Antonia White’s Frost in May
Gothic mansions, ghosts and particular friendships
in Queering the Gothic
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Antonia White utilises Gothic motifs and imagery to depict both the oppressive aspects of convent life and the pleasures of erotic attachments that the pupils form. The Convent resembles the typical Gothic castle or haunted house in the connection it displays with the uncanny. Topics of living burial and the haunted house are recapitulated in the tale told by Mother Poitier, a French nun admired by the pupils as a 'great repository of stories'. Considering Leonie's Beatrice transgressive disregard of conventions of femininity, White assigns to her the role of the champion of fairytale and Gothic fantasy as opposed to the humdrum world of realism and common sense. Gothic conventions and motifs become a vehicle for representing the transgressive nature of lesbian desire in hetero-patriarchal culture. White's treatment of female sexuality, as the oxymoronic title of the novel signals, bristles with contradictions.


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