Fearful spheres and domestic rebellion : reading the Female Gothic in selected twentieth century literary texts

Rochat, Nicole Aletta (2017-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Due to the nature of the separate spheres of Western society during the mid-Nineteenth to mid-Twentieth centuries, men were put into the public sphere to learn and contribute to knowledge, create and pass laws, and lead society. Women were forced into the private sphere, taught to stay within the domestic, and to conform to the oppressive expectations of gender norms. This thesis will explore the troubled relationship between women and the domestic, where the literature devoted to this study comments on popular fictional tropes for women in selected Gothic texts, where seemingly the only way to avoid being denied agency is through madness and death. This study aims to pursue such troubled legacies by looking at selected female-authored texts within the genre of the Female Gothic and Magical Realism. By aligning myself with critics like Diana Wallace, I explore texts such as Charlotte Perkins- Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” by examining the Foucauldian power struggle within medical discourse in the Western late Nineteenth Century, access to knowledge, and gendered ways of reading. By comparing Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Angela Carter’s short story “The Bloody Chamber”, I aim to show the construction of an imagined version of a place through shards of conversation, which slightly intersects with Walter Benjamin’s theory of the auratic when showing the difference between engaging with something authentically, or engaging with an imagined version of reality. I discuss the palimpsesting nature of rewriting familiar stories, drawing attention to how the texts, written many decades apart, point to the voicelessness of women within even modern revisited texts. I then discuss Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, exploring the allure of the domestic for those who seek a home, and showing how Jackson reveals that for her, madness and death were written as the only escape from domestic imprisonment. Finally I approach a postmodern Mexican novel, Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, examining the palimpsesting nature of parody based on the Nineteenth Century tradition of monthly instalment magazines for housewives in Mexico. Here I also explore the intersection of the Female Gothic within the practice of Magical Realism in literature, where the domestic realm is both a prison and a space of empowerment for the main character. I aim to draw attention to the ways in which the selected texts show how inherited female traditions root women within prescribed gender roles and a rigid domesticity, of which authors from the Nineteenth Century until contemporary times still seem to comment on the outworn conclusion that the only escape for women characters in Gothic texts of domestic imprisonment is through madness and death.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: As gevolg van die aard van die afsonderlike sfere van die Westerse samelewing gedurende die middel van die 19de tot die middel 20ste eeu, was die mens in die publieke sfeer geplaas om te leer, by te dra tot kennis, wette te maak en te laat aanneem as ook om die samelewing te lei. Vroue was gedwing in die private sfeer, geleer om huishoudelik te bly en te konformeer en om aan te pas by die onderdrukkende verwagtinge van geslagsnormes. Hierdie verhandeling sal die onrusbarende verhouding tussen vroue en die huiswerker, waar literatuur met betrekking tot hierdie studie, meld van populere fiktiewe wending vir vroue in uitgesoekte Gotiese tekste waar dit blyk dat die enigste manier om weiering van werksaamheid te vermy, deur kranksinnigheid en die dood is. Die doel van hierdie studie is om diesulke sorgwekkende nalatenskap na te volg deur te kyk na gekose vroulik-geskrewe tekste binne die genre van die Vroulike Gotiese en Magiese Realisme. Deur myself te verbind met kritici soos Diana Wallace, ondersoek ek tekste soos Charlotte Perkins-Gilman se "The Yellow Wallpaper" deur die Foucauldian magstryd binne die mediese redevoering gedurende die Westerse laat 19de eeu, toegang tot kennis en geslagte se wyse van lees. Deur middel van Daphne du Maurier se Rebecca en Angela Carter se kortverhaal "The Bloody Chamber" streef ek om die konstruksie van 'n verbeelde weergawe van 'n plek deur middel van brokkies gesprekke wat effens kruis met Walter Benjamin se teorie van die essensie wanneer gekyk word na die verskil tussen verbintenis met 'n denkbeeldige weergawe van die realiteit. Ek bespreek die palimpsestiese aard van die oorskryf van bekende stories wat die aandag vestig oor hoe die tekste wat dekades uitmekaar geskryf was, dui op die stemloosheid van vroue, selfs binne modern hersiene tekste. Ook bespreek ek Shirley Jackson se The Haunting of Hill House, ondersoek die aanloklikheid vir die huiswerker wat 'n tuiste soek en sien hoe Jackson openbaar dat vir haar, kranksinnigheid en dood geskryf was as die enigste ontsnapping vanuit die lewe van gevangenis waarin die huiswerker haar bevind. Laastens benader ek 'n post-moderne Meksikaanse roman, Laura Esquivel se Like Water for Chocolate met ondersoek na die palimpsistiese aard van parodie gebaseer op die 19de eeu se tradisie van maandelike artikels en stories vir tydskrifte vir vroue in Mexiko. Hier ondersoek ek ook die kruising van die Vroulike Goties binne die praktyk van die Magiese Realisme in litertuurm waar die kombuis-realm beide 'n gevangenis en 'n ruimte van mag is vir die hoofkarakter. Ek poog om die aandag te vestig op die wyse waarin die gekose tekste toon hoe oorgewerfde vroulike tradisies wortel geskiet het in vroue binne voorgeskrewe geslagsrolle waarvan skrywers van die neentiende eeu tot kontemporere tye nog steeds blyk om kommentaar te lewer oor die uitgediende gevolgtrekking dat die enigste ontvlugting vir vroulike karakters in Gotiese tekste, van die gevangenskap van huiswerkers, deur kranksinnigheid en dood is.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/101313
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