Female Gothic, Fairy tale, Feminist criticism, Women's literature, Victorian, Nineteenth-century gender, Nineteenth-century literature, Gender studies, Bildungsroman, Desire
The ways Gothic fairy tales and fairy-tale feminism interact are not always clear. An undercurrent of feminist studies of fairy tales is fueled by the 1970s Lurie-Lieberman debate, which focused on the question of whether fairy tales liberate or repress women. Meanwhile, critics such as Lorna Piatti-Farnell and Lucie Armitt have offered studies of the interplay between Gothic horror and fairy tales. However, these studies have limits, often emphasizing the violence, self-mutilation, and cannibalism of women, like those in Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s versions of “Cinderella” and “Snow White”. This paper argues that “Rapunzel” (1812) is key for understanding the Gothic and feminist discourses of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847). Firstly, this paper argues that a self-reflexive and self-productive relationship between subjectivity and desire shapes and disrupts the Gothic, fairy-tale, and feminist discourses of Jane Eyre, resulting in a specular feminine-I that has inspired pluralistic readings of the text. Secondly, an analysis of the Rapunzelian metaphors of ‘wicked’ hunger and ideological towers unmasks the double consciousness that not only fetters feminine subjectivity but delimits the domestic structures of marriage and home. Multiplying the ways nineteenth-century Gothicism, fairy tales, and feminism may interact, Brontë’s specular study of feminine desire makes way for a productive and agential feminine speaking-I.
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Farrar, A. M. (2023). Gothic Fairy-Tale Feminism: The Rise of Eyre/‘Error’. Literature, 3 (4), 430-445. https://doi.org/10.3390/literature3040029