Professor Diane Long Hoeveler

Coughlin 247

Office Phone:   288-3466

Office hours:   11:30-1 Mondays and Wednesdays and by appt.


Class meets Mondays and Wednesdays at 1-2:15

Required texts:

Course Packet [CP] of gothic stories written by women (available for purchase at the Bookmarq)

Eliza Parsons, The Castle of Wolfenbach (Valancourt)

Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights (Houghton Mifflin)

Elizabeth Gaskell, Gothic Tales (Penguin)

Vernon Lee, Hauntings and other fantastic tales (Broadview)

Anya Seton, Dragonwyck ( Chicago Review Press)

Joyce Carol Oates, Beasts (Carroll and Graff)

Requirements for course:

1.   Two short (5-7 PAGES) papers (worth 25% each)

2.   Take-Home Midterm exam (worth 25%)

3.   Take-Home Final exam (worth 25%)


Richard Dalby, ed. Victorian Ghost Stories [PR/1309/.G5/V53]

Michael Cox and R. A. Gilbert, ed. Victorian Ghost Stories [PR/1309/.G5/V54]

Peter Haining, ed. Gentlewomen of Evil [PR/1309/.G5/H35]

Anita Miller, ed.   Classic Ghostly Tales [PR/1309/.G5/F68]

Douglas Robillard, ed.   American Supernatural Fiction: From Wharton to the Weird Tale [PS/374/.S83/A48]

Joyce Carol Oates, ed. American Gothic [PS/648.H6/A47]

Patrick McGrath, ed. The New Gothic [PS/648/.H6/M67]

The Stories of Elizabeth Gaskell [PR/4710/.C73]

ATTENDANCE POLICY:   This course subscribes to the MU College of Arts and Sciences attendance policy.   After five absences your final grade will be lowered one-half grade.   After three more absences it drops another half-grade.   After a total of nine absences you will be withdrawn from the course.

GRADING SYSTEM: 92-100 = A; 88-91 = AB; 82-87 = B; 78-81 = BC; 70-77 =C

JANUARY 17:   Introduction to course:   What is the gothic?   Is there a female gothic?

Jan 22—Parsons, Castle , vol. 1

Jan 24—Parsons, Castle, vol. 2

Jan 29—Gaskell, “The Grey Woman”

Jan 31—Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

Feb 5 WH

Feb 7— WH

Feb 12—Gilman, “Yellow Wallpaper” [CP]

Feb 14—film of “Yellow Wallpaper”

Feb 19—Gilman, “Giant Wisteria” [CP] and Gaskell, “The Crooked Branch”

Feb 21—Gaskell, “Disappearances” and “The Squire's Story”

Feb 26—Gaskell, “Curious, if True” and “Lois the Witch”


March 5—Rossetti, “Goblin Market” [CP]

March 7—Lee, “Dionea”


March 19—Lee, “Amour Dure” and “A Wicked Voice”

March 21—Lee, “Oke of Oakhurst”

March 26—Lee, “Prince Alberic and the Snake Lady”

March 28—Lee, “Wedding Chest” and “Virgin”

April 2—Oates, “Haunted” and “The Doll” [CP]

April 4 Oates, “Daisy” and “Bloodstains” [CP]

April 11—Oates, “Dreamcatcher,” and “Afterword” [CP]

April 16—Oates, Beasts

April 18— Beasts

April 23— Dragonwyck, cc. 1-11

April 25— Dragonwyck, cc. 12-22

April 30— Japanese Female Gothic: Enchi Fumiko, “Love in Two Lives,” Kono Taeko, “Ants Swarm” [CP]

May 2— summation; course evaluation

May 10—take-home final exams due in my office by noon




DUE:   MAY 10 in my office (Coughlin 247) by noon


You have two options on this exam. You can either answer Part I or Part II.


We have read a number of examples of Female Gothic literature this past semester.   All of them contain some of the most recognizable features of female gothic fiction:   house imagery; disputed inheritance or wills; threatened incest with an uncle or father-figure; anxiety about the body or motherhood; abuse and its long-term effects; eating disorders; use of writing as a form of therapy.   Select six examples of female gothic fiction we have studied, and analyze how you have seen any three of these motifs developed.


PART II: Answer two of the following questions:

Another syllabus:


Professor Diane Long Hoeveler

Coughlin 247

Office Phone:  288-3466

Office Hours: 11-12 M, W, F and by appt

Email:  ""

Course meets from 12-12:50 M,W,F in Cudahy 114


Reading Packet [rp] of gothic and ghost stories written by women (available for purchase at the Bookmarq)

Ann Radcliffe, A Sicilian Romance ( Oxford )

Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret ( Oxford )

Daphne du Maurier , Jamaica Inn ( Avon )

Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace (Doubleday)

Joyce Carol Oates, Haunted (Penguin)


1.  Oral presentation (worth 25%)

2.  Take-Home Midterm exam (worth 25%)

3.  Research Paper (worth 25%)

4.  Take-Home Final exam (worth 25%)


Richard Dalby, ed. Victorian Ghost Stories [PR/1309/.G5/V53]

Michael Cox and R. A. Gilbert, ed. Victorian Ghost Stories [PR/1309/.G5/V54]

Peter Haining, ed. Gentlewomen of Evil [PR/1309/.G5/H35]

Anita Miller, ed.  Classic Ghostly Tales [PR/1309/.G5/F68]

Joyce Carol Oates, ed. American Gothic [PS/648.H6/A47]

Patrick McGrath, ed.  The New Gothic [PS/648/.H6/M67]

The Stories of Elizabeth Gaskell [PR/4710/.C73]

ATTENDANCE POLICY:  This course subscribes to the MU College of Arts and Sciences attendance policy.  After five absences your final grade will be lowered one-half grade.  After three more absences it drops another half-grade.  After a total of nine absences you will be withdrawn from the course.

English 186 syllabus, p. 2

GRADING SYSTEM: 92-100 = A; 88-91 = AB; 82-87 = B; 78-81 = BC; 70-77 =C

August 30:  Introduction to course: What is the gothic?  Is there a female gothic?

