Literary Criticism

Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery by Jeanette Winterson

By Jeanette Winterson

In those ten intertwined essays, one in every of our so much provocative younger novelists proves that she is simply as trendy and outrageous an artwork critic. For whilst Jeanette Winterson seems at works as assorted because the Mona Lisa and Virginia Woolf's The Waves, she frees them from layers of preconception and restores their strength to exalt and unnerve, surprise and remodel us.

"Art Objects is a e-book to be in demand for its attempt to talk exorbitantly, urgently and occasionally superbly approximately artwork and approximately our person and collective want for severe art."--Los Angeles Times

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More recently writers have looked back to the Victorian period, similarly identified with a female monarch, to understand the ways in which the structures of that era have defined us. Like Irigaray, Anne Williams questions Freud’s privileging of the myth of Oedipus. indd 22 2/12/2013 10:37:31 AM Introduction the folktale of Bluebeard, a story which is a key intertext for Female Gothic fictions from Jane Eyre (1847) to Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber (1979), and which she suggests can be seen as expressing the ways in which the patriarchal family is integral to the ‘night­ mare’ of history.

Second, whereas the Female Gothic explains the ghosts, the male formula accepts the supernatural as part of the ‘reality’ of its world. Third, ‘the Male Gothic has a tragic plot. 73 Part of the problem is that Williams bases her ‘Female Gothic’ formula on the work of Ann Radcliffe. If we go back beyond Radcliffe to Lee’s The Recess as the founding text (as I do in chapter 2), we find that many of Williams’s assumptions do not work: The Recess uses mul­ tiple points of view, is tragedy not comedy, and, it could be argued, depicts actual, rather than imagined, female suffering.

Indd 38 2/12/2013 10:37:32 AM Sophia Lee’s The Recess must have been rather irritating. Not only Austen’s Northanger Abbey but her juvenile The History of England, written by ‘a partial, preju­ diced and ignorant Historian’ whose principal reason for writing is to ‘prove the innocence’ of Mary Queen of Scots ,57 suggests that Lee’s gendered revision of Hume’s History in The Recess articulated a more widespread female dissatisfaction with ‘real solomn history’. Hume, Robertson and Goldsmith were all concerned to write history in a lively narrative style which would engage the reader’s interest.

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