The daemon Eros: Gothic elements in the novels of Emily and Charlotte Brontë, Doris Lessing, and Iris Murdoch
The first problem with the gothic is defining the term, which is used to denote at least three distinct phenomena at different levels of generality: a historical group of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels, a literary genre of content, and a category of analysis. Disagreement about definitions, particularly of the analytical category, suggests that each critic tends to make use of that part of a complex family resemblance that best suits his own purposes. This is true not only of the gothic but of generic labels in general, which implies the usefulness of literary categories is as multiform and overlapping ideas rather than discrete entities.The gothic is used here as a tool of analysis to discover the way the novels of the Brontes, Lessing, and Murdoch work and what their central concerns are, while at the same time exploring what some of women's interests in the gothic might be. The focus is on their use of the daemonic (so spelled to suggest the Greek concept of morally ambiguous forces that are sources of both energy and compulsion), and in particular on Eros (love, libido, sexuality) as the form of the daemonic most often of interest to women writers. The analytical value of this image is that it tends to attract to itself the emotional contradictions of the work, marking the intersections of fear and desire and showing us what, in the universe of the novel, is to be loved and feared. It can function as a key to values and emotions that may not be explicit or perhaps even conscious. The writers and novels discussed are very different, and the attempt is not to impose a rigid terminology on them but to illuminate them with a common approach while dealing with each novelist, as nearly as possible, in her own terms.
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