Sept 1: "Sir Bertram" and "The Unknown"

Sept 3:  "The Haunted Chamber" and "The Dream"

Sept 8: Sicilian Romance, book 1

Sept 10: Sicilian Romance, book 2

Sept 13: "Doom of the Griffiths "

Sept 15: "Lois the Witch"

Sept 17: "The Open Door"

Sept 20: "At Crighton Abbey" and "Shadows on the Wall"

Sept 22: Lady Audley's Secret

Sept 24: Lady Audley's Secret

Sept 27: Lady Audley's Secret

Sept 29: Lady Audley's Secret

Oct 1: Lady Audley's Secret

Oct 4: Lady Audley's Secret

Oct 6: "Bottle," "All Souls"

Oct 8: "Lady's Maid's Bell ," "Afterword"

Oct 11: "Eyes"

Oct 13: "Bewitched," "Angel"

English 186, p. 3

Oct 15: "Goblin Market"

Oct 18: review for midterm exam

Oct 20: take-home midterm exam due in class

Oct 25: Jamaica Inn

Oct 27: Jamaica Inn

Oct 29: Jamaica Inn

Nov 3: stories from Haunted

Nov 5: Haunted

Nov 8: Haunted

Nov 10: "Yellow Wallpaper"

Nov 12: film showing of "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Nov 15: Haunted; "The Lottery"

Nov 17: Alias Grace

Nov 19: Alias Grace

Nov 22: Alias Grace

Nov 29: Alias Grace

Dec 1: Alias Grace

Dec 3: Alias Grace

Dec 6: Alias Grace

Dec 10: research paper due in class

Dec 17: take-home final exam due in my office by noon


Robt Hume distinguishes between two sub‑genres of gothic:

1. novel of terror = Radcliffe (female)

2. novel of horror = Lewis, Monk (male)

conventional trappings = heroine, hero and villain, clouds, castles, mystery, inevitable travel sequence that transports the characters from everyday life, educates the reader about foreign lands, and casts a general aura of mystery about the proceedings

adult fairy‑tale; immersion in "enchanted castle"; woman's body

assault on the castle gates, room = metaphorical rape

heroine leaves the known (childhood) to venture into unknown (adulthood); pauses in a sterile wasteland (pre‑sexuality) and then moves through a never‑never land (courtship, magic, illusion, dream) to arrive at full sexuality (adulthood and chaste marriage).

inherent ambiguity and ambivalence lies at the core of the genre's appeal


orphaned heroine searches for surrogate parents, only to find her parents by finding her self; her most sinister enemy is her own awakening sexuality; heroine's task is to destroy the mythic beast within, for the wages of passion are madness, disease, and death; virtues are repression and sublimination

orphans are social outsiders; they seek social approval and kinship

(Foucault on kinship and alliance)

values of silence, rectitude, balance (mind of a man and heart of a woman); restrained emotions and strength of character; century's idealization of Virgin Mary

heroine plays role of etherealizing maiden, brave young detective, symbolic quester of her own and others' identities; theme of female powerlessness; motherhood was source of women's greatest power

"The posture of romantic victim concealed thwarted dreams of power"

Wolff, "The Racfliffean Gothic Model: A Form for Feminine Sexuality"

rpt. in The Female Gothic, ed. Juliann Fleenor

men subscribe to the "virgin‑whore" syndrome because they have split their affectionate (and asexual) feelings from the passionate (and sexual) side;

they PROJECT their own feelings onto women; they then label either "bad" or "good"; they also invariably set up a rival for the women

women mirror this syndrome in their invention of the "Devil/Priest" syndrome and their rivals usually take the form of a mother‑figure

danger in the fiction is equated with an "inner space"—a secret room, etc, within the larger castle/body

Edith Birkhead:  "Mrs. Radcliffe's heroines resemble nothing more than a composite photograph in which all distinctive traits are merged into an expressionless 'type.'"

Their only business is to experience difficulties

heroine has to earn her right to preside over the gothic castle

the pairing of the hero and villain in 18th century gothic each embody a sort of authority that the heroine has to choose between; a violent taboo is usually attached to the villain (again, recourse to Foucault's explanation about the machinery of alliance and kinship in operation)

1950's: second Gothic revival; heroine now is allowed to marry the demon lover

"Power" is most prevalent word in these fictions

"The problem of love divided is now resolved in the direction of undiluted sexuality, and the reading and rereading of modern Gothics gives comforting reassurance both that sexuality is safe and appropriate for women and that the primitive quality of this passion need never be compromised or relinquished"

*******"Better to try all things and find all empty, than to try nothing and leave your life a blank"   Charlotte Bronte

*******"There is a joy in fear" -Joanna Baillie


Ellen Moers, "Traveling Heroinism: Gothic for Heroines" in her Literary Women (1976):

gothic fiction is concerned with fear: "fantasy predominates over reality, the strange over the commonplace, and the supernatural over the natural

gothic fiction intends to scare and to get at the body itself, to our physiological reactions to fear

gothic arose what religious fears were on the wane, giving way to that vague paranoia of the modern spirit from which gothic mechanisms seem to have provided therapy

the FG concerns a young woman who is simultaneously a persecuted victim and a courageous heroine

the FG transforms the standard romantic from issues of incest, infanticide, and patricide into a fantasy of the nursery

Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights , and Goblin Market all concern a girl's childhood and the adult woman's tragic yearning to return to it; all seek a pre-adolescent love modeled after the sister-brother relationship; the cruelties in all works are justified as realistic attributes of the nursery world and as frankly joyous memories of childhood eroticism

FG is characterized by the compulsion to visualize the self; where woman is examined with a woman's eye

the fear in FG suggests the haunted and self-hating self

FG is characterized by traveling heroinism: traveling both outdoors and indoors: the fg novel became a feminine substitute for the picaresque, where heroines could enjoy all the adventures and alarms that masculine heroes had long experienced, far from home, in fiction

the test in the fg allows the heroine to prove herself through courage and self control in the face of physical dangers

the fg heroine uses her sufferings as the source of her erotic fascination (Marquis de Sade and the sadistic impulse)

property, decorum, taste in manners, social status, respectability are touchstones for the fg heroine

the final gothic castle to be navigated by the fg heroine is the insane asylum


Cohn, Jan.  Romance and the Erotics of Property.  Durham< : Duke, 1988.

Day, William P.  In the Circles of Fear and Desire: A Study of Gothic

     Fantasy Chicago : U of Chicago P, 1985.

