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Uncanny recognition: queer theory's debt to the Gothic.

Since the advent of academic queer theory in the early 1990s, the proliferation of publications addressing queer reading possibilities in Gothic fiction suggest that Queer Studies and Gothic Studies may be considered complementary fields of inquiry. Queer theory has certainly enabled important developments in the theorisation of the Gothic, developments which have led the way towards new and exciting perspectives on the genre. From Sue Ellen Case's seminal 1991 essay, 'Tracking the Vampire' to George Haggerty's 2006 book Queer Gothic onwards, I would not hesitate to argue that this productive relationship has had a beneficial impact on Gothic Studies. (1) But thinking about the queer theorisation of the Gothic only in terms of what queer theory has done for Gothic Studies might be a limiting way of approaching the subject. As Michael O' Rourke and David Collings have observed, it is not simply the case that the Gothic is always already queer; queer theory is also always already Gothic. (2) In the queer tradition of shifting the reading lens, I would therefore like to turn the question around and consider how Gothic fiction has benefited queer theory. It is sometimes all too easy to view theory as illuminating literary texts and, in this essay, I will propose that the Gothic has had an equal, if not even more important, role in enabling the production of queer critical narratives.

Queer Theory Recognises the Gothic

Queer theorists recognise something powerfully compelling in the Gothic, something that keeps them returning to the genre for insights. This compulsion might itself be considered a little 'uncanny', in the sense that uncanny effects are often 'indissociably bound up with a sense of repetition or "coming back"--the return of the repressed ... a compulsion to repeat'. (3) I have certainly found myself returning repeatedly to Gothic horror fiction: a fan of the gruesome and spooky for as long as I can remember and an avid consumer of horror stories by the time I was in my early teens, the Gothic has since become one of my primary academic interests. This enthusiasm underscores my MA dissertation, PhD thesis and all my subsequent work, including, of course, this essay. Reading around the field, it soon becomes apparent that an interest in the Gothic compliments, and even encourages, an interest in GLBTQ Studies. Judith Halberstam, for instance, now more well-known for her work on transgender politics, published her first book on Gothic horror fiction. (4) George Haggerty publishes on both the Gothic and the history of sexuality, bringing these concerns together in Queer Gothic. (5) Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, sometimes called 'the queen of queer theory', also began her scholarly career in the Gothic. (6) In her groundbreaking books, she draws on the genre extensively to address the relationship between male homosocial desire and homophobia. (7)

Moreover, this sense of an affinity between the Gothic and Queer Studies is not only found in the work of specific theorists who have an interest in both fields of inquiry: at times the language and imagery of the Gothic seems to suffuse queer theory more generally. In the introduction to a collection of essays on lesbian and gay theory published in 1991, Diana Fuss comments on the contributors' persistence in referencing Gothic tropes: 'A striking feature of many of the essays collected in this volume is a fascination with the specter of abjection, a certain preoccupation with the figure of the homosexual as specter and phantom, as spirit and revenant, as abject and undead'. (8) In her introduction, Fuss 'consistently draws attention to the intersections between sexuality and hauntology'. (9) Underlying her observations is an implicit recognition that queer theory does not simply cast new light on the Gothic, and that it may even be truer to say that the Gothic enables Queer Studies. More recently, the impact that this productive relationship has had upon queer and Gothic scholarship is demonstrated in the collection of essays entitled Queering the Gothic, edited by William Hughes and Andrew Smith. (10) The essays in this collection acknowledge the queerness at the heart of the Gothic but also position the Gothic as a genre that persistently explores the meaning of queerness.

