This research conceptualizes Gothic literature featuring undead characters produced and popularized by Britain in the early nineteenth century as educational texts. As an influx of new ideas at home and abroad disrupted the lives of the Romantics, not to mention the literal uprising of bodies in the French Revolution and the lost war with the North American colonies, British citizens dedicated themselves to preserving the relative safety of their shores from external and internal threats. I expand the definition of the “undead” to include any tangible, corporeal being once technically dead and now reanimated. In doing so, I invite a broader range of texts, and authors, into the conversation of Gothic literature and the genre’s continued legacy. My work reads male and female authors in dialogue with one another, both sexes working within common networks, rather than as creating separate or disparate traditions. The production of instructive undead bodies becomes particularly important to the development of British national identity and reveals a reliance on the maternal to educate and inform future citizens. The texts examined in this dissertation reveal the necessity of contemplating the histories and experiences of the past, of non-white voices, and of the female influence.
The texts range in publication date from 1805 to 1863 and thus demonstrate the continued used of the undead in the Gothic genre. An examination of the reanimated corpse in Romantic narrative demonstrates how authors utilized the undead as an educational tool both for the characters inside the text and the actual individuals reading the narrative. The undead offers a lens to look at the Gothic not regarding authorial gender or even a character’s gender, but rather in how the genre portrays bodies, and how those bodies interact with and instruct others. This dissertation’s perception of the undead as a powerful educational force in literature assists in the attempt to complete a more comprehensive analysis of Gothic, and therefore Romantic, literature.