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Horrorigins: How the Female Gothic Still Haunts Women’s Homes

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Horrorigins: How the Female Gothic Still Haunts Women’s Homes

From GBP 9.00



May 14 2024 19:00 - 22:00
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All events start at 19:00, for 19:15, please do not be late.

This class aims to explore how eighteenth-century Gothic texts have influenced contemporary horror cinema by establishing the origins of both the ‘found footage’ genre and the female experience of being trapped in a house where safety has been corrupted by hostility. I will establish the principles of the Gothic form, the theoretical concepts of ‘horror’ and ‘terror’, and how their characteristics influence the experience of fear, particularly as a gendered phenomenon.

Initially focussing on two seminal ‘found’ Gothic texts, The Castle of Otranto (1764) and The Monk (1796) I will then move towards a discussion of Ann Radcliffe’s work. Radcliffe has been named the ‘Mother of the Gothic’ and her depictions of Gothic heroines trapped in patriarchal structures of control have become synonymous with what is loosely termed the ‘Female Gothic’. Narratives of women trapped in domestic spaces are still prescient in horror cinema today, with many ‘haunted house’ films featuring a female protagonist who is the focus of paranormal activity, which I will read as an expression of female entrapment and oppression.

Paranormal Activity (2009/10), I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (2016), Crimson Peak (2015), and Insidious (2011) are the main films on which I draw to elucidate the links between Radcliffe’s work, the Female Gothic more generally, and modern horror cinema. I will examine how her eighteenth-century texts have influenced and been transformed by the horror genre, articulating similar fears which are inherently gendered through their utilisation of the domestic space as unsettling and therefore unsafe for women. The Female Gothic thus becomes an intrinsic element to the haunted house narrative in its close association with patriarchal structures and the pressures they exert on women.

Their critical divergence from Radcliffe’s work is their positioning of the supernatural as reality, but I argue that this is further indebted to women’s Gothic. Female protagonists are those most likely to experience the initial hauntings, and therefore carry the psychological burden of seeking affirmation from their male counterparts. Haunting thus functions as a call-back to past Gothic heroines who were also at the mercy of male authority figures, indicating that patriarchy’s oppressive structures remain (mainly) intact. True fear lies in the terror the female protagonists experience, largely in isolation, as it relates to the larger phenomenon of women’s oppression. This class will demonstrate how the contemporary haunted house narrative is thus indebted to a tradition of Gothic texts authored by women.

Presented by Sophie Haywood

This will not give you access to any online events. You will require a different ticket for that. These events are in-person only, and are not live streamed - sorry.


The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, WC1N 1JD London


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