DeLamotte, Eugenia C.  Perils of the Night: A Feminist Study of

     Nineteenth‑Century Gothic New York : Oxford , 1990.


Doody, Margaret Anne.  "Deserts, Ruins, and Troubled Waters: Female

     Dreams in Fiction and the Development of the Gothic Novel."

     Genre 10 (1977), 529‑72.

Ellis, Kate.  The Contested Castle: Gothic Novels and the Subversion

     of Domestic Ideology Urbana : Illinois , 1989.

Fleenor, Julian, ed.  The Female Gothic London : Eden , 1983.


Haggerty, George.  Gothic Fiction/Gothic Form University Park : Penn State , 1989.

Hoeveler, Diane Long.  Gothic Feminism. Penn State Press, 1998.

Holland , Norman N. and Leona F. Sherman. "Gothic Possibilities."

     New Literary History 8 (1977), 279‑94.

Howells, Coral.  Love, Mystery, and Misery: Feeling in Gothic

     Fiction London : Athlone, 1978.

Kahane, Claire .  "Gothic Mirrors and Feminine Identity."

     Centennial Review 24 (1980), 43‑64.

MacAndrew, Elizabeth.  The Gothic Tradition in Fiction New York :

     Columbia , 1979.

Masse, Michelle.  In the Name of Love.  Ithaca : Cornell, 1992.

Modleski, Tania.  Loving with a Vengeance: Mass Produced Fantasies

      for Women Hamden : Shoestring, 1982.

Moers, Ellen.  "The Female Gothic."  In Literary Women London :

      Women's Press, 1978.

Mussell, Kay.  Fantasy and Reconciliation: Contemporary Formulas

      of Women's Romance Fiction Westport : Greenwood , 1984.

Poovey, Mary.  "Ideology and The Mysteries of Udolpho."

      Criticism 21 (1979), 307‑30.

Punter, David.  The Literature of Terror: A History of Gothic

      Fiction from 1765 to the Present Day London : Longmans, 1980.

Radway, Janice.  Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and

      Popular LiteratureChapel Hill : North Carolina , 1984.

Restuccia, Frances L.  "Female Gothic Writing: `Under Cover to

      Alice .'"  Genre 18 (1986), 245‑66.

Russ, Joanna.  "Somebody's Trying to Kill Me and I Think It's

      My Husband: The Modern Gothic."  Journal of Popular Culture

      6 (1973), 666‑91.

Sedgwick, Eve K.  The Coherence of Gothic Conventions New York :

Arno , 1980.


Thompson, G. R., ed.  The Gothic Imagination: Essays in Dark Romanticism Olympia : Washington State , 1974.

Thurston, Carol.  The Romance Revolution: Erotic Novels for

      Women and the Quest for a New Sexual Identity Urbana : 1987.


Notes on Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market":

the poem's multiple heroines represent alternative possibilities of selfhood for women, poem as sexual/religious allegory: "rape"of a lock of her hair causes Laura to lose her virginity; once that is lost she is valueless

Lizzie (like Christ) intervenes offering a womanly holy Communion; she changes her sister from a lost whore to a virginal bride

poem presents a world where men hurt and women redeem

poem posits a matriarchal world and more covertly, a lesbian world

girls eventually find redemption in the heaven of bourgeois domesticity

eating fruit recalls Paradise Lost's presentation of fruit as "intellectual food"

eating fruit enacts an affirmation of poetic and sexual selfhood eating words; tasting power but the taste of words (artistic creativity) causes guilt

genius and sexuality are diseases in women, like madness

what are the goblins?  it/id-like inner selves; desirous little creatures that live in the haunted minds of women artists

poem suggests the need to suffer and renounce the self-gratifications of art and sensuality

Lizzie, the word made flesh, forces Laura to devour her repressive wisdom, the wisdom of necessity's virtues

poem as a lesson in renunciation

notes from Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic, 564-752

Excerpts from criticism of "Goblin Market":

Mary Wilson Carpenter, "'Eat me, drink me, love me': The Consumable Female Body in CR's GM,"  Victorian Poetry 1991:  CR constructs a "marketplace" in which "appetite" puts women at risk, but where her salvation is to be found not in controlling her appetite but in turning to another woman; GM suggests that female erotic pleasure cannot be imagined without pain, yet the poem not only affirms the female body and its appetites but constructs sisterhood as a saving female homoerotic bond.

Janet Galligani Casey, "The Potential of Sisterhood: CG's GM" in Victorian Poetry 1991:  "The concept of a female Christ figures prominently in Cassandra and GM, for both Florence Nightingale and CR believe that women, like men, may be redeemers.  For both of these writers, women have been unfairly relegated to the roles of Mary/Martha and Eve, when the role of Christ is within their grasp as well."

David F. Morrill, "'Twilight is not good for maidens': Uncle Polidori and the Psychodynamics of Vampirism in GM," in Victorian Poetry: Polidori published his novel The Vampyre in 1819 and committed suicide in 1821.  "Suck" is the central verb in GM, suggesting the erotic/oral compulsion in childhood sexuality.  CR equates the sexual act with a vampiric transference of energy; in love relationships one partner gains mastery and fattens emotionally as the other wastes away.

Paula Marantz Cohen, "CR's GM: A Paradigm for 19th-century Anorexia Nervosa":

How is it possible to remain innocent and whole, a perfect little girl, forever?  This is the poem's essential question as well as the question which plagues the anorexic who, as she experiences the physical and emotional changes of adolescence, wants desperately to preserve the simpler, more familiar self of childhood.

Elizabeth Campbell, "Of Mothers and Merchants: Female Economics in CR's GM":

if you buy the fruits, if you buy a belief in a market economy couched in religious terms then you will surely die.  But at this point in the poem, temptation is everything, and goblin fruits represent something that the women want, even if it is something they know they cannot have: a place where the fruits are produced, a place in, and a piece of, the economic action.

Dorothy Mermin, "Heroic Sisterhood in GM":  two girls live alone; they encounter goblin men; they have children.  Except for the word "wives' which legitimizes the children, there is no mention of any men but the goblins, who are explicitly male.  The children are apparently all girls and are exhorted to keep the female circle closed and complete.  This is a world in which men serve only the purpose of impregnation.  Once both sisters have gone to the goblins and acquired the juices of their fruits, they have no further need of them.