Haggerty goes so far as to argue that the Gothic 'offers a historical model of queer theory and politics: transgressive, sexually coded and resistant to dominant ideology'. (11) Considering the way the narrative conventions of the genre seem to engage with the development of ideas about sexual nonconformity, it is not difficult to see why Gothic texts offer much that is of interest to queer scholarship. In these textual worlds of excess and danger we find the institutions of family and marriage shaken, the representation of extreme states of being, encounters with outcast monsters, not to mention conventional preoccupations with forbidden knowledge, paranoia, madness, secrecy, and guilt. Haggerty and Halberstam both situate the wealth of sexual material found in the Gothic in relation to Michel Foucault's contention that methods of speaking about sex have proliferated since the seventeenth century. 'Sex', Foucault argues in his History of Sexuality (1977), has not been confined to a 'shadow existence'; rather, we have 'dedicated ourselves to speaking of it ad infinitum, while exploiting it as the secret'. (12) Following Foucault, Halberstam observes that sexual material is not repressed in the Gothic; instead, it is produced on a massive scale. Haggerty, meanwhile, argues that the genre anticipates the history of sexuality, claiming it is no coincidence that the genre reached popularity at 'the very moment when gender and sexuality were beginning to be codified for modern culture'. (13)

The Gothic's capacity to address the development of modern sexual discourse certainly justifies queer scholarship's interest in the genre, but the intense sense of recognition that scholars express in relation to the Gothic deserves further examination. It seems that there is something more at stake here than resonances with a Foucauldian approach to the history of sexuality. What strikes me in the relationship between queer theory and Gothic fiction is precisely the uncannily personal sense of identification with the Gothic that often underscores work on the subject. Sigmund Freud suggested that the uncanny is 'something which is secretly familiar ... which has undergone repression and then returned from it'. (14) When I say that queer scholarship's encounter with the Gothic is 'uncanny', I mean that it appears to be based on a sense of a 'secret encounter' in which the texts bring to light something that ought to be repressed, something that feels particularly pertinent to people whose identities, bodies, and desires have been culturally designated 'queer'. But the relationship between the Gothic and Queer theory can also be called 'uncanny' insofar as it is bound up with 'a compulsion to tell, a compulsive storytelling'. (15) Most of the critical works discussed in this essay feature personal anecdotes and autobiographical information. Max Fincher, for example, opens his book Queering Gothic in the Romantic Age (2007) with an anecdote about his childhood desire to be a witch. Through this identification he links his 'queerness' with his interest in 'ghost stories, horror films and later Gothic.' (16) Queer, lesbian and gay theoretical works which reference the Gothic often convey the impression that it is the personal nature of this identification that enables the critic to speak about an experience of 'queerness'. If, as a consequence, the Gothic is utilised by queer theorists to advance their own thinking and produce queer critical narratives, there are further questions to be asked about the extent to which 'The gothic is our monstrous parentage'. (17)

Vampires, for instance, are sites of ambivalent but strong identification for gay and lesbian people and have provided a productive source of queer reading. Sue Ellen Case works with her own uneasy identification with the vampire to articulate the qualities that make queer approaches different: 'the queer, unlike the rather polite categories of gay and lesbian, revels in the discourse of the loathsome, the outcast, the idiomatically-proscribed position of same-sex desire'. (18) Here, Case speaks through the figure of the vampire in order to get at what it means to occupy a critical position that 'attacks the dominant notion of the natural'. (19) In another very personal essay, Tanya Krzywinska takes the implications of this recognition further, revelling in her playful appropriation of the female vampire. Like Case, she uses her sense of identification with the vampire to articulate thoughts on queer theory: 'Playfulness is perhaps the crucial tool of queer theoretical practice which allows barriers and thresholds to be crossed, sexual and gendered roles to be explored, and, importantly, the acknowledgement of the role of fantasy within different discourses'. (20) While these essays can be considered contributions to Gothic Studies, in both, the female vampire becomes a figure for queer theoretical practice and a means to reflect on the performance of queer reading. It is through recognising the vampire that these critics recognise queer critical practice as rooted in identification with that which is constructed as perverse, loathsome and outcast, that which challenges ontological boundaries and categories, and persistently attacks the assumptions that underscore notions of the 'normal' and 'natural'.

