Castles of Concealment

Clayton, D. (2017) Castles of Concealment. Undergraduate thesis, University of Chichester.

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In his essay ‘Literature and Homosexuality in the Late Eighteenth Century’ (1986) George E. Haggarty claims that Horace Walpole, Matthew Lewis, and William Beckford - male instigators of the Gothic - were all homosexual. ‘Beckford notoriously, Lewis probably, and Walpole iffily,’ says Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, in her book, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosexual Desire (1985). Haggarty claims the debauchery featured in their work was born of a desire to vent homosexual frustration. Gothic then, was initially ‘queer’. However, this new genre was swiftly taken up by women writers, most notable among them being the novelist Anne Radcliffe (1764-1823). Soon the Gothic became a vehicle for the expression of women’s fears concerning their lack of autonomy in law, particularly when it came to matrimony. Termed ‘Terror Gothic’ by Radcliffe, the principle feature of this feminine strand was the crumbling medieval castle, appropriated from Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764). Its damp dungeons and dark hidden places becoming a metaphor for the domestic home; a place which for women should have been a haven of security and protection, but also proved to be a place where, hidden from view, they could be imprisoned and abused. With this central concern came the attendant feminine elements of sororophobia, female sensibility, and the beautiful (juxtaposed with the masculine sublime).
Although modern society now strives towards sexual equality, echoes of the patriarchy still reverberate, and in the Twentieth Century, female authors continued to feature these same elements of Radcliffian Terror Gothic in their work; bringing the reader’s attention to injustices still being metered out to women by their male counterparts.
The three authors under discussion here: Stella Gibbons, Elizabeth Taylor, and Iris Murdoch, are all working with different agendas, but are engaging with the same Gothic tropes to achieve those ends, utilising imprisonment within the ‘castle’ as the central theme, along with its ancillary concerns, to focus on male usurpation, and the vulnerability of the female.

Item Type: Thesis (Undergraduate)
Additional Information: BA (Hons) English Literature
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Departments > English and Creative Writing
Undergraduate Dissertations
Depositing User: Wendy Ellison
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2017 10:15
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2017 10:21

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