College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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ideology, American Gothic, trans-atlanticism, Jeffersonian republicanism, classical republicanism


Charles Brockden Brown's American Gothic is distinctly American in its dealings with Revolutionary-era culture and distinctly Gothic in its subversion of the foundational aspects of this culture. Brown draws upon his own revolutionary experience, to first connect, then criticize the two main tenents of the transatlantic migration of ideologies to America. The two, seemingly opposite, ideologies in question being radical German-Protestant theology and the political and socio-economic philosophies of the Enlightenment. Brown creates an obvious commonality between the two opposing concepts through the common thread of, “seeking illumination,” or in other words, the assertion of ultimate truths about man and society. He will use this blind, but clearly present, contradiction to allude to the greater stage of early American socio-politics as a whole and the bi-partisan system emerging in the 1790s. He makes the point that that most of these ideologies—including the alluded to partisan politics of Federalism and Jeffersonian Republicanism—express dissatisfaction with Old-World politics, while operating by the same social undercurrent of economic motivation and individualism. General scholarship on Charles Brockden Brown and the American Gothic indeed focuses on his Quaker upbringing, revolutionary experience, and lack of discernible partisan allegiance, but also seems to be missing a larger picture. That is, an unlikely kinship can be traced through Marxist ideological theory to the time of early America and what Brown was noticing in his society. Charles Brockden Brown is among the first to view American history objectively and self-consciously, challenging these emerging narratives and becoming critical of the American democratic process' proneness to manipulation.