Ellis Hanson's essay 'Undead' depends on recognising the longstanding figural relationship between the male vampire and the male homosexual. Gliding smoothly in his analysis between Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) and the representation of gay men with AIDS in the 1980s, Hanson observes, 'To comprehend the vampire is to recognise that abjected space that gay men are obliged to inhabit; that space unspeakable or unnameable'. (21) His exploration of homosexual thematics in Dracula is illuminating, but again the Gothic text is utilised as much to advance the queer agenda of speaking out against homophobia, as it is to benefit Gothic Studies. In a later essay, Hanson returns to the vampire, this time with an unapologetic exploration of the 'covert attraction' (which he shares) to the figure of the lesbian vampire. Acknowledging the political problems feminist critics have had with 'lesbian' vampire films that purvey misogynist, pornographic entertainment for heterosexual men, Hanson argues that some of these films 'also raise the attractive possibility of a queer gothic, rich in all the paradox and sexual indeterminacy the word queer and the word gothic generally imply'. (22) And, like Case and Krzywinska, Hanson goes on to marshal his lesbian vampires to talk about queer critical practices: 'Queer has as yet an angrier and more playful ring to it, and it can more easily sustain the critique of sexual categories that has made it a privileged term among deconstructionists'. (23) Queer theory is here endorsed as the methodology that can best sustain an analysis of the complex role of fantasy in sexual desire and identification, but it seems that it is the Gothic that enables queer scholarship to recognise its own capabilities in this respect.

Lesbian theorists have also found the Gothic enabling. Discussing the attraction the genre holds for lesbian writers, Paulina Palmer notes the Gothic's 'inscription of excess, its strongly female focus, its ability to question mainstream versions of reality'. Moreover, 'the fact that certain motifs ... lend themselves especially well to lesbian appropriation and recasting, help to explain the attraction which Gothic holds for writers and readers of lesbian fiction'. The Gothic therefore has great potential 'as a vehicle for lesbian narrative'. (24) Palmer's work is testament to the fact that the Gothic is not only a vehicle for fictional lesbian narratives, but also a vehicle for producing subversive lesbian critical narratives. Terry Castle's work also demonstrates this productivity. Castle critiques queer theory for its masculinist bias, but in a similar way to the queer theorists discussed here, recognizes Gothic possibilities for producing narratives about lesbian experience. She uses the figure of the ghost to talk about the way lesbianism has been constructed in the cultural imagination:
   The lesbian is never with us, it seems, but always somewhere else:
   in the shadows, in the margins, hidden from history, out of sight,
   out of mind, a wanderer in the dark, a lost soul, a tragic mistake,
   a pale denizen of the night. (25)

But through this 'ghosting', Castle finds that the lesbian has also been allowed to occupy a strangely subversive space, concluding that 'the spectral metaphor provided the very imagery, reclaimed by lesbian writers'. (26) The ghost, like the vampire, is a site of ambivalent identification: it has a role in perpetuating lesbo-phobic narratives, but it has also provided a means for lesbian writers and theorists to speak about lesbian experience.

Other critics have used the figurative relationship between the monster and the 'queer' even more self-consciously to talk about their experiences and produce queer critical narratives. Susan Stryker's essay 'My Words to Victor Frankenstein above the Valley of Chamonix: Performing Transgender Rage' (1995) provides a particularly effective example of a Gothic narrative providing a queer theorist with a place from which to speak. In this essay, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) becomes a means to articulate 'transgender rage'. Stryker evinces no ambivalence about her identification with the monster: 'I find a deep affinity between myself as a transsexual woman and the monster in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Like the monster, I am too often perceived as less than fully human due to the means of my embodiment'. (27) Moving between Frankenstein, queer theory and autobiographical stories, Stryker addresses the 'gendering violence' that is 'the founding condition of human subjectivity'. (28) Her essay certainly introduces a new way of thinking about Frankenstein, but the piece is framed primarily as a contribution to queer and transgender theory. Stryker suggests that what we recognise in the Gothic, in a strange, uncanny, coded way, is ourselves--our desires, identities, and the dangers we face. The personal stories and connections in the works cited here are partly about sharing this sense of recognition on the basis of an (also uncanny) awareness that other 'queers' will recognise what we recognise.