1.  The doubled or split woman is a dominant characteristic in female gothic fiction and poetry.  Analyze how she functions, what she symbolizes and how she contributes to the meanings of "Goblin Market" and "The Yellow Wallpaper."

2.  Fear of sexuality, anxiety, and nausea/disease are featured in female gothic literature, most of the time as responses to the constrictions and oppressive power of the patriarchy.  Analyze how the patriarchy is presented and attacked or subverted in "Goblin Market" and "The Yellow Wallpaper."


1.  Norbert Elias' History of Manners presents his theory of "the civilizing process," a gradual transformation of society by which the middle class aped aristocratic values but increasingly justified its dominance by pointing out the corruptions of the upper classes.  Discuss the impulse of the middle class to criticize aristocratic values and characters in Jane Eyre and Rebecca at the same time it celebrated a middle-class heroine.  How does the female gothic genre participate in justifying the middle-class takeover of society?

2.  Both Jane Eyre and Rebecca make heavy use of similar patterns of meaning and imagery: young penniless governess-type in love with older father-figure; blocking older female-figures; and animals (birds, dogs) as surrogates for the characters' emotions.

What do you make of the obviously oedipal structure of desire in female gothic novels?  What fantasies are being appealed to by the female author to her largely female reading audience?

REMEMBER:  No plot summary. We've all read the works.  Offer a clear thesis in the introductory paragraph, and then provide support for your ideas by using specific passages from the literary works you are analyzing.  Your conclusion then restates your thesis and points toward larger-related issues.





The following are suggestions only.  Please feel free to come up with your own ideas, but check with me before beginning research work:

the life and poetry of Christina Rossetti:  how does Goblin Market fit into her career?  what interpretations can you propose for its meaning?

Asylum Piecea contemporary novel about a woman's stay in a mental hospital and its relevance to Yellow Wallpaper

choose one scene from three or four filmed versions of Jane Eyre: how does each filmmaker transform the scene to suggest his interpretation of Jane or Rochester 's character?

Harlequin Romances supermarket gothic and their relation to Jane Eyre

a report on the governness in Victorian society: her class status, role, and treatment in real life as contrasted to her treatment in JE

fairy tales as sources for JE

Rebecca as film: the Hitchcock version contrasted to the BBC and A&E versions

"The Haunting" as an adaptation of Jackson 's novel

"Wide Sargasso Sea "censored version shown in class with discussion of its relation to the novel's treatment of Bertha and her mother

the gothic fiction of Joyce Carol Oates

black gothic:  Beloved as gothic

Southern gothic: Flannery O'Connor or Eudora Welty

Victorian gothic:  Gaskell and other women writers collected in Dalby's collection, Victorian Ghost Stories



"The day dream is a shadow play, utilizing its kaleidoscopic material drawn from all quarters of human experience, but also involving the original fantasy, whose dramatis personae, the court cards, receive their notation from a family legend which is mutilated, disordered and misunderstood. Laplanche and Pontalis, "Fantasy and the Origins of Sexuality" in Formations of Fantasy, ed. Victor Burgin

For Freud, fantasies, like nocturnal dreams, are an imagined scene representing the fulfillment of a wish: "a happy person never fantasizes, only an unsatisfied one (SE: "Creative Writers and Daydreaming")

Every fantasy, however, is also an articulation of a lack

For Freud the primal fantasies are the "seduction of three children [called the heritage or seduction fantasy], the inflaming of sexual excitement by observing parental intercourse [called the primal scene or origin fantasy], and the threat of castration [called the fantasy of sexual difference]."  "These were once real occurrences in the primeval times of the human family, and children in their fantasies are simply filling in the gaps in individual truth with prehistoric truth" ("Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis").

The three primal fantasies - heritage, castration, and seduction - involve the human subject's desire to solve the riddle of its existence, to explore the issues of origins: who am I in relation to my heritage?  what is the origin of my body's anatomy? what is the cause of my drives, my desires?

Fantasies also generally center on scenarios of self-aggrandizement:  the plentitude of childhood is recaptured in the possession of a protecting house, loving parents, and a safe autoerotic object for the dreamer's affectionate feelings

Fantasies are the means by which a hysteric can disguise the real traumatic events of her childhood by translating them into an imagined scene that veils a reminiscence without entirely obliterating it.  Fantasies also mark the moment of mediation between the conscious and the unconscious, given that under the censoring aegis of repression, they merely screen an impossible traumatic knowledge by modulating this forbidden knowledge into a belated and distorted articulation.

Freud:  "If hysterical subjects trace back their symptoms to traumas that are fictitious, then the new fact which emerges is precisely that they create such scenes in fantasy, and this psychical reality requires to be taken into account alongside practical reality.  This reflection was soon followed by the discovery that these fantasies were intended to coverup the autoerotic activity of the first years of childhood, to embellish it and raise it to a higher plane.  And now, from behind the fantasies, the whole range of a child's sexual life came to light."


Definition:  Fantasies are psychic structures of meaning that disguise real or imagined traumatic events of childhood by translating those traumas into an imagined scene that veils a memory without totally obliterating it.  The fantasy, in other words, allows the adult to master the childhood trauma in a substitute formation.

Fantasies mediate between the conscious and unconscious mind because repression will screen a trauma that can only be expressed after the event and in a distorted fashion.

Fantasy precedes identity. Laplanche

SEDUCTION:  CORRESPONDING TRAUMA OF BETRAYAL;  fantasy of desire; oedipal rivalries; incest; solipsism/narcissism; self-loathing; gynophobia; somaphobia; emergence of sexuality; eating disorders

CASTRATION:  CORRESPONDING TRAUMA OF ABANDONMENT/DESERTION;  fantasies of death and sexual difference; beating fantasies; persecutory fantasies; decapitation; fetishism; sadism/masochism; self-mutilation

PRIMAL SCENE:  CORRESPONDING TRAUMA OF SEPARATION/ OTHERNESS;  fantasy of heritage; identity/origins; voyeurism/exhibitionism; family romance scenarios; scopophilia/epistemephilia; gossip; boundary issues

REBECCA and fantasy from Alison Light, "'Returning to Manderley' FR 16 (1984):

"Romance fiction deals above all with the doubts and delights of heterosexuality [and] suggests that the acquisition of gendered subjectivity is a process, a movement towards a social self, fraught with conflicts and never fully achieved.  Psychoanalysis takes the question of pleasure seriously, both in its relation to gender and in its understanding of fictions as fantasies, as the explorations and productions of desires which may be in excess of the socially possible or acceptable."

