This book investigates the functioning of Gothic clothing as a discursive mechanism in the production of Gothic bodies. It presents the debates surrounding the fashion for decolletage during and immediately following the French Revolution, linking these discourses with the exposure of women's bodies in Gothic fiction. The popularisation of the chemise-dress by Marie Antoinette, and the subsequent revival of the classical shift by the women of the Directory, inflected the representation of female Gothic bodies in this period with political rhetoric. The book examines the function of clothing in early to mid-Victorian Gothic. It suggests that the Gothic trappings of veil and disguise take on new resonance in the literature of the period, acquiring a material specificity and an association with discourses of secrecy and madness. The book also investigates a nexus of connections between dandies, female-to-male crossdressing, and monstrosity. It then traces the development of the female doppelganger in the twentieth century, according to the ideologies of femininity implicated in contemporary women's magazines such as Cosmopolitan. In a world where women are encouraged to aspire towards an ideal version of themselves, articulated through fashion and lifestyle choices, the 'single' girl is represented as a problematically double entity in Gothic texts. The book examines the revival of Gothic style in the fashions of the 1990s. Gothic fashion is constantly revisited by the trope of the undead, and is continually undergoing a 'revival', despite the fact that according to popular perception it has never really died in the first place.
produce its most characteristic effects, and when the
body does appear, it is usually to be defined through what it is
wearing, or at least what it has taken off. Above all there is no
natural or authentic body in Gothic fictions, but only socially and
sartorially constructed bodies. Thus the Gothicbody, when it appears,
is plural in form and in a constant state of refashioning.
The process of bodily
Halberstam’s contribution is perhaps most
significant in her gesture towards the Gothicbody as a kind of
patchwork entity, stitched together from fragments and scraps of
discourse. Following on from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
(1818), the idea of an artificially assembled being whose piecemeal
identity challenges the Enlightenment notion of the well
Angela Carter‘s Exposure of Flesh-Inscribed Stereotypes
The human body is a crucial site for the inscription of cultural paradigms: how people are perceived controls the way they are treated. Postmodernist writers have shown sexual roles, racial inequalities and other forms of discrimination to be parts of a process of reductio ad absurdum, consisting of the identification of the individual‘s social functions with their anatomical features as well as with the habitual marking of their bodies. This article examines Angela Carter‘s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman where Carter‘s refusal of established body politics is most clearly dramatised. This novel exposes the dreary consequences of power/weakness relations, together with its contradictory exploitation of Gothic devices, making it an esssential testimony to Carter‘s postmodernist reconfiguration of worldviews and narrative modes.
Dandies, cross-dressers and freaks in late-Victorian Gothic
the individual human body. As Kelly Hurley argues in
The GothicBody ( 1996 ): ‘The province of the nineteenth-century human
sciences was after all very like that of the earlier Gothic novel: the
pre-Victorian Gothic provided a space wherein to explore phenomena at
the borders of human identity and culture – insanity, criminality,
barbarity, sexual perversion – precisely those phenomena which
political ends, so could the Gothicbody: on the one hand shackled by
the fetters of fashion; on the other revelling in its fantastic drapery.
The fiction often combines both in the same text, deploying one against
another. Just as innocence and worldliness form an inseparable binary in
the fiction of this period, so do the excessively clothed and naturally
At the time of their publication, Joanna Baillie‘s dramas were considered to be works of genius in their sustained and powerful fixation on one of the several possible human passions. In their very focus on these intense emotions, however, the plays actually reified the dangers inherent in the extremes of human passion. In other words, by fixing her attention on the passions, Baillie revealed that the emotions she was supposedly focused on often masked other, even more powerful desires. Thus, in Orra fear is the result of the heroines hatred of male dominance, while in De Monfort hatred is shown to be the symptom of incestuous love. But what has not been noticed about Baillie‘s plays is their almost obsessive interest in dead, abjected male bodies. Both plays present a very gothic vision of the indestructible patriarchy, an uncanny phallic power that cannot die, that persistently resurrects and feeds on itself or the legends that it has constructed.
Victorian Gothic fiction traces the complex paths between madness, self-presentation, and consumerism, representing all three in terms of a Gothicised subjectivity fashioned from clothes. Self-presentation became an essential element of social advancement and tied into discourses of self-help. The notion of concealment is a vital element of selfhood in the Victorian period. It is the process of concealment that is of importance to Victorian self-fashioning and not what is actually being hidden. Clothing plays a more complex role than a mere 'disguise' for an implicitly 'true' identity or 'deeper' emotions. Attention to dress played a small but significant part in discussions of madness. Under the broader doctrine of moral management, it could provide a means both of identifying insanity and of treating it. The practice of a kind of moral management through clothing by female characters is a frequent feature in novels of the 1860s and 1870s.
The doppelganger or double is a frequently noted feature of Gothic fiction. The key critical text to theorise male doubles in Gothic literature is Eve Sedgwick's Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. Daphne du Maurier's novel Rebecca sets the blueprint for the twentieth-century novel of the female double. Emma Tennant's novella The Bad Sister is a rewrite of Confessions of a Justified Sinner from the perspective of a female protagonist. In Rebecca, The Bad Sister and Single White Female, clothing provides a primary mechanism through which the exploration of the doppelganger theme is produced. Single White Female is saturated with fashion discourse. The film's title implicitly suggests the threat of the double to the construct of the 'single' woman, a historically specific category of femininity brought into being by magazines like Cosmopolitan.
This chapter untangles some of the ways in which Goth style has permeated contemporary Gothic discourses, from the vampire fiction of Brite and Rice to the representation of Goth girls in teen movies. It foregrounds the dialectic between individual participants in the subculture and representations of Goth in a variety of media, from fashion journalism to fiction. The chapter explores the kind of critical investments made in contemporary depictions of Goth, in particular constructions of the subculture as middle-class, 'Taking it', and gendered feminine. It also examines the recycling of Goth style in mainstream fashion and haute couture, questioning why throughout the 1990s, the Gothic look always seemed to be coming back. Towards the end of the twentieth century, the critical discourses surrounding Gothic demonstrated a shift away from psychoanalytical modes towards historicism. In doing so, these discourses exhibited a heightened self-consciousness about the processes of critical and textual production.