As British women writers in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries sought to define how they experienced their era's social and ecomic upheaval, they helped popularize a new style of bourgeois female sensibility. Building on her earlier work in Romantic Androgyny, Diane Long Hoeveler w examines the Gothic vels of Charlotte Smith, Ann Radcliffe, Jane Austen, Charlotte Dacre Byrne, Mary Shelley, and the BrontA"s to show how these writers helped define femininity for women of the British middle class. Hoeveler argues that a female-created literary ideology, w kwn as "victim feminism," arose as the Gothic vel helped create a new social role of professional victim for women adjusting to the new bourgeois order. These vels were thinly disguised efforts at propagandizing a new form of conduct for women, teaching that "professional femininity"-a cultivated pose of wise passiveness and controlled emotions-best prepared them for social survival. She examines how representations of both men and women in these vels moved from the purely psychosexual into social and political representations, and how these writers constructed a series of ideologies that would allow their female characters-and readers-fictitious mastery over an oppressive social and political system. Gothic Feminism takes a neo-feminist approach to these women's writings, treating them t as sacred texts but as thesis-driven works that attempted to instruct women in a series of strategic poses. It offers both a new understanding of the genre and a wholly new interpretation of feminism as a literary ideology.
Diane Long Hoeveler is Associate Professor of English and Coordinator of the Women's Studies Program at Marquette University. She is the author of Romantic Androgyny: The Women Within (Penn State, 1990) and co-author of Charlotte Bronte (1997).