Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English



First Advisor

Jean Walton


This dissertation investigates the mode of the Female Gothic primarily by examining how texts utilize the role of curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge, paying close attention to how female characters employ these attributes. Existing criticism is vital to understanding the Female Gothic and in presenting the genealogy of feminist literary criticism, and yet I argue, this body of criticism often produces elements of essentialism. In an attempt to avoid and expose the biases that essentialism produces, I draw from Sara Ahmed’s theory of queer phenomenology to investigate the connections between the way that women pursue and circulate knowledge through education and reading and writing practices in the Female Gothic. What women are allowed access to these practices, and what women are denied access? I argue that curiosity positions characters towards objects of knowledge in a positive and active way. I trace the trajectory of the Female Gothic beginning with Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. I also examine the following novels: Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea, Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches, Octavia Butler’s Fledgling, and Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing is Monsters. I end the dissertation by examining the Female Gothic’s impact on the pop cultural imagination by analyzing the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its surrounding transmedial texts, such as the comics published by Dark Horse and Boom, and the podcast Buffering the Vampire Slayer.



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