Saturday, October 25, 2008

Female gothic

In the 1970s, when Mary Shelley's novel was just peeking its head over the horizon and peering into the Ivory Tower -- or, in other words, when scholars were only just beginning to pay it respectful attention -- scholar Ellen Moers published an essay called "Female Gothic." In it she used the little-respected Frankenstein as a central example of the phenomenon of gothic horror, at its core feminine, because it is at its core a visceral, body experience -- scaring by getting down "to the body itself," "quickly arousing and quickly allaying the physiological reactions to fear." The frisson -- the little shiver of fear that we love to feel. That's at the heart of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

This seems to be the point made in this weekend's New York Times Book Review by Terrence Rafferty, who appropriately calls his round-up of female-written horror novels “Shelley's Daughters.”

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