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‘And now you love me, and there is no way out of it’: Marital engagement, misogyny and violence in the Victorian fin-de-siècle gothic short story

Renshaw, D. (2022) ‘And now you love me, and there is no way out of it’: Marital engagement, misogyny and violence in the Victorian fin-de-siècle gothic short story. Women's History Review. ISSN 1747-583X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/09612025.2022.2103894

Abstract/Summary

This article will examine the gendered nature of monstrosity in the fin-de-siècle gothic short story, using the phenomenon of marital engagement as a lens on how ‘correct’ and transgressive sexual behaviour on the part of both women and men were defined and distinguished from each other in the 1880s and 1890s. Framing this fiction in the wider context of the discourse concerning the ‘Woman Question’ and the inter-connected so-called ‘crisis of masculinity’, seven gothic texts will be examined that reveal both how betrothal functioned in the late-Victorian period, and how the cultural elements of engagement, sexual, spiritual, and mercantile, combined to form a potent inspiration for the horror narrative. The first part of the article will consider four ‘monstrous’ females who all displayed aggressive sexual appetites, and in general advanced their own interests in ways considered fundamentally masculine. The second part will discuss three ‘monstrous’ men who transgressed accepted forms of masculine behaviour, failing to observe the approved demarcation between private and public male sexuality. Ultimately, the gendered violence apparent in all of these stories reveals the implicit threat of physical force and legal subjugation underpinning the Victorian marital ritual, including in betrothal.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:106394
Publisher:Taylor and Francis

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