2014 Student Research Conference:
27th Annual Student Research Conference

Caleb Williams: A Nihilist Perspective
Carly R. Winchell
Dr. Royce Kallerud, Faculty Mentor

This paper analyzes William Godwins novel, Caleb Williams, through a nihilistic lens. Caleb Williams is not usually read as a nihilistic work; however, by approaching this Romantic-era political novel from a nihilistic viewpoint, we can better understand aspects such as the parallels between the character's stories. Caleb and Emily have structurally similar story lines, but when approaching the text from a nihilistic viewpoint, there are also parallels between Caleb, Emily, and Falkland. These characters have their own goals, and all fail spectacularly. The harder they try to reach their respective goals, the farther that goal seems to be. This illustrates the futility in their actions, and the outcomes for these characters can be better understood when viewed through a nihilistic lens. While the text is a canonical work of British Romanticism and a political work meant to support Godwin's political views, through my search for messages of futility, as well as other nihilistic traits, I redefined the genre of this novel to British Romantic Nihilism.

Keywords: Nihilism, Caleb Williams, William Godwin, British Romanticism, English


Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 111-1
Location: VH 1232
Time: 8:00

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