Corrina Readioff

Twitter: @fierengraw

Previous Education

Home Educated until university; English BA (Hons) at the University of Liverpool (2011-2014); English Language & Literature (1700-1830) MSt at the University of Oxford (2014-2015).

Thesis Title

‘The evolution and function of pre-chapter epigraphs in the English novel’


Dr Matthew Bradley and Dr Greg Lynall

Research Summary

In 1791 two apparently unconnected works, the Memoirs of the First Forty-Five Years of the Life of James Lackington, Bookseller and Ann Radcliffe’s The Romance of the Forest, both made the almost unprecedented decision to include short poetic epigraphs (usually quotations from longer works) at the commencement of each new section of text, thus catalyzing the development of a form of literary paratext that has continued to feature in many varieties of prose fiction, and yet which has, surprisingly, remained largely unexplored by critical analysis.

This project aims to explore the intertextual relation between such epigraphs and the prose with which they are juxtaposed, together with the ways in which both this stylistic device and its intended function have evolved over time.

Beginning with an exploration of the probable origins of the technique in the use of Latin and Greek quotations to preface individual issues of periodical journals such as Addison and Steele’s Tatler (1709-11) and Spectator (1711-14), this project then examines later uses of the device in less canonical works such as Sarah Fielding and Jane Collier’s experimental work The Cry: A Dramatick Fable (1754). This will then provide an ample background for an analysis of the function of pre-chapter epigraphic quotation in the gothic prose fiction of Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis. The employment of epigraphs by late Romantic and Victorian novelists will then be analyzed, focusing especially upon the interaction between pre-chapter epigraphs and the sections of prose text that they preface.

Whilst examining the functions which these epigraphs are intended to fulfil when employed in some of the works of major novelists of this time period, such as Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot, comparisons will also be made with the novels of contemporary authors writing similarly realist and/or socially conscious fiction, but who did not generally use the technique, such as Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope.

By investigating this hitherto neglected area of book history, it will also be possible to gain valuable new insight into authorial intentions and perceptions of the novel, both as a physical and as a literary presence, which will therefore offer a fresh perspective from which to consider the writings and aesthetic attitudes of key canonical novelists.

Research Interests

18th century novels, quotation (especially epigraphic quotation), paratext, Scriblerian satire


‘Review of the Johnson and Shakespeare Conference 2015, Pembroke College, Oxford’, Johnsonian Newsletter, (March 2016)
Review of War and Peace (BBC), BSECS Criticks (February 2016)
Review of The Real Versailles (BBC), BSECS Criticks (June 2016)
Review of Inside Versailles (BBC), BSECS Criticks (August 2016)
Review of Jakub Lipski and Jacek Mydla, eds, The Enchantress of Words, Sounds and Image: Anniversary Essays on Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) (Palo Alto: Academica Press, 2015), Romantic Textualities, 22 (forthcoming, 2016)
Review of The Rivals (Liverpool Playhouse), BSECS Criticks (forthcoming November 2016)