Aspects of female sexuality figure prominently in Gothic literature insofar as there is a strong preoccupation with what may happen if female sexuality is not contained within the structures of patriarchal authority across many Gothic texts. The highly disturbing image of Lucy the “Un-Dead” throwing the child whom she was cradling in her arms earlier on onto the hard ground without so much as a blink in the eye in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) encapsulates one example of such a preoccupation—that of motherhood gone wrong. The mother-child relationship—one that is usually regarded as nurturing and loving—is violently destabilized at this instance where Lucy—as the symbolic mother—harms the child whom she was supposed to be protecting. Relating to motherhood, the theme of birth signals the preoccupation with the unknowable dimensions of female sexuality that many Gothic texts exhibit. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1831), the birth of Victor Frankenstein’s creation is depicted as one that is monstrous insofar as it is “unnatural”; Frankenstein is, symbolically, both father and mother to the creation that he abhors from the moment of its birth. Given that it was a woman who authored Frankenstein, this then signals how female sexuality—in all its different aspects—was very much on the minds of both men and women in Victorian Britain. When seen alongside the socio-cultural-historical developments in Victorian Britain, it becomes possible then to view the depictions of female sexuality in Gothic literature as responses to women’s increasing freedom and mobility during this period; Mina Harker in Dracula, for instance, is very much a response to the New Woman phenomenon.
Courtesy of Ashley Lin, National University of Singapore
See also: sexuality
The Gothic Story of Courville Castle; or the Illegitimate Son, a Victim of Prejudice and Passion: Owing to the Early Impressions Inculcated with Unremitting Assiduity by an Implacable Mother Whose Resentment to Her Husband Excited Her Son to Envy, Usurpation, and Murder; but Retributive Justice at Length Restores the Right Heir to His Lawful Possessions. To Which is Added the English Earl: or the History of Robert Fitzwalter, Unknown
The Mysteries of a London Convent [transcript], William H. Hillyard
The Ruins of the Abbey of Fitz-Martin [Transcript], Thomas Isaac Horsley Curties