Female Authored Gothic Tales in the Nineteenth-Century Popular Press
Weinstock, Jeffrey, Department of English Language and Literature
Cambridge Scholars Press
Copyright 2007 by Cambridge Scholars Press. Intellectual Property Rights owned by Jeffrey Weinstock. This material is copyrighted, and any further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without the permission of the copyright owner.
American literature; Gothic literature; Nineteenth-century literature; Women's literature; Women authors, American -- 19th century; Gothic fiction (Literary genre), American; Ghost stories, American
This essay offers an overview to the ways in which nineteenth-century American female authors appropriated and manipulated Gothic themes in the periodical press with a special emphasis on the ghost story. It begins by discussing the appeal of the ghost story to female authors and then focuses on two of the many categories of supernatural tales developed by nineteenth-century American women: stories that revise the masculine literary tradition and what may be called "racialized" Female Gothic tales-supernatural stories that articulate simultaneously cultural anxieties about both race and gender and use the former precisely as a way to engage with the latter. The discussion of the appropriation and rewriting of the masculine tradition attends to a story titled "Love and Ghosts" from 1846 by Caroline H. Butler and to a lesser-read tale called "The Giant Wisteria" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The discussion of the racialized Female Gothic examines two stories by unknown authors: "Story of a Haunted House" published in 1849 by an author identified only as Mrs. Romer and "The Legend of Starved Rock" from 1856 by a woman named Mary W. Janvrim. What both of these categories of supernatural tales illustrate are the ways in which the production of gothic tales, including ghost stories, not only had the potential to be financially remunerative, but allowed women to participate in a process of cultural commentary and critique.
Weinstock, Jeffrey, Book Chapter: "Female Authored Gothic Tales in the Nineteenth-Century Popular Press," in Popular Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers and the Literary Marketplace, edited by Earl Yarington. Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007, 74-96.