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Sodomy is a contagion that has spread from the continent, a disease that threatens the island nation like rabies or the plague. As the dream continues, Ireland articulates the other, more familiar aspect of convent life, which Radcliffe and Roche have both emphasized: Charles Churchill codifies these attitudes for the later century in his poem The Times: The Conte, for instance, wanders in his dreams through scenes of sadistic excess: But in each the subjective experience of maternal love, exoticized as ghostly or eroticized as religious, spiritual, conventual, offers a consoling alternative to the experience of solitude that the solitary female faces. Lewis uses the details of conventual life to suggest lurid forms of sexual excess such as necromancy, incest, matricide, and same-sex love, he does not need to explain his choice of a Catholic setting, a Mediterranean country Spain, not Italy in this case , or religious life itself. By making it visible, I hope I have begun to explain what this association accomplished culturally. Give him no tutor—throw him to a punk, Rather than trust his morals to a monk; Monks we all know—we, who have lived, From fair report, and travellers, who roam, More feelingly Churchill is circumspect in his expressions, but the implications are clear.
But in this case, the reader is forced to watch as the hero is tied and stretched and indeed almost dismembered. I explain how Catholic motifs can be understood in relation to other central gothic obsessions, such as sexual transgression and dysfunctional family life, and I demonstrate how these features aid novelists in exploring what would later be understood as personal sexual identity. Because they are always already victims in this gothic tale, Marcella and Maddalena suffer less at the hands of the Inquisitors than the proud and imperious Abbess does here. She eyed him with attention, but could not recollect him. The label sodomite is flung at politicians, papists, and at people from Italy, France, and Spain—from just about anywhere but England. Marcello is tortured because he will not break his vow and explain what he was doing in the convent after hours. Walpole, Beckford, and Lewis. Columbia University Press, Oxford University Press, Ireland takes pleasure in dilating on the fevered imaginings of his incarcerated hero and heroine. This abuse of devotion, this exaggerated and almost histrionic posturing, disgusts Marcello because his devotion is pure and unsullied. Ambrosio and Rosario are pushing the envelope of sexual definition, as it were, precisely because they are always already transgressive, as monks, as Catholics, as Mediterraneans, to the English imagination. When, in response to the suffering she faces, Marcello gives in to his tormentors and offers to break his vow in order to save her, she chides him almost brutally, considering his situation, and insists that he not tarnish his honour: But it is important to remember that Lewis seems to take an explicit interest in the violence and even to celebrate it. Introduction to The Monk, by Matthew Lewis. See, for instance, Hanson: Later, their pain is rewarded. In a novel like Peregrine Pickle , Smollett is more specific about the dangers of Italian love. By taking such care with description, he eroticizes the broken male body, just as Radcliffe and Dacre do. Here she must confront her deepest fears. The scene builds to a crescendo when she at last removes her veil and the Conte realizes that he has been caressing the wrong woman. Feminist Perspectives on Hardy. She is a beautiful and unassuming girl, and a rumour spreads that she is somehow dishonourable. Lewis uses this transgressive potential to confront his readers with the possibility of same-sex desire. Such familiar scenes help make clear the ways in which the easy relation between Catholicism and sexual perversity has a political as well as a social valence. Jordan shows how sexual activity between men was proscribed by the early Christian church. The religious valence of the scenes of torment—several of the tormentors turn out to be duplicitous monks seeking vengeance—renders them more thrillingly transgressive than anything that happens at the Bertocci palace.
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