From Bluebeard’s Bloody Chamber to Demonic Stigmatic

  • Marie Mulvey-Roberts


‘Female Gothic’ is a contested term which, when unveiled, is characterised by a number of recurring plots written by women writers. Ellen Moers, who coined the term, refers to the novels of one of its earliest exponents Ann Radcliffe, whose typical heroine is ’simultaneously persecuted victim and courageous heroine’.2 Her predecessor may be found in the ‘Bluebeard’ fairy tale, which in turn is a reworking of the archetypal narrative of female disobedience prompted by curiosity which appears in classical mythology as in the tale of Pandora’s Box, and in the Bible as the story of Eve. This chapter explores the relationships between desire, texts and death, including the connection between dangerous reading and sexual knowledge out of which spring archetypal narratives of female disobedience. Particular attention is given to the reworking of the motif of the forbidden room in the traditional Bluebeard fairy tale.


Fairy Tale Sexual Knowledge Romantic Love Woman Writer Subsequent Reference 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Ellen Moers, Literary Women, introd. Helen Taylor (London: The Women’s Press [1976], 1986), 91.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    J. and A. L. Aikin, Miscellaneous Pieces, in Prose (London: J. Johnson, 1773), 123.Google Scholar
  3. 18.
    Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, trans. and ed. James Strachey (New York: W. W. Norton, 1961), 68.Google Scholar
  4. 27.
    Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman: An Exercise in Cultural History (London: Virago [1979], 1984), 77.Google Scholar
  5. 29.
    Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho (Oxford: Oxford University Press [1794], 1992), 662.Google Scholar
  6. 30.
    Terry Castle, The Female Thermometer: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Invention of the Uncanny (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 132.Google Scholar
  7. 31.
    Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, The Coherence of Gothic Conventions (New York and London: Methuen [1980], 1986), 145.Google Scholar
  8. 41.
    Matthew Lewis, The Monk, ed. Howard Anderson (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press [1796], 1980), 160.Google Scholar
  9. 54.
    Elisabeth Bronfen, Over Her Dead Body: Death, Femininity and the Aesthetic (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992), 63.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Marie Mulvey-Roberts 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marie Mulvey-Roberts
    • 1
  1. 1.English DepartmentUniversity of the West of EnglandBristolUK

Personalised recommendations