HSS Research Seminar: 'Loathing a walk in daylight’: Female Safety and Danger in the Gothic Landscapes of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Short Stories

Events — Talk Helmore 201 & Microsoft Teams
11 March 2024, 17:00

Research Seminar delivered by Alice Jackman, Postgraduate Researcher at Anglia Ruskin University.

This paper considers how female walkers in Elizabeth Gaskell’s gothic fiction interact with the landscapes and environments they experience. In this paper I will examine how Gaskell employs narratorial voice to implement parameters of safety vs danger when describing the female walk. In The Grey Woman, Anna and Amante walk to escape, The Poor Clare’s walk into danger, and in The Old Nurse’s Story following a spectral figure to the Fell’s would result in death. Germany, Wales and New England are all new environments that Gaskell explores for their Gothic potential. I consider the act of walking within these texts as both radical and dangerous. The female walker is not the only active participant in the solitary walk. Both walker and environment can be interrogated as mutual subjects or as Jane Bennett writes in Vibrant Matter, assemblages. Bennett describes these assemblages as ‘ad-hoc groupings of diverse elements…living throbbing confederations…that cross the human/non-human divide’. Using Jane Bennet’s theory of assemblages, I consider how environmental agency helps or hinders the female walker within the gothic landscape.

Portrait of Elizabeth Gaskell by George Richmond (1851)
Portrait of Elizabeth Gaskell by George Richmond (1851)

Event contact: Jeannette Baxter and Melanie Bell: HSSresearch@aru.ac.uk