"In the course of the novel the girl idealizes Rebecca as the expression of all the other possible versions of female sexuality which her own middle-classness excludes.  Rebecca disrupts the girl's romantic model and leads her to search for a 'successful' marriage which will also legitimize female sexual desire.  For the girl to find a secure social identity (a name) as Maxim's wife, Rebecca's difference must be reinterpreted.  From being the girl's imaginary ideal, she has to become her nightmarish enemy.  No longer the perfect wife, hostess and lover, she is to branded by the end of the novel as lesbian and whore."

"What the girl has to attempt, and what she must compulsively repeat in the telling of the tale, is a kind of self-murder.  It is a violent denial of those other versions of female sexuality, which Rebecca has come to represent.  Rebecca, then, is the focus of the novel's conflicting desires for and descriptions of the feminine....Going back is precisely what Rebecca is all about: returning to Manderley, to the primal scene of the acquisition of femininity."

"The reader, like the girl, wants to be like Rebecca, but dare not.  And yet once that process of identification with Rebecca has been set in motion its effects can never be fully contained nor its disruptive potential fully retrieved.  This narrative of wishful projection and identification, displacement and repulsion is then the story of all women, of what we go through in the constructing and maintaining of our femininity."

When the embodiment of bourgeois sexuality realizes how far she is from Rebecca's polymorphously perverse sexuality, she contemplates suicide: "the two sexualities cannot co-exist.  This is the book's crisis.  Now every attempt must be made to separate Rebecca out from the girl's and the reader's identification with her.  Rebecca must be externalized, taken out of the realm of imaginary projections of subjectivity and put back into the world.  This means that in terms of the text, she must be forcibly reinscribed within that range of social discourses which will condemn her difference and so legitimate the girl's."

"The girl, in becoming narrator of the crime, transfers her identification from Rebecca to Maxim, and invites the reader to do the same....she learns to accept the regulation of female heterosexuality through class differences which themselves necessitate sexual competition between women."  The book follows the "remorseless logic of a Bluebeard.  Women are all the potential victims of a femininity which is not just endlessly defining us in terms of sexual status; we are wives, mothers, virgins, whores but which marks us as representing the sexual itself.  Where women's sexual desirability is competitively organized around male approval and social reward, there will always be a Rebecca who is both an idealized alternative to our elusive subjectivity and a radical undermining of it."

"For middle-class readers in the 1930s, Rebecca's murder appears to offer an ideal fictive solution to those all too seductive deviant femininities.  It is less than simple, however.  Rebecca is no longer 'out there,' the wife in the attic of the Gothic text, but inside the female subject, the condition of its existence.  The process of identification which the novel depends upon is, in more ways than one, fatal.  For Rebecca does, after all, get what she wants."

"Maxim's loss of place, of Manderley itself, is a social, psychic, and fictional necessity within the terms set up by the girl's assumption of Rebecca's position....the text equates Maxim's economic loss with a psychological crippling, and can therefore atone for his crime.  Losing your stately home is a fair cop for murdering your wife."

But also note how "Rebecca is responsible for his loss of home, authority, and even for the sunset of the Empire...The death of Manderley is the real tragedy of the novel, as a place untouched by the demands of capital, a site of feudal freedom, which like Rebecca herself could at least operate outside of an encroaching bourgeois hegemony of social and sexual values."

"What romance fiction tries to offer is a triumph over the unconscious, over the resistance to identity which lies at the very heart of psychic life.  Romance fiction makes heterosexuality easy by suspending history in its formulae and by offering women readers a resolution in which submission and repression are not just managed without pain or humiliation but managed at all.  Romance uses unequal heterosexuality as a dream of equality and gives women uncomplicated access to a subjectivity which is unified and coherent and still operating within the field of pleasure."

"That women read romance fiction is a measure of their deep dissatisfaction with heterosexual options as of any desire to be fully identified with the submissive versions of femininity the texts endorse.  Romance imagines peace, security, and ease precisely because there is dissension, insecurity, and difficulty.  In the context of women's lives, romance reading might appear less a reactionary reflex or an indication of their victimization by the capitalist market, and more a sign of discontent and a technique for survival."


"When I read Jane Eyre as a child, I thought, why should she think Creole women are lunatics and all that?  What a shame to make Rochester 's first wife, Bertha, the awful madwoman, and I immediately thought I'd write the story as it might really have been.  She seemed such a poor ghost.  I thought I'd try to write her a life.  Charlotte Bronte must have had strong feelings about the West Indies because she brings the West Indies into a lot of her books, like Villette.  Of course, one upon a time, the West Indies were very rich, and very much more talked about than they are now." - Jean Rhys

from Nancy Harrison, Jean Rhys and the Novel as Women's Text:

"Rhys' novel poses and answers the question that Judith Gardiner construes as central to feminist criticism: 'Who is there when a woman says 'I am'?"  In considering Rochester 's narrative we can ask a similar question: 'Who is there when a man says 'I am'?"  How a person tells his or her story can itself provide an answer to the question as it is made historically possible.  Rhys chose the first-person point of view and the narrative mode to show how answers to these questions are revealed and to emphasize the difference, as well as the relationship, between the man's text and the woman's.  In the interweaving of the narrative strategies of each, Rhys not only demonstrates the predominant pattern of the woman's dream text but also further emphasizes the importance of our reading of ourselves and others on which the difference between the two texts turns."  (194)

Jan Curtis, "The Secret of Wide Sargasso SeaCritique 31 (1990):

"Antoinette's death is neither absolute triumph nor absolute failure.  Rather, the image of death in her final dream mixes the 'twin fantasy of death-in-life and life-in-death,' the smell of dead flowers and the fresh living smell, the buried but flowering soul, the prayer for death and the blessed attributes, and the immortal passion that draws the moth to the candle flame.  Here is the secret.  When Antoinette awakens from her final dream, her strength guides her along the dark passageway, and she knows in the moment of epiphany that no one on earth can truly understand the fortune of love and the art of victory over death without mixing blind joy and sadness and the sense of being lost with the nearness of being found." (195)

Anthony Luengo, "Wide Sargasso Sea and the Gothic Mode," World Literature Written in English 15 (1976):

"The dense tropical forest which symbolizes the increasing gloom and confusion of Rochester 's mind should be seen as a latter-day descendent of the many dark woods that appear in the gothic novels of the late 18th century" (232)

Ken Ramchand, The West Indian Novel and its Background:

WSS is a confirmation of Fanon's view of the terror produced in the minds of resident colonizers during the process of de-colonization.

