Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2019

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Porter, Jeff

Second Advisor

Pascoe, Judith

First Committee Member

Sunstein, Bonnie

Second Committee Member

Boos, Florence

Third Committee Member

Gidal, Eric


In My Gothic Dissertation, I perform an intertextual analysis of Gothic fiction and modern-day graduate education in the humanities. First, looking particularly at the Female Gothic, I argue that the genre contains overlooked educational themes. I read the student-teacher relationships in Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818, 1831), and Charlotte Brontë’s Villette (1853) as critiques of the insidious relationship between knowledge and power. Part literary critic and part literary journalist, I weave through these readings reports of real-life ‘horror stories’ of graduate school, arguing that the power imbalance between Ph.D. advisors and their students can be unexpectedly ‘Gothic’ as well. Drawing on research from the science of learning—developmental psychology, sociology, and pedagogical theory—I advocate for more a student-centered pedagogy in humanities Ph.D. training.

Following in the footsteps of A.D. Carson and Nick Sousanis, I have produced My Gothic Dissertation in a nontraditional format—the podcast. Mixing voice, music, and sound, I dramatize scenes from the novels and incorporate analysis through my narration. The real-life “Grad School Gothic” stories are drawn from personal interviews. Much of the science of learning is drawn from personal interviews with researchers as well, though some material comes from recorded presentations that have been posted to public, online venues such as YouTube. The creative/journalistic style of reporting is heavily influenced by programs such as This American Life, Invisibilia, and Serial, with the dual aims of engaging a broad audience and expanding our modes of scholarly communication beyond the page.


Female Gothic, Gothic fiction, Graduate education, Humanities, Pedagogy, Podcast


viii, 127 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 117-127).


Copyright © 2019 Anna Williams