Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Jillian Heydt-Stevenson

Second Advisor

Emily Harrington

Third Advisor

Teresa Nugent

Fourth Advisor

Deborah Whitehead


In this thesis I argue that Ann Radcliffe and Jane Austen used gothic conventions to champion women’s rights, by situating their plots in Catholic buildings in order to displace English political issues—specifically the government violently controlling and silencing British people, especially women—into a time and place that appears to promote traditional Protestant anti-Catholic ideas, which thus shielded their radicalism from censorship. However, I will show that Catholicism further serves to amplify women’s rights in the gothic. For Radcliffe, the church shows women at their most capable, encourages them to overcome patriarchal control, and then she uses some convents to advocate for women to gain an education. Austen employs Catholic spaces similarly, yet she also utilizes the buildings to bring history forward into memory—in doing so, she critiques the English government, both for its past and its present methods for suppressing the populace.