The Gothic Recognises the Queer

While I agree with Haggerty's claim that the Gothic offers a historical model for queer theory and politics, in order to fully appreciate the Gothic's queer appeal, we need to situate the 'uncanny' in relation to the history of sexuality. For if, as Sigmund Freud proposed, uncanny effects often have their source in a feeling that something which ought to remain hidden has come to light, Gothic texts open a space for recognising the construction of 'queer' bodies as uncanny, that is, as bodies of knowledge that are supposed to be repressed but which persistently come to light. The uncanny is 'nothing new or alien, but something that is familiar and old-established in the mind and which has become alienated from it only through the process of repression'. (29) It is important to be clear that I am not suggesting here that Gothic texts create a sense of uncanny queerness by repressing sexual meaning. To return to Foucault, I would propose that what we encounter in the Gothic is manifestly not the repression of sexual meaning, but rather the production of certain kinds of sexual meaning as that which is supposed to be repressed. To put the point another way, I am talking about the discursive production of queerness as uncanny, as something familiar but frightening, something that always returns, something that creates a crisis of the 'proper' and the 'natural', and something that creates uncertainty regarding sexual identity. (30) What the Gothic appears to recognise so compellingly for queer scholarship, I would suggest, is the special relationship between the 'queer' and the uncanny, a relationship that is culturally constructed but deeply felt.

Since I have been discussing some of the ways in which queer scholarship has recognised the Gothic, it is interesting to approach the question of the queer uncanny through a focus on the moments of strange recognition that abound in the genre. Such moments often convey an impression of uncanny queer awareness, underscored by a suggestively erotic enthrallment to a dangerous supernatural figure who threatens to bring out something the protagonist (and the reader) suspects ought to remain repressed. (31) Sheridan Le Fanu's Victorian 'lesbian' vampire narrative, 'Carmilla' (1872), for example, is founded upon a sense of uncanny and erotic mutual recognition. The protagonist, Laura, finds herself ambivalently but irresistibly attracted to Carmilla: 'I felt rather unaccountably towards the beautiful stranger. I did feel, as she said "drawn towards her", but there was also something of repulsion. In this ambiguous feeling, however, the sense of attraction immensely prevailed'. (32) Similar moments can be found throughout the nineteenth-century Gothic.

Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) contains a good illustration of the Gothic's capacity to convey a sense of uncanny queer import through the sign of recognition and, in so doing, set in motion a queer hermeneutics which invites the production of queer critical narratives. Stanton meets Melmoth in Spain and returns to England with his mind 'full of his mysterious countryman'. (33) Soon the obsession with finding him becomes 'one fierce passion' 'devouring the soul' (39). When he sees Melmoth again there follows a striking moment of queer-Gothic recognition: 'There was nothing particular or remarkable in his appearance, but the expression of his eyes could never be mistaken or forgotten. The heart of Stanton palpitated with violence,--a mist overspread his eyes,--a nameless and deadly sickness, accompanied by a creeping sensation in every pore, from which cold drops were gushing, announced the ***' (43). Here, the narrative breaks off and substitutes a series of asterisks for Stanton's increasingly unrepresentable physiological response. Reading the text in relation to early nineteenth-century taxonomies concerning desire between men, it is not difficult to interpret this instance as a moment of 'homosexual panic'. Sedgwick includes Melmoth in her 'paranoid Gothic' as a text which embodies strongly homophobic mechanisms and illustrates the 'defining pervasiveness in Gothic novels of language about the unspeakable'. (34) The perception that Melmoth speaks to us about homophobia does not really have its source in a secret story about homosexuality hidden within the text waiting to be liberated by a passing queer theorist. Indeed, a queer reading of Melmoth does not really 'liberate' repressed homosexual meaning because the language of the text conceals nothing. The impression of concealment, the suggestion that there is a repressed secret and that secret is probably sexual, is important in many Gothic texts, but this impression is not really evidence of repression; it indicates, rather, the rhetorical production and exploitation of sex as 'the secret'. (35)

