Black Cats and Puma Women: Marginalized Bodies and Violence in Gothic Literature



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American and British Gothic literature has an extensive history of addressing social issues crucial to nineteenth-century discussions, with subjects of particular interest including race and gender. In the Gothic mode of literature, people of color and women are overtly represented as marginalized bodies. While scholarship recognizes this process, there are few studies that use an intersectional approach in their examination of marginalized bodies in Gothic literature. This study examines the intersectionality of violence against women and violence against people of color in nineteenth-century Gothic literature.

Additionally, in nineteenth-century American and British Gothic literature, there is a prevalence of authors depicting marginalized bodies via animal characters. The codification of marginalized bodies as animal figures allowed authors to comment on contemporary social issues without directly interacting with these controversial subjects. While this process is particularly notable in Poe’s “The Black Cat,” other authors similarly applied these motifs to their work. Using Poe’s titular black cat as a narrative template, Stoker and Wells employ their own variations of the black cat archetype in their texts. This continuous application of an animal archetype conveys the prevalence of hybridized figures characterized by both their femininity and blackness. Moreover, these authors’ overlapping depictions of gendered and racialized violence emphasizes the prevalence of abuse that these vulnerable populations faced. This study intends to examine three authors’ literary portrayals of violence against marginalized bodies and their correlations with historical conceptualizations of race and gender.



Gothic literature, Nineteenth-century literature, Marginalized bodies, Gendered violence, Racialized violence, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, H. G. Wells.