Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Carlyle's The French Revolution occupies a distinctive place in literary history; its obscure and resistant style, its unrelenting use of Gothic overtones and its deliberate cultivation of equivocalness are part of a linguistic economy that challenges the currency of the sign. Reduced in function to an exchange value, the current sign participates in an arbitrary discourse which Carlyle overcomes with the motivating dynamics of German Transcendental Philosophy. To this end, paper money is exposed as an act of misrepresentation; its validity substantiated by arbitrary and conventional agreement, paper money remains a "wagered" word, a "contractual "sign or general equivalent. In this sense, money is the culmination of man's abstraction from a natural and holistic materialism; by insisting on the "symbolization" of value, that logic of exchange by which thing is separated from the abstract value imposed on it, money removes man from a native Imaginary wholeness. This tropological basis of money is seen by Carlyle to be the source of an inflationary language which he dissolves in a deliberately opaque and material Gothicism in order to restore the economics of mass readership to an economy of prophetic exegesis.;Three areas are seminal to my investigation of revisionary Gothicism in The French Revolution. First, Coleridge's distinction between allegory and symbol is useful in demarcating the boundaries between an inflationary and a solvent text. By fusing Coleridge's allegory with the "wagered" word, Carlyle makes language the means by which the sign overcomes its contractual limitations. Goethe's Faust and the German-style Gothic romances of Maturin and Lewis remain precursor texts providing narrative lines for Carlyle's deployment of an economics of terror. Finally, the economic dimensions of The French Revolution are further validated when the text is seen as precursor to Browning's Sordello, whose unfolding of a crisis of kingship and language is strong testimony that the economics of representation remains a pivotal nineteenth-century strategy for a select readership. Carlyle's Gothicism in The French Revolution is a strategy for revisioning language. By challenging the "economics" of the word, it validates his position within a nineteenth-century tradition of prophetic language.



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