What is legible in Melmoth is the codification of 'a whole rhetoric of allusion and metaphor'. (36) In the first instance, the text tells us something about the sexually fraught nature of the sign 'recognition'. Methods of recognition have been crucial for communication amongst sexually dissident groups, but recognition also functions as a mechanism of domination, something to be feared. To be recognised by the wrong person has, at different times in history, resulted in torture, execution, blackmail, and incarceration in prisons or psychiatric institutions. Yet, in this highly paranoid context, recognition is also dangerous to the one who would recognise, insofar as it places the reader/viewer in danger of igniting the homophobic logic of the equation 'it takes one to know one'. (37) The sexual/epistemological crisis which this moment induces in the text therefore parallels a point of epistemological crisis in modern sexual discourse. Despite his desire to see Melmoth again, Stanton's response is ambivalent and, in this context, his horror can be read as an anxiety concerning the question of what the act of recognition reveals about him. It is also worth noting that while Melmoth does not look peculiar, his 'look' is peculiar: it is the 'expression of his eyes', in other words his gaze, which makes him dangerous. The gaze between men has long been a sexually loaded sign. As D. A. Miller notes, 'perhaps the most salient index to male homosexuality, socially speaking, consists precisely in how a man looks at other men' (38). Little wonder, then, that 'the blaze of those demon eyes' (45) carries such significance.

Stanton's sense of 'nameless' and 'deadly' 'sickness' also echoes discourses through which the possibility of desire between men has been imagined as a kind of disease, something that leads to 'the death of the race'. (39) Melmoth prophesises Stanton's incarceration in a madhouse and, in due course, this is exactly where his 'constant talk' and 'wild pursuit' of Melmoth lands him (45). Madness is another common Gothic trope which can double as a code for 'excessive' relations between men, and nineteenth-century Gothic texts regularly feature men who, on finding themselves under the domination of another male figure, go 'mad' or express a fear of madness. Melmoth visits Stanton in the asylum with an unspeakable proposition: 'the explanation occupied several pages, which ... were wholly illegible' (58). Stanton rejects this proposal with 'the utmost rage and horror' (58). Later, we discover that it was an offer to liberate him from the madhouse if he agrees to take Melmoth's place in hell. Stanton does eventually escape from the asylum without supernatural help, but he cannot escape his 'ruling passion' (54). He writes, 'The chance of meeting him once more, is become as a burning fire within me', and fears that, after all, 'Perhaps our final meeting will be in ...' (59). Here the manuscript crumbles again and the reader is left to interpret the gaps. In Stanton's uncanny recognition of Melmoth, queer scholarship is able to recognise the rhetorical production of 'excessive' desire between men as something that undermines masculine identity and subjectivity, something that is 'unspeakable', associated with madness, death, and damnation. The language of Gothic fiction has since allowed critics in queer and gay studies to recognise and speak about the rhetorical construction of homosexuality and the homophobic mechanisms which continue to police sexuality.

Following Sedgwick, queer scholarship has tended to pay more attention to male-authored texts, but recognising the queerness in the Female Gothic also enables critics to speak about the ways in which desire between women has been coded and represented. In this respect, it is interesting to look at moments of uncanny recognition between women in two of Ann Radcliffe's novels: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794) and The Italian (1797). In The Italian, Ellena is separated from her lover, Vivaldi, and imprisoned in a convent where she finds herself irresistibly attracted to an older nun named Olivia. The sense of recognition is mutual and suggestively erotic: 'the nun paused ... A faint blush crossed her cheek, her spirits seemed to faulter, and she was unwilling to withdraw her eyes from Ellena'. (40) Ellena feels that 'the soul, which beamed forth in that smile, had long been acquainted with hers' (88). Olivia's regard seems 'necessary to her heart' (88). Rictor Norton has recently brought the lesbian subtext in Radcliffe's novels into the critical picture, observing that the first meeting between Ellena and Olivia is a 'highly charged depiction of erotic love at first sight'. (41) When Vivaldi arrives to rescue Ellena, her distress at leaving her friend causes him to ask, '"do I then hold only the second place in your heart?"' (135). It is a pertinent question and Norton argues that Vivaldi explicitly recognises this separation as a 'parting of lovers'. (42) In terms of cultural discourses about lesbianism, Ellena and Olivia's relationship is recognisable as encoding Sapphic desire: it is 'excessive', it challenges heterosexuality and it takes place in a space long associated with lesbianism in the cultural imagination: the convent. Later in the text, the Sapphic possibilities might appear to be quashed when Olivia is revealed as Ellena's real mother but, as Norton notes, the conventionally familial nature of the relationship does not discount its lesbian undertones. (43) Nor, I would add, does it discount its uncanny effect in the text. Rather, this conventional ending tells us something important about the way female writers have had to create coded 'modalities of female-embodied same-sex desire' which are expressed 'through figures of disavowal'--in this instance the mother-daughter relationship. (44)

