Haunting Fantasies: Queer Futurity in American Women's Gothic Literature Restricted; Files Only
Banks, Emily (Summer 2021)
Haunting Fantasies: Queer Futurity in American Women’s Gothic Literature explores gothic conceptions of futurity through covert erotic pleasures, reclaimed domestic spaces, and restructured kinship systems in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American women’s literature. Drawing my critical framework from theoretical texts by Sara Ahmed, Lee Edelman, Heather Love, and Leo Bersani, I argue that haunting constitutes a unique form of queer futurity in the stories, novels, and poems I examine. Both stuck in place and immortal, a ghost is a compelling figure for those who reject normative expectations of reproduction and heredity, which require life to end after producing the next generation. Working within the gothic tradition of uncannily distorted familial homes, these texts explore alternatives to traditional domesticity.
My first chapter, “The Virtuous Spinster,” considers texts by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, Harriet Prescott Spofford, and Emily Dickinson in which carefully designed domestic spaces curated by solitary women symbolize the flourishing of eroticism in masculinity’s absence. My second chapter, “Shirley Jackson and the Nuclear [Family] Threat,” discusses alternative domestic and familial structures in “Flower Garden,” The Sundial (1958), The Haunting of Hill House (1959), and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962). My third chapter, “Envisioning Alternative Maternities,” begins with readings of “The Shadowy Third” (1918) by Ellen Glasgow and “Broken Glass” by Georgia Wood Pangborn (1911), in which ghosts reclaim maternal power and promote egalitarian family structures based on care rather than inheritance. Working through Melanie Klein’s theories of infantile attachment and child development, I then analyze the complex dynamics of imagined interracial, care-based feminist coalitions through the figure of the Black mammy in Ellen Glasgow’s “Whispering Leaves” (1923), Dorothy Scarborough’s The Wind (1925), and Octavia Butler’s Kindred (1979).
My project demonstrates the distinct contribution American women’s gothic literature offers to studies of queer futurity, as well as the ways in which theories of queer futurity can enhance understandings of American women’s gothic literature. In contrast to the reproductive future Lee Edelman decries in his well-known polemic, No Future, the haunted future troubles conventional notions of lineage, inheritance, and progress, pulling those who embrace it away from their expected paths.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Haunted Future ........... 1
Chapter 1: The Virtuous Spinster: Queer Solitude in Nineteenth-Century Women’s Literature...........17
Chapter Two: Shirley Jackson and the Nuclear [Family] Threat...........67
Chapter 3: Envisioning Alternative Maternities...........131
About this Dissertation
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