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Queer Others in Victorian Gothic

Transgressing Monstrosity

In Queer Others in Victorian Gothic, Ardel Haefele-Thomas examines a number of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Gothic novels, short stories, and films through the lens of queer cultural studies. In some of these works, as Haefele-Thomas demonstrates, the author or filmmaker fully intended to explore the complicated landscape of queer sexuality and gender identity. In most, however, the author or filmmaker’s intentions are unclear.
Haefele-Thomas takes on these works, first employing “queer” in its nineteenth-century historical context, to point to their generally weird, odd, or ill components. She then explores them using “queer” in the complex and politically charged context from the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Haefele-Thomas argues that part of what makes these texts Gothic are their covert queer content. She also reveals that queer theory—lacking the gender specificity found in gay and lesbian theories and historiographies—allows room to convey gender, sexuality, race, class, and familial structures in a specific state of anti-categorization. Queers Others in Victorian Gothic will appeal to anyone interested in the intersection of gender, sexuality, and literary criticism.

224 pages | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2012

Gothic Literary Studies

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

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“Ardel Haefele-Thomas’s Queer Others in Victorian Gothic applies queer and postcolonial theory to gothic fiction—with surprising results. In richly historicized contexts, the author reveals refined explorations of otherness in Victorian literature, as well as complicated empathies and tolerances that unsettle our critical assumptions.”

Regenia Gagnier, University of Exeter

"This study extends our understanding of how from the mid-nineteenth century onwards that those who are queer are not always portrayed unsympathetically in Victorian fiction, as one might argue they are in earlier gothic novels and stories to a certain extent. Neither are queer bodies and their desires entirely absent from authors who, on a first reading, we might assume only represent heterosexual concerns, like Elizabeth Gaskell. Thomas’s analysis of the spinster, of those who refuse to participate in the marriage and child economy of heterosexuality, of the atavistic racialized other who wields power, could be applied to other genres of Victorian fiction, and might raise an awareness that ‘those who should be the monster are not’"

The Gothic Imagination

Table of Contents


1. Introduction
2. The Spinster and the Hijra: How Queers Save Heterosexual Marriage in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White and The Moonstone
3. Escaping Heteronormativity: Queer Family Structures in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Lois the Witch and ’The Grey Woman’
4. Disintegrating Binaries, Disintegrating Bodies: Queer Imperial Transmogrification in H. Rider Haggard’s She
5. ’One does things abroad that one would not dream of doing in England’: Miscegenation and Queer Female Vampirism in J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla and Florence Marryat’s The Blood of the Vampire
6. In Defence of Her Queer Community: Vernon Lee’s Decoded Decadent Gothic


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