In The Mysteries of Udolpho, Emily's sense of identity is undermined in another moment of uncanny recognition when the servant Dorothee perceives a resemblance between Emily and her beloved late mistress, the Marchioness De Villeroi: '"Young lady! that look of yours pleads for you--it is so like my dear mistress's, that I can almost fancy I see her before me; if you were her daughter, you could not remind me of her more"'. (45) Dorothee's love for the Marchioness again contains suggestively Sapphic qualities. She tells Emily that when her mistress died in her arms, '"I thought I could have died with her"' (498). She has never got over the Marchioness's death and keeps her room exactly as it was when she died. The text plays with the possibility that the Marchioness might be Emily's real mother, in which case she would be illegitimate. However, from a lesbian perspective, I would argue that the impression of a sexual secret informing the uncanny quality of Dorothee's recognition does not have its source in a scandalous birth so much as in a feeling that something, which ought to be repressed in relations between women, might have come to light. In other words, the uncanny effect of this recognition emanates from the lesbian undertones: 'her eyes were fixed upon Emily' (498). At this moment Udolpho hints at the potential for desire that underlies relations between women and, through the sign of the same-sex gaze, identifies Emily with this dangerous potential.

Although the Italian and Udolpho are not fully-fledged lesbian Gothics, they can be placed in a tradition of Female Gothic texts that utilise the uncanny to speak about the construction of desire between women. I recognise something in these novels which impels me to speak about lesbianism. As such, they foreshadow the stronger lesbian overtones found in twentieth-century Gothic novels such as Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca (1938) and Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House (1959). (46) This long-running theme has more recently been brought 'out' in Sarah Waters's overtly lesbian-Gothic novel, Affinity (1999). All these texts deploy the motif of recognition between women to uncanny effect, indicating awareness that although lesbianism has been constructed under heteropatriarchy as something that must be repressed at all costs, the possibility of desire between women stubbornly returns to haunt the cultural centre. In this respect, the Female Gothic has also enabled lesbian theorists, such as Palmer and Castle, to produce subversive critical narratives which reclaim the Female Gothic for lesbian and queer theory.

Coming Home to the Gothic

Queer scholarship should acknowledge its debt to the Gothic, for if queer theorists have recognised 'something queer' in the Gothic, this is because the Gothic has always already recognised 'the queer', that which, in Case's words, has been constructed as 'the taboo-breaker, the monstrous, the uncanny'. (47) Instead of viewing queer theory as liberating repressed sexual meaning in the Gothic, it is interesting to view the Gothic as enabling queer scholarship, helping theorists to articulate queer reading practices and discuss the construction of sexual nonconformity. Gothic horror fiction has given queer theorists a language (metaphors, allusions, tropes, and figures) which they have drawn upon to speak about queer experience and produce critical narratives. What queer theory can help us to understand and articulate is our own uncanny attraction to the Gothic. Underscoring much queer-Gothic scholarship, including this essay, is a feeling that people constructed as 'queer' have a special relationship with the uncanny and, therefore, with the Gothic. The impression that repressed queer meaning has come to light produces the uncanny sense of recognition in the feeling that Gothic texts are really speaking about 'us'. But perhaps what is demonstrated in the Gothic is the extent to which the rhetorical construction of sex and gender nonconformity has been mediated through the uncanny, in which case, what we really recognise is our own construction as uncanny beings, bodies of knowledge that ought to be repressed. Hanson observes that 'To be gay and to speak is always to risk flirtation with the revenant'. (48) We might add that if to be queer and to speak is to risk flirtation with the Gothic, then to speak through the Gothic is always to risk flirtation with the queer. This affinity has long been demonstrated in the high proportion of Gothic authors who have been associated with various kinds of sexual nonconformity. It continues to be demonstrated in the mutually illuminating, productive relationship between Gothic Studies and Queer, Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Studies.

