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This article explores the variable meanings and effects of gothic architecture across Ann Radcliffe’s three most important novels —The Romance of the Forest (1791), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794), and The Italian (1797). With her variable portrayal of the gothic edifice, Radcliffe presents a distinctively immersive version of the sublime that significantly challenges the aesthetic philosophies of Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant in its capacity to coexist with real, immediate fear. Radcliffe presents and encourages a markedly democratic aesthetic of terror designed to empower even disenfranchised individuals. This article argues that Radcliffe’s novels teach readers how to achieve the sublime in the most difficult circumstances, thus making widely available both the sublime and also what the sublime represents—freedom. Within the walls of the gothic edifice, Radliffe demonstrates that individuals have the potential for, and indeed the right to, the power to define and pursue the fulfilment of their own desires, even when such desires run counter to the tyrannies of patriarchal history and tradition.