Boundaries of the self: Vignettes of the female gothic in Wuthering Heights and Villette

Malini Mukherjee
2019 Litinfinite Journal  
The Gothic movement in English literature that started in the eighteenth century thrived on the cult of sentimentalism, sensibility and strong emotions, especially that of fear. Awakening an intensity of consciousness and a new dimension of reality, Gothic established a new relation between the Self and the world. Women novelists and the Gothic have a significant relationship since the genre was at hand for the purpose of expressing the dormant fantasies, forbidden desires and repressed
more » ... d repressed passions, unthinkable to reveal otherwise for the women of the eighteenth and nineteenth century society. Boundaries of the Self and the desire to escape are the two paradoxical facets in Female Gothic during this period. Indeed, a recurring female voice of discontent and suffering amidst confinement and persecution echoes time and again in women's Gothic fiction throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The Self in chains craving for liberty, driven by an urge for transcendence is a common trope in Romanticism; when it comes to women and their predicament, it gains a special significance, since society denied them a notion of authentic Selfhood. The heyday of Gothic romance was also a time when women's place in society was becoming a matter of increasing debate and a number of writers sought to clarify the issue. Most of these attempts to define women's position were also attempts to confine her in a separate sphere bound by the duties of home and to ensure her participation in an ideology that limited the exercise of her physical, intellectual and emotional faculties. In women's writings, this discontent continuously circles around the theme of the boundary of the Self. The genre of the Gothic gives dramatic form to female anxiety of Self.Gothic romance offers a vivid expression of psychological, religious, epistemological and social anxieties that resolve themselves into a concern about the boundaries of the Self. As two of the most intensely passionate voices in English literature, both Emily and Charlotte Bronte express this anxiety in individual ways through their works. My paper will explore the portrayal of the paradoxical theme of constraints and emancipation through the nature and actions of the female protagonists in Wuthering Heights and Villette.
doi:10.47365/litinfinite.1.1.2019.8-14 fatcat:zmt7j4mcibehdlf4ao766ofcfq