Ritual Violence and the Maternal in the British Novel, 1740-1820

Raymond F. Hilliard

316 pages
ISBN 0-8387-5750-5
Bucknell Studies in Eighteenth Century Literature and Culture

This book brings to light a mythic dimension of seventeen important eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century narratives that revolve around the persecution of one or more important female characters, and offers original readings of novels by Richardson, Fielding, Burney, Radcliffe, Godwin, Austen, Scott, and others. The myth in question, which Raymond Hilliard calls "the myth of persecution and reparation," serves as a major vehicle for the early novel's preoccupation with the "mother," a mythic figure distinct from the historical mother or from the mother as she is represented in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century maternal ideology. Hilliard argues that the myth of persecution and reparation derives from the topos of female sacrifice in the romance tradition, and shows that this topos is central to several kinds of novels - realist, Gothic, Jacobin, feminist, and historical. Hilliard contends that the narrative of persecution and reparation anticipates the twentieth-century maternal myth associated with the work of Melanie Klein and other "relational model" psychoanalytic theorists, and he thus also examines the psychosexual significance of the "mother." Hilliard explores the relation of psychosexual themes to social representations, and delineates a new theory of plot - both tragic and comic plots - in the early novel.


"The book makes claims that may be of greatest interest to those interested in Gothic studies."
--Devoney Looser, SEL 51, 3: 693-741.

"His effort to chart a new direction for the novel makes his book worth reading"
--Raymond F. Hillard, The Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer, 25: 3 (October 2011).

"Ritual Violence and the Maternal provides original and provocative readings that yield unexpected connections among apparently oppositional novels."--Peggy Thompson,The Scriblerian and the Kit-Cats, Spr/Aut 2012

About the author:

Raymond F. Hilliard is Professor of English at the University of Richmond. In addition to serving for twelve years as Chair of the Department, he has taught a variety of courses on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature, as well as courses on the modern and contemporary novel and on narrative theory. He has published articles in SEL, Studies in Philology, PMLA, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, and Eighteenth-Century Life.


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