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Abject representations of female desire in postmodern British female gothic fiction

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2010
Aktari, Selen
The aim of this dissertation is to study postmodern British Female Gothic fiction in terms of its abject representations of female desire which subvert the patriarchal definition of female sexuality as repressed and female identity as the object of desire. The study analyzes texts from postmodern Female Gothic fiction which are feminist rewritings of the traditional Gothic narratives. The conventional Gothic plot is based on the Oedipal development of identity which excludes the (m)other and deprives the female from autonomous subjectivity. The feminist rewritings of the conventional Gothic plot have a subversive aim to recast the Oedipal identity formation and they embrace the (m)other figure in order to blur the strict boundaries between the subject and the object. Besides, these rewritings aim to destroy the image of the victimized heroine within the imprisoning conventional Gothic structures and transgress the cultural, social and sexual definitions of women constructed by patriarchal sexual politics. The study bases its analyses on Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, and Emma Donoghue’s Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins as examples in which patriarchal definition of the female desire as passive is destroyed and the female desire as active is promoted by the adoption of abject representations, which challenge the strictly constructed hierarchical relationships between men and women. Basing its argument on Julia Kristeva’s psychoanalytical theories, which re-vision the traditional psychoanalytical theories, this study puts forward that by the emergence of postmodernism, which has overtly provided a ground for the marginalized discourses to get into dialogue with the oppressive ones, the abject representations of female desire have gained a positive characteristic that can liberate female body from the control and authority of the male-dominated ideology. Thus, one can chronologically follow the positive development of abject representations of female sexuality in Rhys’s, Carter’s and Donoghue’s works which promote a liberation for the Gothic heroines from patriarchal psychoanalytical identity development, which render female desire active and female body expressive, which rehistoricize female sexuality from a feminist lens and which call for a new world order built upon an egalitarian basis that destroys hierarchically constructed gender roles. As a result, postmodern British Female Gothic Fiction is proved to be offering a utopian ideal of an egalitarian society, but although utopian and radical, not an impossible one to be realized.