Redefining the Gothic Child: An Educational Experiment?
Scholars often view Ann Radcliffe (1764–1823) as ‘The Great Enchantress’ whose novels helped to establish and develop the Gothic mode. As for her private life and beliefs, biographers and critics alike agree that while there is a scarcity of information, it is generally believed that Radcliffe was taught at a female school by Sophia Lee (1750–1824), author of the Gothic novel The Recess (1785), and her sister Harriet Lee (1757–1851), both of whom were actively involved in the instruction of children. Radcliffe was known to be a recluse in her adult life. Nevertheless, I argue that she actively participated in the 1790s debates concerning what constituted a proper female education through her writing and employed the Gothic mode as a way of transforming her child characters, including those in adolescence, through their pedagogical upbringing. While I discuss multiple texts, I focus on Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), which is representative of how women writers during this time used depictions of children as ways of exploring various educational theories.