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This book argues that embryology and the reproductive sciences played a key role in the rise of the Gothic novel in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Diana Pérez Edelman dissects Horace Walpole’s use of embryological concepts in the development of his Gothic imagination and provides an overview of the conflict between preformation and epigenesis in the scientific community. The book then explores the ways in which Gothic literature can be read as epigenetic in its focus on internally sourced modes of identity, monstrosity, and endless narration. The chapters analyze Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto; Ann Radcliffe’s A Sicilian Romance, The Italian, and The Mysteries of Udolpho; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; Charles Robert Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer; and James Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner, arguing that these touchstones of the Gothic register why the Gothic emerged at that time and why it continues today: the mysteries of reproduction remain unsolved.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
20 Jul 2022
1.64 MB



  • Institution
    • Gainesville

  • Publisher
    • Palgrave Macmillan

  • Date submitted

    20 July 2022

  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Author Biography:

      Dr. Diana Edelman is Professor of English at the University of North Georgia (UNG) specializing in British Romanticism and the Gothic. Edelman has published essays in The Keats-Shelley Journal, European Romantic Review, and Gothic Studies. Her monograph Embryology and the Rise of the Gothic Novel was published by Palgrave Macmillan in July 2021. This study reads the Gothic novel, from Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto to James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner, as a reflection of and response to the scientific community’s changing beliefs about how the fetus is formed and developed in the womb. Edelman also serves as Chair of her department.