To return, finally, in the tradition of queer scholarship in the Gothic, to my own personal sense of identification with the genre, queer theory has enabled me to understand the Gothic's appeal in my own life and put it into a narrative. By the time I was in secondary school, I became aware that my presence often had an unsettling affect on people around me. In a Catholic school in the early 1990s the possibility that I represented (of which I was myself barely conscious) was still all but 'unspeakable'. I could not understand why so many of my peers and some of my teachers took an inexplicable dislike to me; I was particularly bewildered by the other girls' propensity to ostracise me for no apparent reason. I was insistently plagued by a feeling that my presence created a sense of sexual uncertainty and anxiety in others, as if my obvious failure to meet the rigidly normative sex and gender standards of the school environment somehow rendered the normal world unfamiliar, even 'unhomely'. I began to feel, in other words, distinctly 'uncanny'. At the time, I made no connections between my own experiences and my avid consumption of Gothic and horror novels. Queer theory has brought me full circle, enabling me to recognise that what I recognise in the Gothic is the Gothic's capacity to convey an uncanny sense of queer awareness.

Mair Rigby Independent Scholar


(1) Sue Ellen Case, 'Tracking the Vampire', in Differences, 3 (1991) 1-20, and George Haggerty, Queer Gothic, (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006).

(2) Michael O' Rourke and David Collings, 'Queer Romanticisms: Past, Present and Future', in Romanticism on the Net, 36-7 (November 2004-February 2005) Available on-line at [accessed 7 November 2005] (para. 24 of 42). My thinking has been substantially influenced by this essay.

(3) Nicholas Royle, The Uncanny (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003), p. 2.

(4) See Judith Halberstam, Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995).

(5) See, for example, George Haggerty, Men in Love: Masculinity and Sexuality in the Eighteenth Century, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999) and George Haggerty and Bonnie Zimmerman, (eds), The Encyclopaedia of Lesbian and Gay Histories and Cultures (New York: Garland, 1999).

(6) See Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, The Coherence of Gothic Conventions (New York and London: Methuen, 1986).

(7) Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985) and Epistemology of the Closet, (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991).

(8) Diana Fuss 'inside/out', in Diana Fuss, (ed.), inside/out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories (London and New York: Routledge, 1991), pp. 1-10 at p. 3.

(9) Collings and O' Rourke, 'Queer Romanticisms', para. 22.

(10) William Hughes and Andrew Smith, (eds), Queering the Gothic (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009).

(11) Haggerty, Queer Gothic, p. 2.

(12) Michael Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume 1, trans. Robert Hurley, (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1998), p. 35, italics in original.

(13) See Halberstam, Skin Shows, p. 17, and Haggerty, Queer Gothic, p. 2.

(14) Sigmund Freud, 'The Uncanny', in Albert Dickson, (ed.), Art and Literature: The Penguin Freud Library, Volume 14, trans. James Strachey (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990), pp. 339-76 at p. 368.

(15) Royle, The Uncanny, p. 12.

(16) Max Fincher, Queering Gothic in the Romantic Age: The Penetrating Eye (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2007), p. 1.

(17) Collings and O' Rourke, 'Queer Romanticisms', para. 30.

(18) Case, 'Tracking', p. 3.

(19) Ibid., p. 3.

(20) Tanya Krazywinska, 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci?' in Paul Burston and Colin Richardson, (eds), A Queer Romance: Lesbians, Gay Men and Popular Culture (New York; London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 99-110 at p. 103.

(21) Ellis Hanson, 'Undead', in Fuss, (ed.) inside/out, pp. 324-40 at p. 325.

