Department Chair

Lisa Berglund, Ph.D., Chair and Professor of English

Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

English, M.A.


English Department


Jennifer Ryan, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English

Department Home page

First Reader

Lisa Berglund, Ph.D., Chair and Professor of English

Second Reader

Mark Fulk, Ph.D., Associate Professor of English


This study proposes a new way to examine the supernatural being in Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Romance of the Forest. Critics have argued that the supernatural being is used in these novels to remind the heroines to think rationally; however, I argue that his purpose is more complex than that of a figment who instills reason. Rather, his role is to make the females realize their sexual vulnerability within the imprisoning, Gothic house. He is able to show the women they are in sexual danger by creating sexually explicit situations with the heroine that occur in her bedroom. While he never has sex with her, his ability to eroticize her, through his gaze, allows her to realize the impropriety of the real life men who attempt to dominate her within the house.

The supernatural’s ability to instill the idea of sexual vulnerability in the heroine turns him into a father-like figure by positioning him as a type of guardian. By giving this ghostly being the attributes of a guardian, Radcliffe creates what I call the superpaternal. The superpaternal is the ultimate father, as shown by his ability to be a greater sexual threat than the physical men of the house, and by his position as an image of the heroine’s biological father. As a father figure, the superpaternal’s actions bear incestuous implications and his presence within the house is the reason why Radcliffe’s heroines never experience sexual maturation during the novel; rather, they marry their beloveds at the end of the novel due to the unnatural sexual feelings the superpaternal causes the heroines to have. Radcliffe purposely chooses to exclude the consummation of Adeline’s and Emily’s marriages from the novels because she is protecting her female characters from further visual objectification by the reader and the supernatural being.