Introduction: Defining the Female Gothic

  • Diana Wallace
  • Andrew Smith


The term ‘Female Gothic’ has become much contested. When Ellen Moers coined the term in 1976 she thought that it could be ‘easily defined’ as ‘the work that women have done in the literary mode that, since the eighteenth century, we have called the Gothic’.1 A definition of ‘the Gothic’ was, however, ‘not so easily stated except that it has to do with fear’ (90). Moers’s pioneering work — two brief chapters in a book which was one of the earliest attempts to trace and value on its own terms a distinctive female tradition of writing — opened up what proved to be a very fertile field for critics. It can be seen as directly influential in the establishing of both women’s writing and the Gothic as central areas in literary studies.


Woman Writer Subsequent Reference Fertile Field Literary Woman Sibling Incest 
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  1. 1.
    Ellen Moers, Literary Women (London: The Women’s Press, [1976] 1978), 90.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Chris Baldick and Robert Mighall, ‘Gothic Criticism’ in David Punter, ed., A Companion to the Gothic (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 209–28Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Juliann Fleenor, ed., The Female Gothic (Montreal: Eden, 1983).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Margaret Ann Doody, ‘Deserts, Ruins and Troubled Waters: Female Dreams in Fiction and the Development of the Gothic Novel’, Genre 10 (Winter 1977), 529–72Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Claire Kahane, ‘The Gothic Mirror’ [1980] reprinted in Shirley Nelson Garner, Claire Kahane and Madelon Sprengnether, eds, The (M)other Tongue: Essays in Feminist Psychoanalytic Interpretation (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1985), 334–51.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    Avril Horner and Sue Zlosnik, Gothic and the Comic Turn (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2005).Google Scholar
  7. 19.
    Suzanne Becker, Gothic Forms of Feminine Fiction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  8. 20.
    Paulina Palmer, Lesbian Gothic: Transgressive Fictions (London: Cassell, 1999), 8.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    E. J. Clery, Women’s Gothic: From Clara Reeve to Mary Shelley, Writers and their Work series (Tavistock: Northcote, 2000), 2.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Diana Wallace and Andrew Smith 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana Wallace
    • 1
  • Andrew Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GlamorganUK

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