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Reading Gothic FictionA Bakhtinian Approach$
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Jacqueline Howard

Print publication date: 1994

Print ISBN-13: 9780198119920

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198119920.001.0001

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Women and the Gothic

Women and the Gothic

Chapter:
(p.53) 2 Women and the Gothic
Source:
Reading Gothic Fiction
Author(s):

Jacqueline Howard

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198119920.003.0003

This chapter examines critically some current feminist positions vis-à-vis the Gothic and describes the construction in critical discourse of ‘female Gothic’, before situating the rise of Gothic fiction in relation to 18th-century discourses of sensibility, the sublime, originality, and genius. It is argued that, because these discourses privileged lack of classical learning and ‘female’ sensibility, they were, for a time, in an important respect enabling ones for aspiring women writers. As novelists, women appropriated discourses about sensibility and ‘original genius’ to bring the Gothic romance to its position of dominance in the 1790s. The final section of the chapter rehearses important particulars of the discussion in Chapter 1 of the plural dimensions of reading, and discusses the usefulness of Bakhtin for feminists constructing politically effective readings while acknowledging their partiality.

Keywords:   female Gothic, Gothic fiction, female sensibility, originality, women novelists, genius

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