The Feminine and the Hidden; Representations of Mystery and the Supernatural in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Gothic Tales

The Feminine and the Hidden; Representations of Mystery and the Supernatural in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Gothic Tales

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This dissertation will examine and analyse two of the macabre and gothic tales from the English author Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865); The Old Nurses Story (1852) and The Poor Clare (1857). Indicating and demonstrating how representations of mystery and the supernatural are used as vehicles of imagination, expression and exploration into the hidden depths of the female psyche through the use of Gothic fiction within the Victorian era (1837-1901). I intend to delve and explore into the identity of the feminine-self exposing the darker and intimate issues of the female Gothic, otherwise hidden within the oppressive constraints of the female role residing in Victorian society. Applying psychoanalytical examples, I shall discuss themes of the female role and repressed identity expressed through Gothic fiction, presenting how this is depicted within Gaskell’s work, through the use of the symbolic, imaginary and expedition into the journey of emotions of mind, body and soul, represented in the interior of her fictional stories, for example: “Gaskell draws on tales of strange and wild behaviour associated with often remote and mysterious places and legends about fate and doomed inheritance. The stories reflect Victorian preoccupations with mental states.” (Matus. 2007: 119).
Through close analysis of particular sections of Gaskell’s work’s The Old Nurses Story (1852) and The Poor Clare (1857) I will argue how aspects, in terms of language, style and form establish a sense of escapism for the Victorian female writer and the freedom of womanhood through fictional writing, underpinning points made with a feminist reading of the text’s. This dissertation will endeavour to understand how Gothic tales “represent the most striking of Gask...


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Smith, A. & Wallace, D. The Female Gothic Then and Now. [On-line] Available from: http://www4.ncsu.edu/~leila/documents/TheFemaleGothic-ThenNow.pdf. [Accessed 15th September 2011]

Thomson, D.H. & Gibson, L. (2001) A Glossary of Literary Gothic Terms. [On-line] Available from: http://personal.georgiasouthern.edu/~dougt/goth.html#info. [Accessed 15th September 2011]
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