The Gothic Narrative Syntax

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Department of English, NTNU


This article intends to have a thorough discussion of the narrative syntax of the Gothic novel. Tzvetan Todorov proposes three kinds of narrative syntax: linkig, alternation (interlacing), and embedding (in which "an entire sequence is substituted for a proposition of the first sequence"). Generally speaking, the predominant syntactic structure of the Gothic is its embedding or frame structure. In my opinion, it can be further divided into concentric and polycentric embedding in terms of its spatial image as well as partial and complete embedding with regard to its degree of embedding. The causal order of the Gothic narrative syntax usually exhibits an ideological narrative in which the units may not have direct (and logical) relations but usually manifest "the same idea' or 'a single law." In other words, the narrative syntax of the Gothic genre tends to be dominated by embedding construction in which all embedded tales are strung together by a major ideology. The novels I use to testify these theoretical hypotheses are -- M. G. Lewis's The Monk, charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Mrs. Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho--two by male and two by female writers; two from the eighteenth and two from the nineteenth centuries.