Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Ridley, Glynis Batey

Author's Keywords

Phenomenology; Lewis; Matthew; Hermeneutics; Monk; Ricoeur; Paul; Hermeneutic-phenomenology; Lewis; Matthew Gregory; Damnation; Self; Conscience


Lewis, M. G. (Matthew Gregory), 1775-1818--Criticism and interpretation; Lewis, M. G. (Matthew Gregory), 1775-1818. The monk


When Ambrosio in Matthew Lewis's 1796 gothic masterpiece, The Monk , signs a contract relegating his soul to Satan and eternal damnation, he has reached the culmination of 442 pages of mental anguish, of his self wrestling with his conscience to overcome what philosopher Paul Ricoeur terms the "servile will" (The Symbolism of Evil 151). In the novel, Ambrosio, a monk the reader discovers has become the pawn of Satan, hurls himself down a path to damnation in consciousness, a phenomenological path that leads to the damnation of his own self. The purpose of this dissertation is to explore this path through the rich symbols present at each step. Hermeneutic-phenomenology--specifically the work of Ricoeur supplemented by works of other phenomenologists such as Edmund Husserl--will provide the foundation for interpretation of the symbols along Ambrosio's phenomenological path to damnation. This will reveal that Ambrosio's self, in effect, damns itself after it progresses down the steps of the path. Ambrosio's conscience acts as the self's internal mirror, striving to present a "true" picture of his self, which resists this truth as it is defined and shaped through false intersubjective constitution with the characters, events, and settings in the iv text, which leads to Ambrosio's existence in what philosopher Jean Paul Sartre terms "bad faith." This work will also trace how Ambrosio's conscience, as it struggles to present "truth" to Ambrosio's self, evolves from Ricoeur's idea of the "unhappy conscience" to the "accused" and "condemned" consciences to what I deem the "damned conscience" as Ambrosio's self moves from Ricoeur's objective pole of sin to the subjective pole. I will expand the steps to damnation from Ricoeur's defilement, sin, and guilt in his The Symbolism of Evil to include original sin and the seven deadly sins at the beginning of the path, and punishment as the final step of the phenomenological path to damnation. In addition, this work posits the symbolism and themes in Lewis's work with other works of gothic literature such as Charlotte Dacre's Zofloya: or the Moor (1808), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), Edgar Allen Poe's "Ligeia" (1838) and "The Black Cat" (1843), Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897). Works of gothic art by Romantic artists such as Henry Fuseli, Francisco de Goya, and William Blake are also analyzed in relation to symbolism and themes in Lewis's work.