(22) Ellis Hanson, 'Lesbians who Bite', in Ellis Hanson, (ed.), Out Takes: Essays on Queer Theory and Film (London: Duke University Press, 1999), pp. 183-222 at pp. 184-5.

(23) Ibid., p. 185.

(24) Paulina Palmer, 'Lesbian Gothic: Genre, Transformation, Transgression', in Gothic Studies, 6/1 (2004), 118-30 at pp. 120-1. See also Palmer's book, Lesbian Gothic: Transgressive Fictions (London: Cassell, 1999).

(25) Terry Castle, The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 2.

(26) Ibid., p. 63.

(27) Susan Stryker, 'My Words to Victor Frankenstein above the Valley of Chamonix: Performing Transgender Rage', GLQ, 1/3 (1995), 237-54 at p. 238.

(28) Ibid,, p. 250.

(29) Freud, 'The Uncanny', pp. 363-4.

(30) My understanding of the uncanny here is drawn from Nicholas Royle. See The Uncanny, pp. 1-2, 42-3.

(31) I have discussed the queerness of Gothic recognition in relation to other texts in my essays "Prey to Some Cureless Disquiet': Polidori's Queer Vampyre at the Margins of Romanticism', in Romanticism on the Net, 36-7 (November 2004-February 2005), available on-line at [accessed 26th May 2008], and 'Do you Share my Madness?': Frankenstein's Queer Gothic', in Smith and Hughes, (eds), Queering the Gothic, pp. 36-54.

(32) Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, 'Carmilla' in In a Glass Darkly, edited with an introduction by Robert Tracy (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 260-1.

(33) Charles Maturin, Melmoth the Wanderer, edited with an introduction by Douglas E. Grant and Chris Baldick (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 39. All subsequent references are to this edition, and are given in parentheses in the text.

(34) Sedgwick, Between Men, p. 94.

(35) As Halberstam notes, 'the secret buried in the heart of Gothic... is usually identified as a sexual secret'. See Skin Shows, p. 21.

(36) Foucault, History, p. 17.

(37) For more on this double-bind, see Lee Edelman, Homographesis, (New York; London: Routledge, 1994), p.7.

(38) D. A. Miller, 'Anal Rope', in Diana Fuss, (ed.), inside/out, pp. 119-41 at p. 131.

(39) See Louis Crompton, Byron and Greek Love: Homophobia in 19th-Century England (London: Faber and Faber, 1985), pp. 23, 48.

(40) Ann Radcliffe, The Italian, edited by Patrick Garber with an Introduction and Notes by E. J. Clery (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 87. All subsequent references are to this edition and are given in parentheses in the text.

(41) Rictor Norton, Mistress of Udolpho: The Life of Ann Radcliffe (London; New York: Leicester University Press, 1999), p. 148.

(42) Ibid., p. 149.

(43) Ibid., p. 147.

(44) See Ashley Tauchert, 'Escaping Discussion: Liminality and the Female-Embodied Couple in Mary Wollstonecraft's Mary, A Fiction, in Romanticism on the Net, 18 (May 2000). Available on-line at html [accessed 26th May 2008].

(45) Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho, edited with an Introduction by Bonamy Dobree (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 498. All subsequent references are to this edition and are given in parentheses in the text.

(46) For two excellent essays advancing lesbian and queer theoretical perspectives on the film adaptations of these texts, see Rhona J. Berenstein, "I'm not the sort of person men marry": Monsters, Queers and Hitchcock's Rebecca', in Corey K. Creekmuir and Alexander Doty, (eds), Out in Culture: Gay, Lesbian and Queer Essays on Popular Culture (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1995), pp. 239-61; and Patricia White, 'Female Spectator, Lesbian Specter: The Haunting', in Fuss, (ed.) inside/out, pp. 142-72.

(47) Case, 'Tracking', p. 3.

(48) Hanson, 'Undead', p. 338.

Address for Correspondence

Mair Rigby, 2 Agate Street, Roath, Cardiff, CF24 1PF, Wales, UK. E-mail:
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Publication:Gothic Studies
Date:May 1, 2009
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