This historically grounded account of Gothic fiction takes issue with received accounts of the genre as a stable and continuous tradition. Charting its vicissitudes from Walpole to Scott, Watt shows the Gothic to have been a heterogeneous body of fiction, characterised at times by antagonistic relations between writers or works. Watt examines the novels' political import and concludes by looking ahead to the fluctuating critical status of Scott and the Gothic, and perceptions of the Gothic as a monolithic tradition, which continue to exert a powerful hold.
"James Watt argues that generic labels need to be re-examined, with greater attention given to the historical specificity of certain "so-called Gothic" works. This is an exciting historicist study that provides important contextual material for Gothic scholars." British and American Literatures
"...Contesting the Gothic is impressively researched, well-documented, and convincing in its claims." Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts
"The exposition is lucid, the reasoning scrupulous, the tone measured and never polemical. The book can be recommended to anyone as the model of a focused and thoroughly professional investigation that carves out a niche of originality in a very crowded literary shelf." Eighteenth-Century Studies