air.” As it so happened, fixed air appears in Radcliffe’s writing as well, in the popular travelogue of her 1794 tour. This chapter looks at how science and literature seemingly converge into new grounds, and how this encouraged experimentation in gothic fiction.

Keywords:   carbon dioxide, Ann Radcliffe, Joseph Priestley, romantic organicism, fixed air, factitious air, common air

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