Translation, Migration, & Gender in the Americas, the Transatlantic, & the Transpacific
5-8 Jul 2017 Bordeaux (France)
Stoddard's and Spofford's Oceanic Gothic
Melissa Gniadek  1  
1 : University of Torento

This paper examines two increasingly well-known mid-nineteenth century texts in the context of increasing attention to gender and the oceanic. Elizabeth Stoddard's The Morgesons (1862), set in a Massachusetts coastal town, is filled with the stuff of global trade: speckled Pacific seashells, a whale's tooth with a drawing of a ship on it, sandalwood, green tea, a parrot. The gothic female bildungsroman is situated within the context of global empire. Similarly, Harriet Prescott Spofford's The Amber Gods (1863) considers female bodies in global contexts. While most of the long short story is set in New England, the histories that undergird the tale bring readers to Italy, but also to the Pacific and the West Indies. Certainly, the transnational dimensions of both texts have been discussed, but this paper considers these two texts together in order to argue for a transnational, formal resonance. Drawing on the model provided by Margaret Cohen in her critical work The Novel and the Sea, I begin to trace an oceanic female gothic that connects continental and island regions. This allows us to recognize different constellations of texts that both thematize and formalize the oceanic, trade, and the circulation of female bodies in ways that move us beyond the often male-centered texts of the oceanic turn.

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