The Feminine and the Hidden; Representations of Mystery and the Supernatural in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Gothic Tales

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This dissertation will examine and analyse two of the macabre and gothic tales from the English author Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865); The Old Nurses Story (1852) and The Poor Clare (1857). Indicating and demonstrating how representations of mystery and the supernatural are used as vehicles of imagination, expression and exploration into the hidden depths of the female psyche through the use of Gothic fiction within the Victorian era (1837-1901). I intend to delve and explore into the identity of the feminine-self exposing the darker and intimate issues of the female Gothic, otherwise hidden within the oppressive constraints of the female role residing in Victorian society. Applying psychoanalytical examples, I shall discuss themes of the …show more content…
The Old Nurses Story (1852)
Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Old Nurses Story was published in (1852), it has been defined as “the epitome of the traditional ghost story of the Victorian period (1837-1901), perfect to read on Christmas Eve and containing numerous Gothic motifs; a haunted mansion, a female protagonist who encounters a series of mysterious, unsettling events, a ghost child, and a dark family secret.” (Giakaniki. 2010). It was first published as part of Charles Dickens’s (1812-1870) English magazine in the Christmas edition of Household Words (1850-1859). (Gaskell & Kranzler. 2000: viii). The story is a retrospective account told by the nurse ‘Hester’ and the title itself represents a form and expression of female identity that of the role of the nurse maid situated in Victorian society.
In the Victorian period “…the childless single woman was a figure to be pitied.” (Abrams. 2001). It was considered to be outside of social hierarchy not to be a part of the domestic scene for women, “domesticity and motherhood were portrayed as sufficient emotional fulfilment for women.” (Abrams. 2001). In reality this was not the case and the role of motherhood and domesticity clearly did not sufficiently fulfil a woman’s emotional desires and requirements, situated in a suppressed, dominant patriarchal society ruled by men. In fact patriarchal society subjugated the role of women; they were seen as lesser than, and required to stay on the domestic
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