Haunted Narratives: The Afterlife of Gothic Aesthetics in Contemporary Transatlantic Women’s Fiction Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Dallis, Jameela
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • My dissertation examines the afterlife of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Gothic aesthetics in twentieth and twenty-first century texts by women. Through close readings and attention to aesthetics and conventions that govern the Gothic, I excavate connections across nation, race, and historical period to engage critically with Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, 1959; Angela Carter’s “The Lady of the House of Love,” 1979; Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night, 1996; and Toni Morrison’s Love, 2003. These authors consciously employ such aesthetics to highlight and critique the power of patriarchy and imperialism, the continued exclusion of others and othered ways of knowing, loving, and being, and the consequences of oppressing, ignoring, or rebuking these peoples, realities, and systems of meaning. Such injustices bear evidence to the effects of transatlantic commerce fueled by the slave trade and the appropriation and conquering of lands and peoples that still exert a powerful oppressive force over contemporary era peoples, especially women and social minorities. This oppression occurs in ways similar to the perils endured by early Gothic characters. Yet, that subjugating power is not all-consuming. Despite the cruelty and violence, trampled aspirations, and tragic finales prevalent in Gothic narratives, another reality remains: women authors still use the Gothic form to push for a reality where women and other minorities can be treated fairly and achieve a state of being that is the result of their own fashioning. The Gothic is therefore irrevocably chained to issues of gender and sexuality. Jackson, Carter, Mootoo, and Morrison are a diverse group of writers. Though the texts I examine are related thematically as they all bear evidence of Gothic conventions, the authors’ styles, socio-historical backgrounds, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and professional affiliations are relatively disparate. Yet, taken together, their texts attest to the afterlife of the Gothic—the persistence of the genre’s defining characteristics into our contemporary period. These authors engage purposefully with less-acknowledged, non-rational truths that disrupt the grand narrative of positivism and create space for transformation. Finally, my comparative approach situates these authors within transnational, transhistorical, and intercultural contexts and opens up new ways of reading their texts.
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  • In Copyright
  • DeGuzmán, María
  • Salvaggio, Ruth
  • Coleman, James
  • Gwin, Minrose
  • Legassie, Shayne
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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