Haunted and Haunting Heroines within Gothic Settings: Alienation, Madness, and the Uncanny in Shirley Jackson’s Female Gothic
xmlui.mirage2.itemSummaryView.MetaDataShow full item record
Known for her short story collection The Lottery and Other Stories (1948), the American author Shirley Jackson (1916–1965) has been an inspiration for subsequent Gothic-fantastic and horror fiction writers. This dissertation analyzes Shirley Jackson’s novels— Hangsaman (1951), The Bird’s Nest (1954), The Sundial (1958), The Haunting of Hill House (1959), and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)— in light of the genre of the “Female Gothic,” a term coined by Ellen Moers in Literary Women (1976) to refer to literary works written by women in the Gothic mode since the eighteenth century. Incorporating fear and horror into the stories of alienated female characters in uncanny Gothic settings, “Female Gothic” has articulated women’s struggles to move outside the constrictive domestic sphere and beyond traditional, normative gender roles. Shirley Jackson’s fiction blurs the boundaries between the self and Gothic space, and between the real and the fantastic, thereby shedding light on how the corruption of human society, bigotry, moral degradation, the patriarchal order, and the remnants of the nineteenth century cult of true womanhood in the mid-twentieth century America trigger the female protagonists’ identity fragmentation, madness (mental turmoil/distress), and departure from “reality.” The Gothic-fantastic elements in Shirley Jackson’s novels, the uncanny motifs of Gothic doubles, fragmented/split identities, and Gothic mansions reflect personal traumas, and can either bring about self-infliction/destruction, or enable the resistance and subversion of social limitations and undesirable outside realities. Thus, Jackson’s haunted, Gothic sanctuaries have a paradoxical quality as they appear both as symbols of domestic confinement and imprisonment, and as a sort of fantastic refuge in which female characters, as haunted and haunting heroines, can disrupt patriarchy from within and establish a new order based on sisterhood.
The following license files are associated with this item: