Femicidal Fears

Narratives of the Female Gothic Experience

By Helene Meyers

Subjects: Women's Studies
Series: SUNY series in Feminist Criticism and Theory
Paperback : 9780791451526, 223 pages, October 2001
Hardcover : 9780791451519, 223 pages, October 2001

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Table of contents


Critical Femicide: A Polemical Preface

1. Introduction: Feminist Gothic/Gothic Feminist

2. Gothic Traditions

3. Love Kills

4. The Construction of the Sadomasochistic Couple

5. Paranoia Will Destroy You, or Will It?

6. The Perils of Postfeminism

7. Beyond Postfeminism: Revaluing the Female Body and the Body Politic

Epilogue: Toward Feminisms without Demons


Works Cited


Argues that contemporary female Gothic novels of death can, in fact, breathe new life into feminist debates about victimization, essentialism, agency, and the body.


In Femicidal Fears, Helene Meyers examines contemporary femicidal plots—plots in which women are killed or fear for their lives—to argue that these female Gothic novels of death actually bring the nuances of feminist thought to life. Through her examination of works by Angela Carter, Muriel Spark, Edna O'Brien, Beryl Bainbridge, Joyce Carol Oates, and Margaret Atwood, as well as such infamous cases as the Montreal Massacre and the Yorkshire Ripper, Meyers contends that these femicidal plots restage and embody feminist debates flattened by such glib and automatic phrases as "essentialism" and "victim feminism. " Bringing the Gothic and the quotidian together in discussions of heterosexual romance, the sadomasochistic couple, female paranoia, postfeminism, and images of the female body, the book affirms that refusing victimization may not be a simple story, but it is nevertheless one worth telling.

Helene Meyers is Associate Professor of English at Southwestern University.


"The strength of Femicidal Fears lies in Meyers' development of the analogy between compulsory heterosexuality and Gothic narratives. It also lies in the fact that Meyers—like Foucault, Butler, and other social constructionists—seeks to historicize the social networks of power that legitimize the heterosexual romance and female victimization. " — Gothic Studies

"…offers an eloquent and often witty argument for the importance of the Gothic tradition in the work of contemporary women writers who are concerned about continuing problems for women in the remnants of patriarchy. (Indeed, patriarchy is still alive and well. ) A valuable contribution. " — Anne Williams, author of Art of Darkness: A Poetics of Gothic

"An interesting, readable, and original contribution to the fields of women's literature, contemporary literature, Gothic literature, and feminist theory. Femicidal Fears is full of insightful readings of individual texts and of the connections among them; at the same time, the overview it provides is illuminating, artfully constructed, and provocative. " — Eugenia C. DeLamotte, author of Perils of the Night: A Feminist Study of Nineteenth-Century Gothic