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The creature is Frankenstein's real mate, and the fury with which he destroys the female creature he was constructing (and the vindictive fury with which the creature destroys Victor's own Elizabeth) only underlines their devotion to one another.

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick talks about "" relations between men and how often they are eroticized, especially in the Gothic. Frankenstein seems to me an ideal case of what she describes, and the lonely creature especially, haunting "normal" society and hoping for a place within it, might remind us of the positions that gays and lesbians were always forced to assume until they defied society's attempts to force them into a closet.

Henry James's "The Jolly Corner"

Henry James's "The Jolly Corner" (1908) tells the story of a man who returns from an ineffectual life in Europe to confront the ghost of the man he would have been had he stayed in America. The ghost has an eerie attraction for the hero, Spencer Brydon, and he wanders through the lonely house of his childhood in search of the seductive double.

When he finally confronts him, of course, it is almost more than he can bear: The object of his desire is rough looking, polluted somehow by the city, and disfigured. This subtle use of what Freud would call the "uncanny" is enough to mark Brydon with the knowledge of his own darker, less socially presentable side.

When Alice Staverton, his New York friend, tells him that she accepts this darker truth, he can only bury his face in her bosom in profound thanks and relief. This sense of relief after a hideous disclosure is so close to what gay men and lesbians anticipate before coming out that it might seem that James is speaking to us.

The details of James's biography, which suggests a deeply problematic sexual life centering on homosexual desire, support such a reading, as do the chords it strikes in those of us who have been there.


An important question to ask is this: Why do we read Gothic fictions? As violent and at times abusive as they are, what do we find in them to sustain us? To answer that question, we would have to turn to our own psychological makeups, as critics like Tania Modleski have done, and consider what it is that we process in these encounters with the grotesque.

As gay and lesbian readers, it seems to me, we process the horror at the situation society places us in and the demands to conform that we constantly face. Gothic reading is not just an escape; it reminds us of what the stakes really are. If our own sexuality is transgressive, Gothic allows us the chance to break with the norm in our imaginations, which is so important to do before we decide to defy convention in fact.

Gay and lesbian critics are drawn to Gothic for just this reason: Before they knew why, Gothic appealed to them. Now that they know, they can hardly give it up.

George E. Haggerty

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arts >> Overview:  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Vampires

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social sciences >> Overview:  United Kingdom I: The Middle Ages through the Nineteenth Century

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literature >> Beckford, William

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Ellis, Kate Ferguson. The Contested Castle: Gothic Novels and the Subversion of Domestic Ideology. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989.

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage-Random House, 1980.

Gilbert, Sandra M. and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.

Haggerty, George E. Gothic Fiction/Gothic Form. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1989.

Johnson, Barbara. "My Monster/My Self." Diacritics 12 (1982): 2--10.

Kahane, Claire. "The Gothic Mirror," in The (M)other Tongue: Essays in Feminist Psychoanalytic Interpretation. Shirley Nelson Garner, Claire Kahane, and Madelon Springnether, eds. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985.

Keily, Robert. The Romantic Novel in England. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972.

Massé, Michelle A. In the Name of Love: Women, Masochism, and the Gothic. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1992.

Modleski, Tania. Loving With a Vengeance: Mass Produced Fantasies for Women. New York: Routledge, 1982.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosexual Desire. New York: Columbia University Press, 1985.


    Citation Information
    Author: Haggerty, George E.  
    Entry Title: Gothicism  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated October 14, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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