Contents Prologue Introduction The meaning of the word Gothic Origins of Gothic Emergence of Gothic literature The Definition and Characteristics of Literary Gothic Chapter One The Female Gothic The Division of Gothic Literature in Terms of Gender Masculine Plots of Transgression of Social Taboo Feminine Plots of Sexual Repression Chapter Two The Gothic Female The Extreme Development of the 18th Century Cult of Sensibility The Neurotic and The Obsessive as Main Preoccupation The Gothic Heroine – Idealization and Repression Chapter Three Sexual Anxieties Virtue in Distress – Persecution of the Patriarchal Power Nightmarish Neurotic Sexuality Chapter Four The Hero-Villain – Victimizer and Victimized The Byronic Figure Transgression of Human Social and Ethical Constraints – Tragic Destiny Epilogue
Prologue The subject of this work is mainly the sexual anxieties presented by English writers of Gothic literature, more specifically, in the English Gothic novel, written in England between 1760-1820. I have said mainly because I have also approached a number of other topics related to the main one, in a more restrained manner. One of these so-called minor topics that has interested me in a special way is the relation that women writers had with the Gothic novel and the way they expressed their dissatisfaction with the times of patriarchy in which they lived, their fears when facing this world of confusion about the sex-roles, the repression of emotion and the suppression of femininity. This is not to say that I have paid less attention to the male writers of Gothic literature, although I, myself, have found more interest in analyzing the works of the women writers, or that this is a feminist work. Feminism is one thing and literary feminism is another. Moreover, no one can deny the fact that, for one reason or another, Gothic literature has been somehow taken over by women, both as writers and readers and also as main characters in the stories. Gothic novels by women interrogate this gendering of the genre and their heroines are often a response to cultural anxieties and dominant discourses of the time, making us, the readers reflect upon and query the fictional role of the heroine in Gothic writing and the social construction of ‘woman’. I would like to thank my University professor, Mrs. Mira Stoiculescu, for helping me with the final elaboration of this work and especially for the way she inspired me with love for such a beautiful literature as the English literature, during the first two university years. Thanks to her and to many other teachers and professors I stand today here, hoping with all my heart that one day I shall become ‘one of them’. Introduction 1. The Meaning of the Word Gothic Gothic is a word that has a variety of meanings and has had in the past even more. It is used in a number of different fields: as a literary term, as a historical term, as an artistic term, and as an architectural term. The term Gothic has become firmly established as the name for one sinister corner of the modern western imagination, but it seems to work by intuitive suggestion rather than by any agreed precision of reference. Whereas Gothic in architectural contexts refers to a style of European architecture and ornament that flourished from the late twelfth century to the fifteenth century, Gothic in its cinematic and literary senses is used to describe works that appeared in an entirely different medium several hundreds of years later. The original meaning was literally to do with the Goths, or with the barbarian northern tribes, the word becoming a virtual synonym for Teutonic or Germanic, while retaining its connotation of barbarity. In its earliest sense, it is only the adjective denoting the language and ethnic identity of the Goths. The Germanic people were first heard of upon the shores of the Baltic. Their later marauding and migration from the third to the fifth century a. d. took them across southern Europe from the Black Sea to the Iberian peninsula, fatally weakening the Roman empire in the face of further barbarian incursions. Long after they disappeared into the ethnic melting pots of the Northern Mediterranean, their tremulous name was taken and used to prop up one side of that set of cultural oppositions by which the Renaissance and its heirs defined and claimed possession of European civilization: Northern versus Southern, Gothic versus Graeco-Roman, Dark Ages versus the Age of Enlightenment, barbarity versus civilization, medieval versus modern, superstition versus reality. Therefor, although the Goths themselves never constructed a single cathedral, nor composed any Gothic fiction, these later senses of Gothic still have a recognizable meaning by their polar opposition to the classical architectural and literary traditions derived from Greece and Rome. Accordingly, by the late eighteenth century, Gothic was commonly used to mean medieval, therefor barbarous, in a largely unquestioned equation of civilization with classical standards. Where the classical was well–ordered, the Gothic was chaotic; where simple and pure, Gothic was ornate and convoluted; where the classics offered a set of cultural models to be followed, Gothic represented excess and exaggeration, the product of the wild and uncivilized.
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