The gotic as adolescent fantasy : Alice Munro's Lives of girls and women

Author: Szalay, Edina
Source document: The Central European journal of Canadian studies. 2001, vol. 1, iss. [1], pp. 5-17
  • ISSN
    2336-4556 (online)
License: Not specified license
The Gothic as a means of conveying the sense of the unsayable and invisible yet inherent and organic features of human existence constantly reemerges in Munro's fiction. Lives of Girls and Women is special, however, because there is no other volume in the Munro canon where the analysis of the interrelatedness of Gothic fantasy and female psychology would have such a comprehensive and overarching significance from the point of view of the collection as a whole, i.e., it does develop into a theme on its own. In my analysis I intend to focus on how Del's relationship with men and sexuality in general are influenced by the Gothic patterns of her fantasy, which are rooted in her excessive reading of such novels. Munro, however, also carries out a "re-visionary" study of the genre, to apply Adrienne Rich's term, when, through mapping out Del's budding sense of independence, she systematically undermines the validity of Gothic discourse. In this way, the Gothic, revisioned by Del in her reading and writing practice, gradually comes to sink into artificiality, and finally proves to be inadequate to provide role models for this teenager-autonomous women being commonly absent from Gothic fiction-who becomes aware of the need to overcome the traditional myths ofwomanhood.
Le gothique comme le moyen d'expression des expériences inexprimables et invisibles est présent continuellement dans la prose d'Alice Munro dès le commencement. Dans le volume Les Destins: Filles et Femmes, qui est considéré par certains comme recuil de nouvelles et par d'autres comme roman, Munro observe de très près les types de caractère et les modèles de comportement du gothique, nottament ceux de la romance. L'auteur s'intéresse premièrement comment l'ensemble de la fantaisie gothique et de la psychologie féminine peuvent se lier, très concrètement, la connaissance des formules de la romance gothique -- qui s'y rapporte -- quelle influence peut exercer sur la formation de la personnalité de l'adolescente. L'objet de mes recherches est de savoir comment l'état gothique de Del Jordan influence ses sentiments liés aux hommes et à la sexualité qui est typique dans ce type de romance.
[1] DeLamotte, Eugenia C. Perils of the Night: A Feminist Study of Nineteenth-Century Gothic . NewYork: Oxford UP, 1990.

[2] Goffman, Erving. Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience . Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1974.

[3] Heble, Ajay. The Tumble of Reason: Alice Munro's Discourse of Absence . Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1994.

[4] Howells, Coral Ann. Private and Fictional Words: Canadian Women Novelists of the 1970s and 1980s . London: Methuen, 1987.

[5] Kayser, Wolfgang. The Grotesque in Art and Literature . Trans. Ulrich Weisstein. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1968.

[6] Metcalf, John. " A Conversation with Alice Munro ." Journal of Canadian Fiction 1.2 (Fall 1972): 54-62.

[7] Munro, Alice. Lives of Girls and Women . 1971. New York: Signet, 1974.