Still Life: Representations of Passivity in the Gothic Novel

  • Author / Creator
    Wight, Dana L
  • This dissertation explores the strategic possibilities of passivity as a form of agency in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British gothic novel in order to recuperate its representations of the passive female body as sites of feminist resistance. Using the methodologies of feminist and psychoanalytic theories and gothic literary criticism, this project examines four specific representations of passivity: fainting, sleep, illness, and death. These conditions are characteristic of a gothic mode that emerges with the birth of the novel, and continues to develop throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As such, this project closely examines key texts published at fifty-year intervals between 1740 and 1847. The first chapter considers Samuel Richardson’s proto-gothic novel Pamela (1740), whose titular heroine repeatedly faints when she is attacked by her rapacious master. The second chapter investigates violent bedchamber scenes in Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796) and Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian (1797), in which the would-be victims of rape and murder prove impenetrable, as their sleeping forms render their attackers impotent and immobile. The third chapter moves into the nineteenth century with an analysis of illness as strategic incapacity in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847), while the fourth and final chapter returns to Richardson with an examination of the heroine’s will towards death in Clarissa (1748). The purpose of this project is to expand rather than narrow the gothic system of representation to include affirmative readings of passivity as a means to (re)discover embodied forms of subjectivity in the gothic novel.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2012
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.