Gothic and Horror Fiction

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In this final assignment I will talk about the patriarchal fear of female sexuality. I will also be dealing with a brief summary of the female figure in the gothic novel. To begin with, I will give a brief summary of the changes that experimented the topics of the nineteenth century novel; then I will comment on the description which some scholars give about the woman of the nineteenth century. I will also exemplify the patriarchal fear of female sexuality by using two of the texts studied in the lectures; Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker, and The Turn of the Screw (1898) by Henry James. I will especially focus on the characters of Mina and Lucy while dealing with Dracula, and the governess while dealing with The Turn of the Screw. Finally, I will finish this essay by summing up the content explained throughout the text. The end of the nineteenth century is known, according to Lily Litvak, as a real “erotic contamination” (1979), which affected all walks of life and it provided Sigmund Freud some authority to reclaim the importance of the sexuality as a driving force of the entire human acts. Until that moment, the concept of sexuality had been excluded and confined to transgressive ways of living that had little or nothing to do with the marital life. There was from the Church and from the own bourgeois State a campaign of persecution of the premarital sexual relationships or adulterous, showing at all times a granitic intransigence towards the prostitution, the single mothers, the homosexual relationships and other ways of life considered to be sinful and immoral. It is in this climate where resurge the desires for the meat’s flesh which had long been dormant in the European conscience during centuries. As Kilgour states (1995) “the gothic played a significant part in the late eighteenth century debates over the moral reading dangers”. This era witnessed an unprecedented eroticism display, and make art into an immense showcase where it can be contemplated some practices until then dismissed by he society, for instance the onanism, the homosexuality, the necrophilia, the pedophilia, the incest, the fetishism, the sodomy, and one and thousand forms of sexual refinement represented with the unique feature of the main character of The Picture of Dorian Grey (1949) by Oscar Wilde. It is in this sense that Charles Baudelaire (1968), aware of the new historical conjuncture, articulated part of their poetical production based on the fears aroused by a feminine heterodox archetype, transgressive and vampírico, which Bram Dijkstra called “idols of perversity” (1994).

In addition, the contemporary man sweeps along a deep sense of dissatisfaction, of emptiness, of fear to the unknown. And in this fall of his state of grace, the woman represents an attraction towards the infinite, a fateful immersion into the powers of evil. The woman sweeps along the man towards his own destruction, but also towards unimaginable carnal joy ways. This hedonistic search of sexual pleasure spreads in the literature an extensive repertory of erotic elements that allude to the voluptuousness and the sensuality of its main characters. The texts of this era clearly shown a new vocabulary which is plentiful of red mouths, firm breasts, deep black eyes, lascivious gazes, fly away hairs, firm an anxious belly… Long gone is the “solitudo carnis”, the disdain of the boy and the feelings, so characteristic of the European live since the Middle Ages (Fumagalli 1990), and in its place we will find a true liturgy of pleasure, throughout the eroticism, the sensuality, the voluptuousness, and a healthy cast of figures and myths, used in order to reactivate the feelings previous mentioned.

The aesthetic of the end of this century was full of sensuality and it showed the hidden power and impenetrable female sexuality. The clothing, the cosmetics, the accessories and the appeals of the body become in the symbol of the new femininity. Women are described as beautiful...
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