Leslie Fiedler defines the American Gothic as dealing "with the exaggerated and the grotesque, not as they are verifiable in any external landscape of sociological observation of manners and men, but as they correspond in quality to our deepest fears and guilts as projected in our dreams or lived through in 'extreme situations.'"

Maria Olaussen, "Rhys's Construction of Blackness as Escape from White Femininity in WSS," Ariel 24 (1993):

"Rhys shows awareness of the fact that the meaning of who she is as a white West Indian woman cannot be understood separately from the way this identity has been constructed in the dominant Anglo-Saxon cultural context" (65)

"The theme of the novel is the fear and the possibility of losing one's whiteness....The meaning of her sexual identity is what ultimately determines her racial identity and vice versa."

Black critics identify the mammy, the whore, and the conjure woman as the three stereotypical roles for the black woman and that they are based on a fear of female sexuality and spiritual power

Elaine Showalter:  "In contast to the rather vague and uncertain concepts of insanity in general which Victorian psychiatry produced, theories of female insanity were specifically and confidentially linked to the biological crises of the female life cycle - puberty, pregnancy, childbirth and menopause during which the mind would be weakened and the symptoms of insanity might emerge."

"Rhys thus invites a comparison between Antoinette's situation and that of the slaves.  Antoinette is captured, sold, given a new name, transported across the sea, and locked up."  "Antoinette's use of black strategies of resistance reinforces the meaning of blackness as freedom.  In exploring the construction of a particular white female identity, Rhys denies the existence of systematic oppression of black women.  They, in turn, become prisoners of another's desire as the white Creole madwoman is set free" (81).

"The People Could Fly" an African legend that states that some slaves knew how to fly in Africa but had to shed their wings on the slave ships.  They were able to fly away to freedom when the situation in the fields became unbearable.  Rhys uses the same story when Antoinette, like the burning parrot, jumps down from the walls of Thornfield, flying away to freedom in her death.


"Willa Prescott Nedeed's slow recognition that her grievous plight is itself a repetition leads her to recollect and to give voice to other women from the past.  Only then can she begin to work through her own trauma.  Willa is the fourth Mrs. Luther Nedeed.  Each Luther finds a light-skinned wife and then, through arcane rituals, produces a dark-skinned son, also named Luther, who looks exactly like every other Luther.  The Luthers precisely control and replicate their own and the other families that populate Linden Hills through each generation: the power of birth, marriage, mortgages ( they own all of the houses), and death itself (they are all undertakers) is theirs."

"Willie and Willa are doubles to some extent."

The line of Mrs. Nedeeds:

Luwana Packerville (1837)

Evelyn Creton (1892)

Priscilla McGuire (1930s)

"The four women try to achieve recognition of their identity through the traditional sexual strategies romance suggests.  Evelyn begins to mix aphrodisiacs; Priscilla's lively eyes seek the Luther who moves away from her in photographs"

"Willa wants to deny the knowledge that her undertaker husband is a bizarrely ritualistic necrophile"

"In plots that resist Gothic conventions, such as that of Linden Hills, the emphasis shifts radically by the novel's end to the protagonist finding that she and her motives are the mystery: what she will do about her constraints, and to what extent she may have enabled them.  Willa can only begin to understand what has happened to her when she accepts the narratives of the women who have preceded her.  As she traces Bibles, recipe books, and photo albums, she is forced through repetition to relinquish the ideology of marriage and the shame of thinking her plight unique.  What she finds is a community of suffering  and shared experience; her recollection affirms the reality of all of their pain.  Finally, Willa's own partial working through suggests a systemic critique of the Gothic structures that confine women."

"The novel's somber close suggests that the fall of one Gothic house is not the end of Gothic barbarity but that it is perhaps the aggressive first step to a freedom where no woman has to give her life to have her story told and heard."

from Michelle A. Masse, In the Name of Love: Women, Masochism and the Gothic



DUE:  May 8, no later than noon in my office in Coughlin 247

PART I:  Answer either question one or two:

1.  Mistress of Mellyn exploits several gothic conventions we have seen in its source, Jane Eyre.  Identify those conventions, discuss how they are altered or "modernized" in Mistress, and draw some conclusions about "supermarket gothics."  How and why do they appeal to such a wide range of readers today?

2.  Wide Sargasso Sea also has Jane Eyre as its source.  Discuss how Rhys has adapted Bronte's novel and how she has changed the character of Bertha as well as the entire Caribbean setting to speak to a more race conscious audience.  Is this example of the female gothic an attack on racism or sexism or both?  How is it more self-conscious in its presentation of these themes than was Jane Eyre?

PART II:  Answer either question three or four:

3.  Linden Hills has been characterized as an example of "Black Gothic," along with Beloved and a number of novels by Toni Morrison.  Identify the gothic conventions in Linden Hills and discuss the specifically racial aspects of those themes.  In short, is there any way you can identify Linden Hills as written by an African-American woman?  Is the world she creates a specifically "black" world?  Why or why not?

4.  The Haunting of Hill House and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe both concern the nature of love, specifically female love in the gothic world.  Compare and contrast the types and character of love in the two novels, and tie into the themes we have identified all semester:  paternal/maternal domination, fantasy formations, incest, guilt and shame cultures, beating fantasies, and seduction/castration scenarios.

Your essay responses must have thesis statements, paragraphs of support drawn from the texts under discussion, and a conclusion that restates your thesis.


From Patricia White, "Female Spectator, Lesbian Specter: The Haunting" in Sexuality and Space (Princeton Architectural Press, 1992):

"It is a truism of the horror genre that sexual interest resides most often in the monster and not the bland ostensible heroes."

