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Sep/Oct 18 Rebecca by du Maurier > Genres That Are Particularly Suited to Feminist Writing

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message 1: by Katelyn, Our Shared Shelf Moderator (new)

Katelyn (katelynrh) | 836 comments Mod
I've been thinking a lot about this in preparation for my reread of Rebecca, as you may have read in the book announcement. Gothic romance, horror, and thrillers, have long been considered especially suited to/for feminism, women writers and readers, and stories about women... I think it might be interesting to think about why that is?

Are there certain genres that are more suited to feminist writing than others? Has this been true historically? Is it still true now?

I don't mean to suggest that there are genres that aren't suited to feminist writing, because I don't believe that's true at all. But I think it's a worthwhile conversation to have as we read this novel!


message 2: by Nonka (last edited Sep 10, 2018 11:39AM) (new)

Nonka | 11 comments I have two guesses, these are rather feelings. First, the genre, for example, gothic is 'disturbing' because the female protagonist's plight is disturbing (this is the reason behind the choice of a 'disturbing' style), I think of Jane Eyre. My other guess is a funny one, these genres you mentioned are very gripping, people tend to finish the books, so they think about the content, the feminist issues.


message 3: by Unicorn (new)

Unicorn  (unicornreader) Personally, my favourite feminist books are contemporary stories.


message 4: by Sierra (new)

Sierra | 42 comments I read a ton of nature writing and theory that tends to have feminist undertones. I think it has to do with women and Mother Earth. And how “man” has plundered her and her resources...


message 5: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Lovegreen (lynn_lovegreen) Interesting conversation. I read a lot of romance and YA, and they are often feminist--I think because so many of the authors are women writing about women (and young women).


message 6: by Narrative Muse (new)

Narrative Muse (narrative_muse) I think you're right about Gothic romance, horror, and thrillers being well-suited for women authors and characters. I think it's because the Gothic represents an uncanny version of the real world -- a topsy-turvy world where power structures and conventions are reversed. That allows female characters a kind of power that they don't usually get.

Besides that, so much of the Gothic is about dark secrets hidden under the veneer of social norms, about identities fractured by trauma, and about overcoming terrible threats that cannot be fought directly. Those themes and plot points leave space for women writers to explore the place of women in society, and for women characters to have the kind of agency and psychological/emotional depth that they are usually denied in fiction. Like Nonka said, the Gothic is "disturbing" and in being so it disturbs our established, comfortable society -- a society that serves to subjugate women.

Horror and thrillers both evolved out of the Gothic, so they retained those elements to a certain degree.


message 7: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Zmanovskia (lovely_bookie95) I often this of Mally Shelly's Frankenstein and how she challenged man and God within the novel. She used the gothic genre to tell of the real horrors of the power of men and the hold they place over the world and women. So far in my reading Rebecca shows the power women can hold over others, men and women included. Ut also demonstrates the horror of the normality of marriage in which the women is expected to be a pedestal figure. I love women using the gothic genre. It's so powerful!


message 8: by Amanda (new)

Amanda Butler When I was studying literature, my professor said that a gothic novel has two common elements (there might be more but I only remember two) which are place (somewhere they traps the heroine like a cage) and the women’s virtue being threatened. I’m only a few chapters in so far, but Manderley is definitely the place that seems like it will be a gilded cage.


message 9: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 42 comments Going right back to the beginning of the ‘Gothic’ genre and looking at books like The Mystery of Udolpho and The Castle of Otranto, women were very much portrayed as beautiful objects to acquire and stereotyped in a damsel in distress/victim type role, as dictated by the time. The gothic reflects social fears and as many social fears relate to the chastity of women and female purity, sex and gender become a fairly central point of the Gothic.

This tradition makes the Gothic the perfect genre to subvert these stereotypes. However, what also makes it interesting, is by the Victorian period with books like The Woman in White and Dracula, we are starting to see more strong and independent female characters, even written by men. The term for this is the ‘New Woman’ which came about with the start of the suffrage movement. Pair this with writers like Mary Shelley and the Brontes and suddenly the representation of women in this genre gets really interesting. It allows a lot for authors to draw on, subvert and play with, and it has a richer history than many other genres.


message 10: by Katelyn, Our Shared Shelf Moderator (new)

Katelyn (katelynrh) | 836 comments Mod
Amanda, I'd love to hear how those ideas resonated in your reading of the remainder of the book!

Ellen, such great points! I didn't know that there was a particular term for this phenomenon, but the subversion you describe is something I've been thinking about for awhile now.


message 11: by Rumell (new)

Rumell Khan (rkrespectedmember) Indie is a good genre for any campaign on independence.


message 12: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 273 comments i think sci-fi, with its world-building component and the very nature of limitlessness re: time, space, worlds, galaxies, universes, and inhabitants easily lends itself to feminist ideas and ideals.


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