Women in literature represent many things. They are sometimes omnipresent and protagonist, but also feared, dangerous and often completely forgotten. The role of women throughout the History of literature is quite representative and relevant to understand the Historical moment. Gothic is no exception. In Gothic fiction we find different kinds of women, which embody the views of society towards women in the late nineteenth-century in England and Ireland.
A fully developed professional theatre that emerged in England in the 1580s had a “profound effect on the ways the gendered body was staged” (Michael Billing, 16). Early modern constructions of the gendered body were “viewed as along a continuum” moving in one direction or the other (Will Fisher, 6). This idea can suggest the performativity of gender rather than its ontological core on the early modern stage. Shakespeare’s comedies may suggest that masculinity on the stage is like “a suit of clothes” that could be put on or taken off at will (Bruce R. Smith, 3). While dramatists of this period question the validity of female stereotypes .
The earlier gothic works as well as Dracula covered something that is outside the social norm. Female sexuality, something that was unacceptable and under the surface of society, it is exposed in these writings. The earlier readings such as Carmilla, as well as the poem of Christabel question the boundaries. The texts from these literature pieces contain passages of female sexuality and the passages contain phrases that hint towards the social taboos. In the era when women were thought of mere objects these pieces decide to give them a personality or at least a voice that can express desire, a voice that states women have a purpose apart from pleasing men.
Shakespeare identifies in his play that if individuals are to waver from these gender expectations, they would be defying social norms and reaping the consequences of their defiant actions. In the play, Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare clearly portrays the time period of when women were
Nineteenth-century fin-de-siècle witnessed the emergence of the New Woman who is “an outspoken, independent and thoroughly modern woman, whose “masculine” behaviours made her something of a monster” (199). In fact, monstrosity in nineteenth-century gothic productions is “largely interpellated by the Symbolic gaze” that relegates the New Woman’s transgressive acts to oddity (Hock-soon Ng 2). Women’s assertive and aggressive behaviours contradict with “the Symbolic normative” that inscribes them within the discourse of monstrosity (2). In The Madwoman in the Attic, Gilbert and Gubar explain that women’s “assertiveness, aggressiveness – all characteristics of male life of “significant action” - are “monstrous” in women precisely because “unfeminine” and therefore unsuited to a gentle life of “contemplative purity” (28). The she-monster thus, not only crosses the boundaries of normativity but also jeopardizes the constructed conception of femininity and humanity.
“For the concept of the monstrous feminine, as constructed within/by a patriarchal and phallocentric ideology, is related intimately to the problem of sexual differences and castration.” (Creed, 1993, p.2) Creed takes an interesting approach to Kristeva theory of abjection and Freud’s theory of castration and applies it to horror film. Taking Kristeva’s theory of the abject and the archaic mother, she constructs monstrous representations of the abject woman. The monstrous womb which is the representation of mans fear of woman’s maternal functions. “Fear of the archaic mother turns out to be essentially fear of her generative power. It is this power, a dreaded one, that patrilineal filiation has the burden of subduing.” (Kristeva, 1982, p.77) Freud argued that woman terrifies because she is castrated.
In the case of the “feminine” groups, they’re commonly represented as being dainty and second-rate, and are reinforced into that image by society’s standards; women are viewed as caregivers and don’t hold as much power as men and homosexual men are shown as “sissys” due to their feminine-like traits. In addition, similar to women, being queer is viewed as a disability. This can be tied back to Baynton’s text, which states, “. . .
The notion of ‘beauty doesn’t matter’ in this day and age is exploited and persecuted where the women who don’t abide by modern standards of beauty are framed as the ‘other’, similar to the creature. It is the ongoing relevance of Shelley’s nineteenth century work via strongly exercised misogyny accentuated by fragile masculinity that feminist interpretation is
They are used, at times, as either a tool of manipulation, a form of propaganda or sometimes both. During the time and spaces of Shakespeare there was a social construct of gender and sexuality norms as there are today. There was a hierarchy of sexes and each had their own specified role in society. Obviously men were to be only masculine; they were / are not to be ruled by emotion, passion. And they were / are supposed to be too strong in
Through the years, the depiction of women and men have always been different. The womanly form is designed to flatter men, who are assumed to be the ‘ideal spectators’. Not only are the relationships between men and women poor, so are the relationships of women with themselves. The woman turns herself into an object; the surveyor in her becomes male. Tired of being interpreted as subjects by both genders, women artists revolted during the feminist movement with art that reflected women’s lives and experiences.