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Reading: “Faking” Disability and Performing Gothic Narratives in Matthew Lewis’s The Monk

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“Faking” Disability and Performing Gothic Narratives in Matthew Lewis’s The Monk

Author:

Kathleen Hudson

Anne Arundel Community College, US
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Abstract

There are very few depictions of physical disability in the early Gothic novels of the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries. However, there are several moments in such texts when a faked disability is used in a pseudo-drag performance by an able bodied actor, a kind of negotiation of disabled identity. Such depictions exploit patterns of eighteenth-century masquerade performance to prioritize and problematize physical identity as a space of profound socio-moral and personal destabilization. This phenomenon within the early Gothic in turn aligns the performance of identity with that of Gothic narrative, redefining self-fashioning practices in terms of “otherness.” This article will use Tobin Siebers’s work on disability performance to examine the use of “fake” disability as a means of negotiating Gothic narrative in Matthew Lewis’s 1796 novel The Monk. The Monk distinguished itself as a novel focused both thematically and strategically on the dialectic interpretation of physical performance, on “seeing” and reading identity within a fundamentally unstable universe. Disability masquerade in this text illuminates numerous ambiguities that defined personal, social, and literary identity at this time, and that also influenced later depictions of disability in the developing Gothic mode.

How to Cite: Hudson, K., 2019. “Faking” Disability and Performing Gothic Narratives in Matthew Lewis’s The Monk. Studies in Gothic Fiction, 6(1), pp.7–18. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/sgf.15
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Published on 20 Jan 2019.
Peer Reviewed

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