"Female scopophilia is a drive without an object...what the woman actually sees, after a sustained and fearful process of looking, is a sign or representation of herself displaced to the level of the nonhuman"

Freud identifies paranoia as a defense against homosexuality: "In all of these cases a defence against a homosexual wish was clearly recognizable at the very centre of the conflict which underlay the disease" (Freud, "On the Mechanism of Paranoia" (1911)

"The woman's sexuality, as a spectator [of films], must undergo a constant process of transformation.  She must look, as if she were a man with the phallic power of the gaze, at a woman who would attract that gaze, in order to be that woman....The convolutions involved here are analogous to those described by Julia Kristeva as 'the double or triple twists of what we commonly call female homosexuality': 'I am looking, as a man would, for a woman'; or else, 'I submit myself, as if I were a man who thought he was a woman, to a woman who thinks she is a man.'"

the basic gothic formula: "the image of woman-plus-habitation"

the ultimate uncanny home of all humans = the womb

"Hill House is uncanny for the woman; it is a projection not only of the female body, but also of the female mind, a mind which, like the heavy oak doors, may or may not be unhinged."

there are two types of plot typology: the male hero's entry into a closed space and his emergence from it: "Inasmuch as closed space can be interpreted as a cave, the grave, a house, a woman...entry into it is interpreted on various levels as death, conception, return home and so on; moreover all these acts are thought of as mutually identical."

"Insofar as the cinema rewrites all stories according to an Oedipal plot, when the woman is the hero of a gothic such as Rebecca, her story is told as the female Oedipus.  Her conflicting desires for the mother and for the father are put into play only to be resolved as the mirror image of man's desire.."

"The Haunting tells the story of Eleanor, a woman whose sexuality like that of the heroine of Rebecca is latent, not necessarily, not yet, lesbian.  Her journey is articulated as female Oedipal drama almost against her will, and is resolved, with her death, as a victory of the house and the grave (perhaps the womb)....the film shifts between homosexuality and homophobia"

Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams:  "Robbers, burglars and ghosts, of whom some people feel frightened before going to bed, all originate from one and the same class of infantile reminiscence.  In every case the robbers stood for the sleeper's father, whereas the ghosts correspond to female figures in white nightgowns."

Vito Russo, The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (1981):  "Theo gets her psychosexual jollies by hugging Eleanor and blaming it on ghosts.  But she is not predatory; she is just out of life's running.  She professes no interest in actively seducing either Eleanor or Luke.  The lesbianism is entirely mental, and her sterility leaves her at a dead end.  Lesbianism is rendered invisible because it is purely psychological.  And since most lesbians were invisible even to themselves, their sexuality, ill-defined in general, emerged onscreen as a wasted product of a closeted lifestyle."

Parker Tyler, Screening the Sexes: Homosexuality in the Movies (1972):  "Lesbianism had a role in drawing these two unusual ladies closer in the frightening, macabre situation to which they commit themselves and where they must cling to each other."

Dr Markway's fumbling pseudo-scientific attempts to measure the cold spot in the house come to symbolize his "attempts to explore the undiscovered country of female homosexuality...he lesbianizes the haunted house" calling it diseased, sick, etc.

Eleanor "has never belonged within the patriarchal home and its family romance. Her dark, romantic secret is her adult attachment to her mother"

"Theo's seduction of Eleanor is displaced onto the haunting that appears to occur...The process whereby the appartion of lesbian desire is deferred to the manifestation of supernatural phenomena is well illustrated by a sequence depicting the events of the first night spent by the company in Hill House"

Freud, Totem and Taboo: "When a wife loses her husband, or a daughter her mother, it not infrequently happens that the survivor is afflicted with tormenting scruples...which raise the question whether she herself has not been guilty through carelessness or neglect of the death of the beloved person.  No recalling of the care with which she nursed the invalid, no direct refutation of the asserted guilt can put an end to the torture."  Freud explains this guilt as a repressed component of hostility toward the dead

In Freud's "Case of Paranoia Running Counter to the Psychoanalytical Theory of the Disease," he describes a 30-something woman living with her mother who forms a paranoiac delusion to defend herself against the attentions of man.  But the persecutor of the woman in her mind turns out to be the mother, the loved person.

The scene between Theo and Eleanor in bed "transforms homosexuality into homophobia replacing sexuality with fear"

The four inhabitants of the house read themselves into the sculpture of St Francis curing the lepers: "the female forces of Hill House are beginning to close in on Eleanor"

"The materialization of the wife seems to be part of the process where the house itself calls Eleanor home"

Eleanor is haunted by the wife, first in the library and then as Eleanor runs through the house

Library has a smell Eleanor associates with her mother

Eleanor is terrorized at the very moment of her identification with the companion, by the apparition of the heterosexual role model, the wife

"Eleanor comprehends the displacement of her Oedipal drama (the substituting of herself for the mother) by the inverted drama of Hill House (the wife's substitution for Eleanor in relation to the house's desire).  'I'm the one who's supposed to stay.  She's taken my place.'  And Eleanor dies, ironically, in the wife's place."

"The Haunting exceeds the woman's story as female Oedipal drama enacted in a gothic such as Rebecca.  In that genre the protagonist's search for the secret of a dead woman is facilitated or impeded by a key figure, an older, sometimes sinister character, variously the housekeeper, the nurse, or in some other capacity a companion to the dead woman.  These roles are truly a gallery of the best of lesbian characters in classic cinematic history.  Mrs Danvers in Rebecca or Cornelia Skinner in The Uninvited, they are a compelling reason for the young woman, recently married and suspecting it might have been a mistake, to realize that it was one....The Haunting is a crucial transformation in the manifest appearance of lesbianism.  The representation of the dead woman, the object of the heroine's desire ("Rebecca" as precisely unrepresentable in that film), and the function of the companion converge in the figure of Theodora, who is emphatically not the mother."

Notes from Janice Radway's Reading the Romance:

the best romance heroines are women who, although spirited and innately passionate, are not understood by those around them.  Their social identity is under threat as they come to a strange new situation, but, happily, after a period spent with the Wrong Man, and after many delays and misunderstandings, they come to be understood and appreciated by a fully masculine, yet sensitive, nurturing male.  This male sees the woman's potential for relationship and leads her to an uninhibited expression of her own sensuality and eventually, to a happy, prosperous marriage.

