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Title: The maternal gaze in the Gothic
Author: Williams, Sara
ISNI:       0000 0004 2732 0215
Awarding Body: University of Hull
Current Institution: University of Hull
Date of Award: 2011
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This transdisciplinary thesis excavates the critically-neglected Gothic convention of the maternal tyrant through the theoretical framework of the maternal gaze, recently conceptualised by Alina Luna in Visual Perversity: A Re-articulation of the Maternal Instinct (2004). As a counter-response to the critical heritage of feminist and film scholarship which privileges the presence of an objectifying and fetishising male gaze, Luna argues that the maternal gaze issued from the womb is the most powerful and fatal because it is concerned with nothing apart from devouring the child and reinstalling it in the mother’s body, and punishing the paternal order which had taken it away. Examining how the Gothic articulates intra-uterine symbols and structures, I consider a spectrum of written and visual texts to argue that an omnipotent maternal gaze is pathologically narrativised by the genre. The thesis is structured in three parts of two chapters each which plot the evolution of the maternal gaze in the Gothic. In Part One, ‘The Gothic Heritage’, I discuss maternal symbolism and structures in folkloric and Victorian Gothic texts to show how the infanticidal maternal gaze has existed in the genre since its inception, while Part Two, ‘Gothic Practices’, reveals how the maternal gaze in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries used the intersecting technological and religious practices of photography, Spiritualism and Marian iconography to Gothicise the domestic space of the maternal practitioner. Part Three comes home to ‘The Gothic Domestic’, which examines how narratives of child abuse, incest and trauma are perpetuated in the domestic space for the maternal gaze through modes of serialisation, and I conclude by showing how the internet has become the modern Gothic web in which the maternal gaze weaves hypertextual narratives through which mothers meditate on and reproduce the image of the abused and traumatised child. This thesis provides new directions for genre criticism and gaze theory, and drawing on feminist, film and psychoanalytic scholarship I use the maternal gaze to write a place for the maternal tyrant in the Gothic, one which she has previously been denied by the critical and cultural blindness to the capabilities of maternal desire.
Supervisor: Wynne, Catherine, 1971- Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English