The next instalment in Sheffield Gothic’s series of profile blogs focuses on Angela Wright, co-director of the Centre for the History of the Gothic at the University of Sheffield, as she explores her interest in the Gothic, her favourite Gothic text, and who she would like to invite to dinner!
Angela Wright, Professor of Romantic Literature in the School of English at the University of Sheffield, former Co-President of the IGA (2013-17) specialising in Gothic poetry and prose of the Romantic period.
Major publications include: Britain, France and the Gothic, 1764-1820: The Import of Terror (Cambridge University Press, 2013) which was shortlisted for the Allan Lloyd Smith memorial prize; with Dale Townshend, Ann Radcliffe, Romanticism and the Gothic (Cambridge University Press, 2014), with Dale Townshend, Romantic Gothic: An Edinburgh Companion (EUP, 2015); Mary Shelley (University of Wales Press, 2018). I am currently working with Catherine Spooner and Dale Townshend upon a major 3 volume Cambridge History of the Gothic, to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2020, upon an edition of the works of Ann Radcliffe with Michael Gamer, and a further monograph ‘Fostering Romanticism’.
What do you Research:
I specialise in Gothic literature of the Romantic period, and write upon both canonical and non-canonical authors of that period. So, for example, I have written books, chapters and essays upon well-recognised authors of the Gothic, such as Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis and Mary Shelley, but I have also written upon less well-celebrated works, such as the ‘Northanger Novels’ that Jane Austen’s Catherine Moreland read so excitedly in her Northanger Abbey, particularly those by Regina Maria Roche and Eleanor Sleath, the early Gothic novels of Percy Bysshe Shelley, and lesser-known Gothic works upon the Catholic Inquisition for an essay in a collection called Spain and British Romanticism, eds. Ian Haywood and Diego Saglia. There are hundreds of Gothic works during the Romantic period that we don’t talk about or read, and not all of them are merely ‘poor imitations’ of the works of Radcliffe and Lewis. So I think that there is still a huge amount of excavation and research work to be carried out in this period.
How did you become interested in the Gothic?
I became interested in the Gothic as an early teenager. I’d scare myself by reading too many ghost stories and walking home past the local graveyard. From these early fears and frissons, I looked for ways in which to account for my fears, and that led me to the Gothic genre. I took my first degree in English and French at the University of Stirling, and studied a great module with David Punter called ‘Ghosts and Terrors’, and then a PhD upon the Gothic novel and drama in Britain and France at the University of Aberdeen. My dual interest in the literatures of Britain and France led to the 2013 book ‘The Import of Terror’, which examined the issues of translation and imitation in the Gothic traditions in both Britain and France, and how these forms of reciprocity undercut and belied the military hostilities between the two nations in the long eighteenth century. With its testing of the borders between subject and object, self and other, the Gothic became the perfect vehicle by which authors could work against the cultural hostilities evinced by their nations. This is still working today!
What Gothic texts (including shows, films, plays, music etc.) would you recommend and why?
I have a confession to make: I cannot watch Gothic horror movies which involve blood and gore without passing out, and so do not venture much into contemporary Gothic horror films. But of course I would recommend reading anything by Ann Radcliffe, particularly The Romance of the Forest, The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Italian, Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, anything at all by Mary Shelley (and definitely not just Frankenstein). For more contemporary iterations of the Gothic, I love the films of Guillermo del Toro, particularly Crimson Peak and The Shape of Water; Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian and the fiction of Patrick McGrath.
Who Would you invite to dinner?
Dead? Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis, to see if they could resolve their aesthetic differences. Alive? Guillermo del Toro.
Addendum: I’d also invite John Polidori, Mary Shelley and Robert Smith to dinner. I want Polidori and Mary to clear up disagreements on what was and was not read at the Villa Diodati in 1816. Robert Smith from The Cure would sing divinely.