Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in English

Department

English

First Advisor

Colby H. Kullman

Second Advisor

Charles Gates

Third Advisor

Natalie Schroeder

Abstract

Without question, Gothic literature provides an impressively suitable venue for the expression of societal anxieties and frustrations, especially those concerning power, patriarchy, and the socially sanctioned roles of women (i.e. to be obediently passive wives and nurturing mothers) and men (i.e. to be representatives of strength, rationality, morality, and order). While it might seem as though supernatural entities or outside forces are often to be feared in Gothic literature, the most sinister force is usually that of the protagonist's unsettled mind. The shadowy haunted houses and often isolated, gloomy, and claustrophobic spaces in which terrorized protagonists are trapped frequently mirror the fragmented psyches which likewise imprison both authors and their subjects. Gothic texts, therefore, present a fitting backdrop for the display of the collective fears and unpleasant realities characteristic of nineteenth and early twentieth-century America, and in doing so they provide an acceptable medium for the discussion of topics previously ignored by respectable society. The purpose of this dissertation will be to examine the various ways in which textual, authorial, and character doubling by specific male and female authors of the American Gothic tradition provide an outlet for the reflection of nineteenth and early twentieth-century anxieties, paying special attention to those anxieties brought about by expectations of femininity and masculinity and the resulting identity crises suffered as a consequence of the repression of self in favor of convention.

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