Bleeding Nuns: A Genealogy of the Female Gothic Grotesque
Although the aesthetics of the sublime have received exhaustive treatment in relation to the Gothic novel, those of the grotesque have received scant attention, despite the fact that the whole concept of the grotesque as an artistic mode was under intense scrutiny during the period of the rise of the Gothic in the latter half of the eighteenth century, with another phase of debate and development in the writing of Hugo, Ruskin and Bagehot in the nineteenth century.1 Given the way in which the monstrous, the hybrid and the disgusting are central to the Gothic genre, this neglect by recent critics is somewhat surprising. The Gothic grotesque, moreover, as this essay will demonstrate, comes to be associated with the female, in contrast to the sublime, which from Burke’s Enquiry (1757) onwards, came to be conceived in specifically masculine terms.2 Where the Female Gothic grotesque has received some study is in an article on the southern Gothic of Carson McCullers, by Sarah Gleeson-White, in which the unruliness and gigantism of the female body becomes a mode of escape from ’southern daintiness’.3 Similarly, Mary Russo discussed the grotesque portrayal of femininity in twentieth-century Hollywood as an inherently liberatory mode for gesturing to feminist unease with ‘normality’ and the constraint of gender roles.
KeywordsParadise Lost Subsequent Reference American Historical Association Modern Realism Female Subjectivity
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