Palmer discusses Caeia March‘s Between The Worlds (1996) and Sarah Walter‘s Affinity (1999). Palmer argues that writers of lesbian fiction are drawn to the Gothic because it is a form which has traditionally given space to the representation of transgressive sexualities. The Gothic is also a vehicle through which the interrogation and problematising of mainstream versions of reality and so-called ‘normal’ values is made possible. Palmer argues that these novels parodically rework the grotesque portrayal of character, which is familiar from mainstream Gothic fiction and film, and in doing so they challenge and resignify the category of the abject to which lesbians and gay men are conventionally relegated.
Gothic mansions, ghosts and particular friendships
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.