The Child in Gothic
By Dr Charlotte White
Abstract PhD Thesis Dr Charlie (Charlotte) White
Congratulations to CIRCL PhD student Charlie White for completing her PhD and viva on 20-07-2012 with her thesis on ‘The Child in Gothic’. Supervisor: Dr Sue Walsh. Viva External Examiner: Dr Catherine Spooner, Lancaster University, Internal Examiner: Dr Neil Cocks.
Abstract of thesis
This thesis explores what is a stake in discussions about the child, Gothic and the relationship between the two. The theoretical approach is grounded in the work of Jacqueline Rose’s The Case of Peter Pan, or The Impossibility of Children’s Fiction (1984) that argues for the child as a discursive construction rather than as having a pre-discursive reality that is then brought into the text. It also engages with James Kincaid’s theory on the eroticisation of the child in Child-loving: the Erotic Child and Victorian Culture (1992).
Through a combination of close readings of critical approaches to the child and Gothic, and of Gothic texts, this thesis examines productions of the child in Gothic as illegible, inexpressible and/or as representing the unconscious where the child is often portrayed in terms of a truth waiting to be revealed. It also considers how some critics relate their reading of particular ideology such as Romanticism and The Enlightenment to Gothic, and looks at how the child as a Gothic figure unsettles these readings. Following Rose, this thesis additionally queries claims of ‘realness’ made for the child that is then used to secure and stabilise meaning in language. It questions the idea that there is a fundamentally direct relationship between the child and language.
The argument to be made is that child in Gothic is necessarily legible and that rather than making a claim to a notion of truth, the child challenges the possibility of truth and often undermines the claims that are made for it. This thesis discusses the implications of configurations of the child in terms of the visible, the spoken and the written and the relation of such configurations to notions of legitimacy, transgression, evolution theory and madness in Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White (1860); Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast (1950); Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764).
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