Jenna Sterling (Temple University)
Suzanne Biever (Temple University)
Gothicism reveals literary reflections on subjecthood in the 18th and 19th centuries. By interrogating the Gothic as a cultural literary form, the emphasis on individual experience reveals the connection between the sublime, the individual mind, and the political use of this genre. 18th-century philosopher Edmund Burke claims the sublime as “productive of the strongest emotions which the mind is capable of feeling.” Privileging Burke’s narrative, which was extremely popular in his time, emphasizes the importance of the Gothic being so deeply rooted in sublimity. Resisting sublimity in Gothic literature can therefore be read as a powerful cultural and political statement. Using the Gothic, women writers present characters and tales that are resurrected in order to exact revenge for violent deaths and exploitation at the hands of patriarchal institutions. Oft frustrated by narrative expectations and transformative female characters, women writers of the Gothic resist the overly sentimental narrative and portrayals of nature as sublime. Instead, they employ resistance and control as annihilating forces, empty of awe and splendor. Evaluating the standards of the Romantic period’s treatment of the natural world as sublime, as well as traditional concepts of the Gothic form itself, reveals women writers rejecting and resisting sublimity and sentimentality. In doing so, these women writers pave their own paths as literary revolutionaries.
This panel seeks instances of Gothic women writers negating the sublime, beautiful, and sentimental. Indeed, finding moments of resistance throughout Gothic writing by women proves a fruitful venture, as it adds greater depth to these under-studied women authors who are just as much a part of the Romantic canon of literature.