The “Infernal” Value of the Gothic: A Reading of Gothicness and Romanceness in Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices

Aalborg University
Publication year

Here's the abstract:

Gothic fiction and romance fiction have been dismissed as literature of low or close to no
value because it is formulaic (among others). This master’s thesis is intended to demonstrate the opposite of this dismissal; that Gothic and romance fiction can be ascribed value for being formulaic. The focus of this thesis will be Cassandra Clare’s YA paranormal romance trilogy The Infernal Devices which I will use as my example of Gothic and romance fiction because it comprises and follows several Gothic and romance conventions.

After presenting a theoretical framework of what can be termed Gothic and romance
conventions, attention will be paid to the Gothicness and romanceness of The Infernal Devices in terms of its Gothic and romance conventions. This will be accompanied by an analysis and discussion thereof, though Gothicness will be the primary focus of this thesis. By analysing and discussing the Gothicness and romanceness of The Infernal Devices, I demonstrate that it participates in the Gothic and the popular romance and can thus be identified as Gothic and romance fiction. This will be followed by a discussion of the value of The Infernal Devices which will be based on whether it follows or breaks and challenges Gothic and romance conventions.

Following the classic belief of what literary value is, which is the breaking and challenging of
conventions, The Infernal Devices can be seen as literature of low or close to no value as it is formulaic and follows Gothic and romance conventions. Literary value can also be regarded as the classic approach to determining a text’s value. Yet, it still gains literary value because it breaks and challenges some Gothic and romance conventions. Conversely, the trilogy also attains value of a different kind. There is value in reading for Gothicness, for example, and having expectations met. This is another approach to determining the value of a text. The Infernal Devices gains Gothic value in the reading for Gothicness, which means that the reader expects it to follow Gothic conventions because doing this fulfils the reader’s expectations. Consequently, The Infernal Devices gains Gothic value through Gothic conventions. Thus, a text attains value based on different readings; reading for literariness is literary value and reading for Gothicness is Gothic value. This means that the breaking of conventions in terms of literary value can be seen as a convention which is valued. I would therefore argue for a conventional value where there is literary value, Gothic value, romance
value, etc. which relate to each their literary form and conventions. This bases the value of each literary form on the reader’s experience and expectations. Therefore, The Infernal Devices follows and breaks Gothic and romance conventions and can be valued for both, but it depends on whether the reader is reading for its Gothicness and romanceness or literariness and whether their expectations are fulfilled.

It should be noted that discussion of romance conventions does not mention the RWA definition of a central romance and happy ending for the central romantic relationship but rather uses "Catherine Belsey’s definition of the popular romance to provide a sense of what can be termed romance convention" (2).