Alessia Pannese, "Space, language, and the limits of knowledge: a Kantian view on W.T. Beckford's Vathek" in Janus Head, Pittsburgh, Trivium Publications, Volume 15, Issue 2, 2016, pp. 45-83
William Thomas Beckford’s Vathek chronicles the eponymous Caliph’s struggle and ultimate fall into hell as a divine punishment for his unrestrained desire for knowledge. Around the time Beckford wrote Vathek, Immanuel Kant released the Critique of Pure Reason, whose central implication is that human knowledge is restricted to appearances. Drawing on textual evidence from Vathek’s first three editions and from Kant’s Critique, I explore ways in which knowledge is negotiated and mediated by the limits of human intellect and sensory perception as they intersect with the protean boundary between reality and appearance, and suggest that Beckford’s Vathek may be viewed as a literary instantiation of Kant’s transcendental idealism, as they both - albeit in different ways - impose severe limits on man’s epistemic ability.