In chapter 7, Agnes Andeweg focuses on the Gothic dimensions of sisterhood in Dutch feminist fiction. Renate Dorrestein’s (1954) fictional autobiography Het perpetuum mobile van de liefde (The Perpetual Motion Machine of Love, 1988) offers a case of Gothic monstrosity perceived from a feminist perspective. Whereas the feminine monster has usually been read as indicator of the register of difference, in Dorrestein’s work the monster is monstrous because of an uncanny resemblance between Self and Other. Dorrestein investigates the feminist notion of sisterhood through the autobiographical narrative about her sister’s suicide and fictional monsters. By making the political personal again, Dorrestein finds modes to express the unspeakable rivalry and competition between sisters – and that includes feminists.
Although the preoccupation of Gothic storytelling with the family has often been observed, it invites a more systematic exploration. Gothic Kinship brings together case studies of Gothic kinship ties in film and literature and offers a synthesis and theoretical exploration of the different appearances of the Gothic family. The volume explores the cultural mediation of the shifting relations of kinship and power in gothic fictionfrom the eighteenth century up to the present day. Writers discussed include early British Gothic writers such as Eleanor Sleath and Louisa Sidney Stanhope as well as a range of later authors writing in English, including Elizabeth Gaskell, William March, Stephen King, Poppy Z. Brite, Patricia Duncker, J. K. Rowling and Audrey Niffenegger. There are also essays on Dutch authors (Louis Couperus and Renate Dorrestein) and on the film directors Wes Craven and Steven Sheil. Arranged chronologically, the various contributions show that both early and contemporary Gothic display very diverse kinship ties, ranging from metaphorical to triangular, from queer to nuclear-patriarchal. Gothic proves to be a rich source of expressing both subversive and conservative notions of the family.
This introduction situates the volume within the existing academic literature on gothic and family relations, and introduces the guiding research questions. Within Gothic studies, the central role of kinship relations has been acknowledged but it has seldom been studied as a topic in itself; within disciplines that study kinship, such as anthropology or history, the attention for Gothic has been lacking. Starting from the assumption that Gothic fiction is a key site where sociocultural figurations of the family are negotiated, this volume aims to analyze how Gothic figurations of kinship both contest and reinforce orthodox notions of the nuclear family. The chapters address such questions as: how does Gothic fiction mediate the ways in which the family is understood, both as a shifting constellation of social and personal ties and as a powerful regulatory ideal; how does Gothic fiction configure, refigure or disfigure conceptualizations and representations of kinship; when do cultural figurations of kinship become Gothic?