9. Charles Brockden Brown: Godfather of the American Gothic

  1. Charles L. Crow
  1. Carol Margaret Davison

Published Online: 13 SEP 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118608395.ch9

A Companion to American Gothic

A Companion to American Gothic

How to Cite

Davison, C. M. (2013) Charles Brockden Brown: Godfather of the American Gothic, in A Companion to American Gothic (ed C. L. Crow), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118608395.ch9

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 SEP 2013
  2. Published Print: 25 NOV 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470671870

Online ISBN: 9781118608395



  • Charles Brockden Brown;
  • 1790s;
  • Frontier Gothic;
  • Female Gothic;
  • Urban Gothic;
  • Calvinist Gothic;
  • Edgar Allan Poe;
  • George Lippard;
  • James Fenimore Cooper;
  • Nathanael Hawthorne


The foremost achievement of Charles Brockden Brown, America's first professional writer, was the creation of a distinctly American novel of terror that synthesized mental and physical landscapes. Brown's four Gothic cautionary tales, produced over an eighteen-month period, are dense novels of ideas that explore a broad swath of specifically American transgressions relating to natives, the slave trade, women's rights, the excesses of capitalism, and religious fanaticism. His greatest innovation involves probing and exposing the human/American psyche, what might be called the wilderness of the self that is especially in evidence in the fraught process of narrativization. Often by way of dramatizing limit cases, Brown conveys the idea that the American Dream, in its attempt to discover a domain of true liberty and deny Original Sin, may be perched on the precipice of the Faustian nightmare. He thus calls into question the Enlightenment myth of America as “a utopia already achieved.”