Master of Arts
I begin my analysis of Edgar Huntly by exploring the many moments in the novel that indicate Edgar's familiarity with the landscape, as well as his geographic and cartographic education and skills. Once I have established the presence of Edgar's geographic knowledge, I examine Edgar's potential motivations, including his homoerotic desire for Clithero, for abstracting the landscape into a metaphor for his inner turmoil. This is achieved through his purposeful confusion of the landscape of Norwalk and his attempts to lose himself within that space. Despite these efforts, the conclusion of the novel portrays Edgar abandoning his attempts to engage in an unmediated, sympathetic, homoerotic relationship with Clithero. Instead, Edgar re-assimilates himself into the social space of Solebury, symbolized by his tutor and surrogate father Sarsefield. Thus, for Brown, abstract space and cartographic practices work to stifle alternatives for male homoeroticism. However, as seen through the existence of Norwalk, these spaces of alternative desire prevail even within the controlled, settled space behind the frontier. Within the novel, Brown takes care to highlight that Norwalk is in fact to the east of Inglefield's home rather than the west, which is the direction of the unsettled frontier. Thus, unchartered wilderness exists behind the frontier and within the settled and privatized space of colonial America. Through his exploration of the homoerotic and subversive potential of the space of Norwalk, Brown undermines Jefferson's attempts to create a heteronormative society through his carefully mediated production of Cartesian social space. Brown's gothic space emerges and throws off the grid of heteronormativity so carefully imposed over the landscape.
Rau, Emily Jane, "Spaces of Desire in Charles Brockden Brown's Edgar Huntly" (2014). Theses and Dissertations. 1601.