Since the early debates about ‘Female Gothic’ in the 1970s and 1980s, inspired by Second-Wave Feminism, the theorisation of gender has become increasingly sophisticated and has resulted in a long interrogation of the category ‘woman’. There was, however, a political price to pay for this, in so far as feminism gave way to the problematics of post-feminism, now itself being interrogated by a younger generation of women. The contributors in this volume tackle such conundrums in lively chapters that explore Gothic works – from established classics to recent films and novels – from feminist and/or post-feminist perspectives. The result is a book that combines rigorous close readings with elegant use of theory in order to question some ingrained assumptions about women, the Gothic and identity.
Ranging from late-eighteenth-century Gothic fiction to twenty-firstcentury science fiction films and Gothic video game-playing, as well as recent novels dealing with virtual reality, this volume offers coverage both of established classics within the Gothic canon (for example, novels by Radcliffe, Braddon, Stoker and du Maurier) and less well-known, more recent texts (work by Yvonne Heidt, Cate Culpepper and Scarlett Thomas, for example). Several rather disturbing key features emerge from the analyses of such wide-ranging material. Despite the considerable economic, social and legal progress (at least in the Western world) made by women, Gothic texts still frequently convey anxiety and anger about the lot of women. Many of the works analysed in this volume reflect women's lack of agency; the continued polarisation of women through patterns of antithesis such as good/ bad, saint/sinner and virgin/ whore; a continued use of stereotypes; and the pathologisation of women who fail to conform to traditional expectations. While these vary in expression and representation across the centuries and across cultures, they are depressingly constant and suggest that women have been and still feel disadvantaged and disempowered. On the other hand, the use of Gothic effects to celebrate transgressive female energy and iconoclasm is perhaps greater and more subtle now than it was when Charlotte Dacre wrote Zofloya, or The Moor in the early nineteenth century.
While works by male Gothic authors are discussed in several of the chapters, the main focus of Women and the Gothic is unashamedly on women: women characters within texts; women as Gothic authors; women as readers; women as critics; women as theorists.