AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics

Gothic heroines and cultural trauma in 20th Century literature and film

by Eric Brownell

Institution: University of Minnesota
Year: 2015
Keywords: British modernism; Female Gothic; Film melodrama; Gothic; Trauma studies; English
Record ID: 2061348
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/11299/170948


Analyzes how 20th Century British writers and Hollywood filmmakers have adapted common features of the Gothic literary tradition - the imperiled but investigative heroine, the attractive but coercive villain, and the portrait of a female predecessor - to address massive traumas that have been repressed by, but which continue to affect, modern cultures. Argues that, in each case, the text "acts out" the repressed cultural trauma underlying its narrative through the heroine's narcissistic over-identification with a portrait of a female predecessor. However, through scenes that disturbingly mirror the heroine and the villain, each work portrays the consequence of that repression: an irruption of traumatic past violence in the present. While the works I consider thereby address the shortcomings of public narratives that strive to evade or redeem collective trauma, they also foreground Gothic ambiguity and excess to acknowledge the limits of their own representational responses.