This essay identifies symptoms of the historical emergence of generalized scarcity in Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho, which grants scarcity's ruthless logic a primary narrative function under the aesthetic cover of suspense. Radcliffe's novels generate occult phenomenologies of scarcity, which manifest as affect, epistemic structure, economic process, social relations, and transcendent force or metaphysic (both natural and supernatural). Suspense replicates the social operation of generalized scarcity by carrying us from one particular “conflict of choice” to the next, keeping a veil over the governing logic that conditions the whole process. If we treat crises as unpredictable and singular events rather than effects of identifiable systems, we avoid reckoning with capitalism's normalization of continual disruption and reorganization, what Marx called its “constant revolutionising of production, [and] uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions.” The scarcity-inflected narrative apparatus privileges personal volition—individual choices that lead to specific outcomes—over collective or systemic determinations, a distinction key to the coercive social power of scarcity. It is not just Radcliffean gothic but narrative in general that comes under the sway of this logic during the last decade of the eighteenth century.

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