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Varieties of Female Gothic

By Mulvey-Roberts, Marie | Gothic Studies, November 2006 | Go to article overview

Varieties of Female Gothic

Mulvey-Roberts, Marie, Gothic Studies

Varieties of Female Gothic, edited by Gary Kelly. 6 Volume Set (Pickering and Chatto, London, 2002), ISBN: 2002 85196 717, 2056pp., £495/$840.

Volume 1: Enlightenment Gothic and Terror Gothic. General Introduction; Volume introduction; The Champion of Virtue: A Gothic Story (1777), by Clara Reeve; The Traditions: A Legendary Tale (1795), by Mary Butt (later Sherwood).

Volume 2: Street Gothic - Female Gothic Chapbooks. Sir Bertrand's Adventures in a Ruinous Castle: The Story of Fitzalan: The Adventure James III of Scotland had with the weird sisters in the dreadful wood of Birnan: The Story of Raymond Castle: The Ruin of the House of Albert: And Mary, a Fragment (1800), by Anna Laetitia Barbauld; The Recess: A Tale of Past Times, by Sophia Lee; Rayland Hall or, The Remarkable Adventures of Orlando Somerville: An original Story [The Old Manor House], by Charlotte Smith; The Midnight Assassin: or, Confession of the Monk Rinaldi containing A Complete History of the Diabolical Machinations and unparelled [sic] Ferocity together with a circumstantial account of that scourge of mankind The Inquisition with their manner of bringing to trial those unfortunate beings who are under their clutches [The Italian]; The Southern Tower: or, Conjugal Sacrifice and Retribution [A Sicilian Romance], by Ann Radcliffe; The Spectres of Lord Oswald and Lady Rosa, Including an Account of the Marchioness of Civetti, who was basely consigned to a Dungeon beneath her Castle by her eldest Son, whose cruel Avarices plunged him into the Commission of the worst of Crimes, that stain the Annals of the Human Race: An Original Romantic Tale (1814); The White Pilgrim; or, Castle of Olival: An interesting and affecting tale, founded on singular facts translated from the popular French novel, Le Pelerin Blanc (n.d.); The White Cottage of the Valley; or, The Mysterious Husband: An Original, Interesting Romance (n.d.) by Sarah Wilkinson.

Volume 3: Erotic Gothic. Introduction; The Libertine (1807), by Charlotte Dacre.

Volumes 4 and 5: Historical Gothic. Introduction; The Scottish Chiefs, A Romance (1810), by Jane Porter.

Volume 6: Orientalist Gothic. Lady Morgan, The Missionary: An Indian Tale (1811), by Sydney Owenson.

Gary Kelly has accomplished a tour de force by providing a new mapping of the history of the female Gothic that has revolutionary contours. Radically, he sees the female Gothic as a sub-genre that is central and not marginal to the development of the novel and feminism as an expression of it, rather than a belated interpretation. He also departs from choosing the most obvious and instantly representative texts of this sub-genre. Pragmatically, he has set out to supplement readily available texts with lesser known varieties that reflect the canonical and non-canonical, the culturally high and low, in classifications that convey the varieties of female Gothic writing.

The very hybridism of the novels pushes the envelope for the taxonomist, as in the case of Jane Porter's The Scottish Chiefs (1810), contained within two volumes, labelled 'Historical Gothic'. This is a rich female Gothic distillation of the national tale, the historical romance, historiography, and historic popular culture that bridges national identity, the individual and the family, and is contained within a Biblically inspired narrative trajectory. Many of the components in this list have been retained in the modern reincarnation of the film Braveheart (1995), directed by its leading man,Mel Gibson. Again, Sydney Owenson's [Lady Morgan's] The Missionary (1811),which is designated 'Orientalist Gothic' in volume 6, is a concoction of the historical Gothic, the national tale, the novel of passion and the Gothic romance, as well as being informed by Romantic Orientalism. Often the Gothic aspects to these texts are over-shadowed by other pieces of the mosaic, as in Charlotte Dacre's The Libertine (1807), classified as 'Erotic Gothic', which is notably lacking in both Gothic and erotic elements.

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