Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Scott Dykstra

Second Advisor

Dr. Jil C. Larson

Third Advisor

Dr. Dale Porter


The Gothic wanderer of British fiction originated during the French Revolution. During the nineteenth century, the figure evolved from one of transgression into a symbol of redemption. While Romantic poets created wanderer figures to celebrate rebellion, Gothic novelists utilized the wanderer figure to explore the psychology of transgression. The Gothic interpreted the French Revolution as a transgression against God and His ordained institutions. The wanderer figure expressed the anxieties of the revolutionary period and the attempt to imagine a political world not based upon monarchy. Gothic novelists also questioned what effects the French Revolution might have upon England. The overthrow of the French monarchy resulted in a decrease in patriarchal power, which changed the dynamics of the family and threatened its survival. The Gothic tried to reinvent the family while condemning transgression and rebellion as destructive to the family order. By the Victorian period, the Gothic wanderer was treated as redeemable, and the knowledge gained from his transgression could be used to strengthen the family unit.

The dissertation concentrates upon supernatural wanderer figures such as the Wandering Jew, the Rosicrucian, and the vampire. The influence of Paradise Lost and its treatment of Satan, Adam, and Eve as transgressors is equally emphasized. Gothic wanderers typically commit transgressions in an attempt to restore a former paradise. Gothic novels were often revisions of Paradise Lost because they applied Milton’s concern with transgression to the political events of the nineteenth century.

The Gothic novels treated in the dissertation include the works of Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, William Godwin, Percy Shelley, Fanny Bumey, Lady Caroline Lamb, John Polidori, Mary Shelley, Charles Maturin, Thomas Carlyle, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Charles Dickens, James Malcolm Rymer, and Bram Stoker. The influence of Romantic poetry upon Gothic fiction, and the distinct significance between Romantic and Gothic wanderers will also be explored. An analysis of the Gothic wanderer will shed light upon the serious concerns of the Gothic, and its role in the creation of Romantic and Victorian literature.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access