Radway characterizes the failed romance, or one that does not bring pleasure to its readers.  These books present their heroines (surrogates for the self reading the book) as overly degraded and excessively punished.  Suicide is also unacceptable in a romance, because these texts have to affirm the heroines.

Radway:  "If the events of the heroine's story provoke too intense feelings, such as anger at men, fear of rape and violence, worry about female sexuality, or worry about the need to live with an unexciting man, that romance will be discarded as a failure or judged to be very poor....When a writer can supply a story that will permit the reader several hours of vicarious experience living as a woman who flourishes because she receives the attention, devotion and approval of an extraordinary man that writer will have written an ideal romance."

Notes on Melodrama as a genre, specifically female melodrama:

melodrama achieves its effects with music, spectacle, action amd easily read gestures rather than subtlety of language or character.  Melodrama has developed from the theater through silent cinema into what some critics describe as the predominant dramatic form in a godless age where neither author nor audience can reach the certainty of belief in outside causes necessary for tragedy.

Melodrama looks at social patternings, at the operation of rules of behavior in society, and at our usually feeble attempts to live out our desires within them, or at our inevitably doomed attempts to live outside them.  Melodrama is concerned with identity, particularly gender identity as it affects our place in the family and community, and even more specifically, as it relates to the Patriarchy and Law.

The lesson that all good women learn from melodrama is that if they neglect their family duties for erotic fulfillment, they will be punished ("a masochistic fantasy of betrayal and loss").

"One of the major narrative strategies of melodrama is to provoke the spectator's wish for a union of the couple...the root of this wish lies in a nostalgic fantasy of childhood characterised by union with the mother: a state of total love, satisfaction and dyadic fusion"

(Mary Ann Doane, Femme Fatales)


Research notes on anorexia nervosa as a theme in women's literature:

Gilbert and Gubar, Madwoman:  "now it becomes clear how that myth in which a woman is condemned for eating reflects male hatred of the female and fear of her sustaining and strengthening herself.  Yet, fasting is also an act of revolt.  Since eating maintains the self, in a discredited world it is a compromise that implies acquiescence....Therefore, the prominence of anorexia nervosa as a female disease and a theme in women's literature suggests the women's representation of food often reflects guilt and conflict about their bodies, appetites, and desires" (390).

Anorexia was first labeled a syndrome in 1873:  Susan Bordo, Unbearable Weight: "Anxiety over women's uncontrollable hungers appears to peak during periods when women are becoming independent and are asserting themselves politically and socially."  Anorexia, like hysteria, reflects women's internalization of competing, and indeed contesting, messages about gender.

Bordo notes that in anorexia "the same gesture that registers protest against a sexist culture can also signal retreat; that is, indeed, may be part of the symptom's attraction" (176);

Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born: links somatophobia, or body-hatred, to matrophobia, or women's fear of becoming as self-effacing as the mother in traditional domesticity.  Women's writing often expresses ambivalence about domesticity and motherhood through negative images of food and the female body.

Rich, Chernin, and Bordo ascribe women's somatophobia to their matrophobia, or fear of becoming like the mother who feeds others but cannot nourish her own desires

Elizabeth Spelman, sees somatophobia as an unfortunate consequence of the discomfort with domesticity in feminist thought ("Woman as Body" Feminist Studies 8 [1982] 119)

Harriet Fraad sees anorexia as a "crisis embodied" of the contradictions of women's economic status in modern consumer culture.  Women's non-wage labor in the household is akin to a model of feudal servitudea system where service is not reduced to a price, unlike capitalism, where women's work is either unpaid in the home or underpaid in the marketplace:  "Anorectics refuse the need for food and with it the need to belong to the noncapitalist world of the household.  However, anorexia's victims obsess on the food they cannot have.  In this way the disorder enacts the need for connection and continuity with a frequently feudal past, symbolized by need, food and mothering.  Anorexia also enacts the drive for personal independence and control in capitalist careers with little tolerance for personal need.  Anorexia denies and controls women's needs for two contradictory roles, each impossible fully to achieve or to relinquish" ("Anorexia as Crises Embodied: A Marxist-Feminist Analysis of the Household," in Bringing It All Back Home [ London : Pluto, 1994, p. 129) 

Additional bibliography on the topic:

Becky Thompson,  A Hunger So Wide and So Deep

, Joan J Brumberg, Fasting Girls

, Kim Chernin, The Obsession

, Susie Orbach, Fat is a Feminist Issue

Disorderly Eaters

Hilde Bruch, The Golden Cage

Patricia Fallon et al, eds. Feminist Perspectives on Eating Disorders





Professor Diane Long Hoeveler

Coughlin 247

Office Phone:  288-3466

Office Hours: 12:30 - 2:00 T/TH and by appt

Email:  ""

Course meets from 11-12:15 T/TH in Cudahy   137

This course is a Blackboard course.  Login and find electronic copies of most short fiction.


Reading Packet [rp] of gothic and ghost stories written by women (available for purchase at the Bookmarq)

Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights (Houghton Mifflin)

Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Aurora Floyd ( Oxford )

Louisa May Alcott, Alternative Alcott, ed. Elaine Showalter

Daphne du Maurier, My Cousin Rachel (Dramatists Play Service)

Joyce Carol Oates, The Collector of Hearts


  • Oral presentation (worth 25%)
  • Take-Home Midterm exam (worth 25%)
  • Research Paper (worth 25%)
  • Take-Home Final exam (worth 25%)


Richard Dalby, ed. Victorian Ghost Stories [PR/1309/.G5/V53]

Michael Cox and R. A. Gilbert, ed. Victorian Ghost Stories [PR/1309/.G5/V54]

Peter Haining, ed. Gentlewomen of Evil [PR/1309/.G5/H35]

Anita Miller, ed.  Classic Ghostly Tales [PR/1309/.G5/F68]

Douglas Robillard, ed.  American Supernatural Fiction: From Wharton to the Weird Tale [PS/374/.S83/A48]

Joyce Carol Oates, ed. American Gothic [PS/648.H6/A47]

Patrick McGrath, ed.  The New Gothic [PS/648/.H6/M67]

The Stories of Elizabeth Gaskell [PR/4710/.C73]


English Department

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