Gothic Authors/Ghost Writers: The Advent of Unauthorized Authorship in Nineteenth-Century American Gothic Literature



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This dissertation proposes ?ghost writer? as a new critical term for the ?author? in accordance with what Roland Barthes calls the ?death of the author.? For this purpose, the dissertation conjoins current gothic criticism, modern authorship theories, and studies of nineteenth-century American literature. Current gothic critics, in their endeavors to re-define the gothic as a serious genre that represents social, cultural, and historical anxieties and terrors, have obscured gothic authors? presence. This indistinct, ghostly authorial existence within gothic criticism becomes relevant to modern authorship theorists? reflection on the end of eighteenth-century sovereign and autarchic authorship due to the ever-interpretable text and ever-interpreting readers, by means of the self-effacing gothic writers in nineteenth-century America. American literary scholars agree on contemporary readers? increasing power to assess writers? performance. Gothic writers, especially susceptible to this power since the ambiguities of the gothic necessitate readers? active constructions, composed their texts without selfassumed authorial intentions. This dissertation considers how the century?s five most representative gothic writers re-configure the author as a ghost that should come into being by readers? belief in what it writes. Chapter I examines the common grounds between the aforementioned three fields in further detail and illuminates the exigency of the ghost writer. Chapter II discusses Charles Brockden Brown?s prototypical expos? in Wieland of Edward Young?s typically romantic formulation of the originary and possessive author. Chapter III shows Edgar Allan Poe?s substantiation of Brown?s expos? through his conception of the author as a reader-made fiction in Arthur Gordon Pym. Chapter IV applies Poe?s author-fiction to Frederick Douglass and Louisa May Alcott, and investigates how those two marginalized writers overcome their spectrality with the aid of readers? sympathetic relation to their texts, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and ?Behind a Mask,? and subsequent validation of their author-ity. Chapter V explores the author?s willing self-transformation into the ghost writer in James?s The Turn of the Screw, and ponders how the ghost writer goes beyond the author?s death. By introducing the ghost writer, this dissertation ultimately aims to trace the pre-modern shift from the autonomous author to the heteronomous author.