Postmodern appropriations of Gothic romance by Angela Carter in The Passion of the New Eve or in Sexing the Cherry would recuperate its ambulatory, wildly phantasmatic turns as a vehicle for lesbian-feminist love, desire and sexual politics. This chapter examines how perverse it would be to situate alongside the heteronormative ideals of fictions such as The Mysteries of Udolpho and Clermont those romances, often associated with the male tradition in 1790s Gothic. They were fictions where the desires of the father are subjected to a range of queer representations. The reconfiguration of the laws of marriage encompassed by Michel Foucault's shift from ancient alliance to modern sexuality necessitates the phantasmatic construction of the perverse father of particularly queer rather than heterosexual enjoyments. As Gothic writing itself attests, the body of the Catholic was sexualised throughout the eighteenth century in decidedly queer ways.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book demonstrates that incest was representative of a range of interests crucial to writers of the Gothic, often women or homosexual men who adopted a critical stance in relation to the heteronormative patriarchal world. Incest, a sexual act associated with transgression, violations of power and violence, has readily been conflated with sexual violence in Gothic scholarship and consigned to one of two gendered plots. Sexuality, questions of ownership, inheritance, women's subjugation to male authority, laws of coverture and primogeniture and issues concerning gender roles pervade Gothic works from the mid-eighteenth century on. The incest thematic as employed by women writers in the early modern period is shown to be transgressively endogamic in Maureen Quilligan's excellent work on incest in Elizabethan England.
There are several problems that usually emerge in scholarship examining representations of father-daughter incest in the Gothic, even in works by scholars whose goal is to lay bare the feminist themes that are central to the genre. Principal among these is that representations of father-daughter incest often cause works to be placed in the gendered subgenre of Female Gothic and to be viewed through a lens predicated on this generic division. This chapter examines the incestuous relationships between fathers and daughters in Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, Ann Radcliffe's The Romance of the Forest and Mary Shelley's Matilda and the texts' attendant scholarship. These three works have been selected in order to compare the way that incest is rendered in a representative chronology of Gothic texts beginning with what has been traditionally defined as the original Gothic novel.