Sexuality, Danger, and the Gothic
Rachel Harper (University of Tennessee)
While Gothic literature is popularly known for its iconic usage of the dark and macabre, another common trope within this genre is its conflation of sexuality with danger. Romance is expressed within a hunter/prey binary, while sexual undertones are often cultivated amidst a pervading sense of fear. What makes this fusion of sex and fear so inextricable, as well as popular, and what role does gender play in this binary? To answer this question, I track the recurring conflation of sex and danger through popular fictional works spanning nearly a century: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight (2005), and E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey (2011). While an element of horror is a driving force in any Gothic plot, we can watch the ways in which this element shifts as time moves forward, morphing the Gothic into a genre with far darker repercussions than an unsettled mind. Two very common elements of the earlier aforementioned works are the Byronic figure and the sexualization of fear. This protected, voyeuristic experience of danger is, I argue, what draws readers into this genre—a safe exploration of otherwise unapproachable, even unrealistic, and dangerous situations. However, as modern Gothic novels have been published, there has been a direct reversal of the uncanny nature of the plot. Rather than sexualizing the danger, the sexuality has become dangerous, and not only within the text, but also as a widespread proponent of unhealthy, abusive relationships; this transition is best seen in works such as Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. What keeps readers intrigued in this modern reworking of the uncanny? I argue that now, these texts provide access to an explicit mirroring of society’s darkest truths: corrupted patriarchal hierarchies validating male mastery of female sexuality. Perhaps readers now find a realistic, rather than voyeuristic, quality to these dark tropes. From living danger vicariously to watching the lived dangers of a society suppressing healthy sexual expression, the Gothic continually provides an uncanny look at what would normally be the very human, very recognizable experiences of love, relationships, and sex.
The Gothic as a Rebellion Against Social Norms in Erotic Fiction
Maya Zalbidea Paniagua (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)
This paper will analyze the Gothic side and the importance of the transgression of social norms as well as the discovery of identity through body pleasure and pain in masochistic and bizarre sexual acts of characters from erotic literature. In the first place, a debate on the theories of the lover as supersensual or martyr will be developed based on Severin and Wanda characters from Venus in Furs (1870) by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Then, the sexual perversions of the teenagers in Story of the Eye (1928) by George Bataille will be interpreted as expressions of strong religious criticism. A semiotic analysis will be developed from a postmodern perspective after Roland Barthes’ essay “Metaphor of the Eye” (1962). Pauline Réage’s Story of O (1954) will be analyzed emphasizing the obscure female desire of submission. To conclude, a reflection on fascination for gothic and masochistic practices will be made explaining the naturalization of fantasies of domination in E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey (2011). Also, the influence of multimedia and the Internet will be studied to emphasize the gothic imagery in works of electronic literature such as the homage to transgender bodies in fiction and cyberspace: Brandon (1998) by Shu Lea Cheang and a compilation of Internet sexual stories in Dollspace (2001) by Francesca da Rimini. In all the chosen works for this exhaustive study the female characters express themselves in an active way–not only when they play submissive but also when they play the mistress role. In all of them the body receives pleasure and pain while at the same time reveals against the restricting system, religious and social norms.
“Love will have its sacrifices”: The Evolution of Lesbian Representation in the Transmedia Web Series Adaptation of Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu
Alba María Fuentes Muñoz (independent scholar)
At the end of the 19th century, after years of having being a non-discussed matter and as much revered as invisibilized in the guise of romantic friendship between women, lesbianism was deemed as immoral, a threat to the eugenics and essentially an illness. These ideas, which were spread by the physicians of the time, did not take long to make an appearance in the coetaneous literature, especially in its more sensationalistic branch, finding one of their most important embodiments in the figure of the female vampire. The most important work featuring one of these characters that has remained in the public imagination, probably due to the fact of having been adapted countless times, is the novella Carmilla, written by Sheridan Le Fanu (1872). Possibly an attempt of rendering Coleridge’s Christabel into prose, the story of the narrator Laura’s encounter with the beautiful, yet strange Carmilla was both a warning to women willing to act according to an improperly high sexual drive and a moralist tale on the dangers of lesbianism. However, from 1990 onwards queer theorists would claim the vampire’s figure as their own, turning it into a symbol of transgressive sexuality and thus, subverting its negative connotations. This change would be gradually reflected in its portrayal in fiction. Especially with the rise of the internet, hybrid types of audiovisual media and new narratives would become more popular, making the birth of new types of adaptations possible as well — and one of the most successful featuring LGBT characters would be the transmedia web series Carmilla (2014) by KindaTV. In my presentation, I would like to point at the differences between the lesbian representation in the original Carmilla book and the one in this homonymous adaptation to address the development of lesbian representation in media throughout the last decades, keeping in mind some especially relevant US literary and audiovisual takes such as the prologue of the Lanternfish Press edition by Carmen María Machado or Nightmare Classics TV adaptation filmed in 1989.
The Analysis of Netflix Series Lucifer from the Perspective of Gothic Feminism
Gamze Ar (Ege University)
Gothic Feminism is an authentic term for revealing the relationship between gothic and feminism, and the Netflix Series Lucifer opens perfect dimensions to emphasize how women are merged with the supernatural elements in the series. The main character Lucifer is a significant figure in the context of creating the gothic feminist outlook in the series, and so it can be said that Lucifer is a great manifestation about reflecting feminist thoughts with strong figures such as Decker and Charlotte Richards. On the other hand, the evil side of the series affects audiences while creating fearful aspirations. In the series, women sometimes seem as if they are vulnerable to men’s hegemony, or sometimes their behaviors lead them to be heroic status. This presentation will explicitly present how the characters reflect gothic feminism and its main thematic approaches. How did the main character Lucifer affect the women? Why did he appear as a vulnerable Satan against a woman like Decker? From which perspectives did the presentation shed light on Lucifer as a gothic feminist genre? This presentation will try to answer these questions and while examining them, it will be a great source for gothic feminism in American popular culture. Lucifer is a highly well-known series in terms of its authentic subject matter and thematic approaches; thus, its relationship will be detailly examined within the gothic feminist theoretical aspect. In addition to Gothic Feminism, Lucifer is also considered as the “Satanic Feminism” and it will be explicitly seen in the paper. This study will focus on three women characters such as Maze who is considered as the evil figure in Lucifer, Charlotte Richards who is normally a mother in the world but is sometimes seen as the wife of God in the series, and Chole Decker who is an ambitious detective.