Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Sarah C. Alexander
This paper examines the intersection of haunting and ecocriticism in Victorian Gothic novels. Using the theoretical lenses of ecocriticism and Female Gothic studies, I explore the idea of ecogothic violence, or the means by which environmental forces create dangerous circumstances in events like fire, flood, or quicksand. Because the environment is often portrayed as neutral and the focus in fiction remains on human experiences, ecogothic violence has the potential to collaborate with disempowered figures in ways that disrupt and haunt the textual goals of each narrative.Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre, Rosanna Spearman from The Moonstone, and Miss Havisham from Great Expectations are characters who perform a spectral physicality and identity while still alive. This performance can signify a spectral mode of dress—all white, or of a different time—or behavior that mimics that of a ghost, such as making unintelligible or frightening noises or haunting a particular place or room. Each character is a threat to the central marriage plots of the novel, as well as any reproduction that may result from each union. I contend that their death by ecogothic means is a method for the text to legitimize their spectral identities. The subsequent portrayal of marriage plots that are haunted by these spectral women as well as the environmental forces that helped them to die, demonstrates the text’s admission that the collateral damage of both wealth accumulation and heterosexual reproduction, refuses to disappear but remains in traces to haunt the text that tried to destroy them. Because these deaths are in some way self-initiated, the ecogothic violence becomes a way to explore how a refusal to participate in a destructive system still leaves traces that haunt that system, through spectral imagery, temporal disruption, and elemental agency within nature.
Number of Pages
Bergan, Mckenzie, "“Can You Tell When There Is A Good Fire?”: Haunting And Ecogothic Violence In Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, And The Moonstone" (2021). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 1390.
Available for download on Wednesday, May 10, 2023