For many scholars of the emerging US nation, the origins of the American novel—indeed, the history of the United States itself—are forever linked with one particularly “versatile rhetorical mode” (166): the gothic. Siân Silyn Roberts deftly, cogently, and provocatively revisits this jointly political and aesthetic territory in Gothic Subjects, and she begins by outlining how her own approach to the rise of the American gothic novel differs from more traditional psychoanalytic and historical methodologies oriented around what she calls the “guilt thesis” (21). Such methodologies find their origins in Leslie Fiedler's Love and Death in the American Novel (1960), “which famously pathologized the American gothic as a distinctly guilty form” (20). Read through the lens of the guilt thesis, what makes American literature take its tellingly dark and gothic turn are the ways in which the distinctive horrors of US history—in...

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