Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Todd McGowan


This thesis explores the relationship between philosophy and the gothic affect by examining the ways in which each handles conceptions of truth, identity, and visibility. While philosophy’s idea of truth has traditionally been conceptualized through the metaphorics of light and its power of disclosure, this thesis argues that a distinctly gothic conception of truth emerges with the arrival of Kant’s philosophy. Kant relies on a method and notion of truth which is not predicated on light but shadow and the constitutive function of illusion in knowledge. The thesis aims to demonstrate the shadowy and apparitional nature of the Kantian transcendental imagination and how the fully speculative consequences of this move are developed in Hegel’s philosophy. Whereas philosophy traditionally sought to exorcize shadow and illusion from its vision of truth, to an-aestheticize the role of imagination, the works of Kant and Hegel put the shadow and illusion to productive use in the endeavor towards truth. In comparing their respective employments of the shadow (qua truth), it is argued that Kant’s framework remains in a tragic gothic mode while in Hegel’s emerges a more ludic gothic conceptuality—a move that is regarded as a shift from a theory of representation to presentation. In Hegel, imaginative or figurative activity becomes central to the conceptualization of truth itself, and reason takes the form of a shadow-work. Some implications for literary criticism are examined and a close reading of visibility and reasoning in Bram Stoker’s Dracula is conducted.



Number of Pages

66 p.

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