Gothic Feminism: A Reading List

Verso_gothic_readinglist-

Gothic writing is about the return of the repressed, the emergence of the uncanny, the haunting of those who have been wronged. The horror of the gothic novel is not from the monsters themselves—the witches and madwomen, the ghostly specters and raging Furies—but from the reckoning of injustice being, finally, at hand.

It is no surprise that this has long been a feminist genre, for women have been closeted and repressed, silenced and forced into attics both real and metaphorical. The explosion of women’s rage in the eighteenth century was given voice by Mary Wollstonecraft in A Vindication of the Rights of Women; tellingly, her daughter become one of the most famous gothic novelists of all: Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

With today’s cresting wave of feminist rage and feminist desire, the gothic banshee is back, and she is writing. The madwomen are coming out of the attic and the witches are among us—we ignore them at our peril. Happy Halloween reading from Verso!

All the Verso books below are 50% off until October 31, when the clocks strike midnight! (23:59 EST).

Debut novel from critically acclaimed artist and musician Jenny Hval presents a heady and hyper-sensual portrayal of sexual awakening and queer desire.

A provocative and lyrical exploration of trauma and memory, from one of Norway’s most famed and provocative novelists. Longlisted for the National Book Award!

“Everyone is female, and everyone hates it.” Andrea Long Chu’s genre-defying investigation into sex and lies, desperate artists and reckless politics, the smothering embrace of gender and the punishing force of desire.

A haunting and evocative history of British imperialism, both intimate personal history and sweeping summation of the violent entanglement of two islands. Here, Hazel Carby reckons with what she can tell, what she can remember, and what she can bear to know.

Brilliant, insane, violent, prescient—Valerie Solanas’s 1968 manifesto announcing the formation of the Society for Cutting Up Men.

Mary Wollstonecraft’s foundational text from 1790, an elegant and impassioned argument for women’s education.

Insurgent manifesto for a global women’s movement that is anti-capitalist, ecosocialist, and anti-racist.

Silvia Federici wrote: “Revolting Prostitutes is a book I have been waiting for.” What more could you possibly need to know?!

 A pocket colour manifesto for a new futuristic feminism.

The surrogacy industry is estimated to be worth over $1 billion a year, and many of its surrogates around the world work in terrible conditions—deception, wage-stealing and money skimming are rife; adequate medical care is horrifyingly absent; and informed consent is depressingly rare. In Full Surrogacy Now, Sophie Lewis brings a fresh and unique perspective to the topic. Often, we think of surrogacy as the problem, but, Full Surrogacy Now argues, we need more surrogacy, not less!

The Heart of the Race is a powerful corrective to a version of Britain’s history from which black women have long been excluded. It reclaims and records black women’s place in that history, documenting their day-to-day struggles, their experiences of education, work and health care, and the personal and political struggles they have waged to preserve a sense of identity and community. First published in 1985 and winner of the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize that year, The Heart of the Race is a testimony to the collective experience of black women in Britain, and their relationship to the British state throughout its long history of slavery, empire and colonialism. 

Originally published in 1978, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman caused a storm of controversy. With a foreword that examines the debate the book has sparked between intellectuals and political leaders, as well as what has—and, crucially, has not—changed over the last four decades, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman continues to be deeply relevant to current feminist debates and black theory today.

*NOT AVAILABLE IN NORTH AMERICA

An international bestseller, originally published in 1970, when Shulamith Firestone was just twenty-five years old, The Dialectic of Sex was the first book of the women’s liberation movement to put forth a feminist theory of politics. 

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Non-Verso:

Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination, by Avery F. Gordon

This book cracked our editor’s mind wide open, in terms of its subject—haunting and history—and its example of how evocative and experimental a work of scholarship can be.

White is for Witching, by Helen Oyeyemi

A haunted house, a mysterious set of twins, a meditation on race and belonging in contemporary Britain, and an elegant lyrical tale.

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, by Angela Carter

Dark and sensual, haunting and violent fairy tales from this master of the supernatural – and icon of the 1960s women’s liberation movement.

K-Punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher, by Mark Fisher

Stop whatever you’re doing and go read the essays on goth couture, golgothic materialism, and horror stories immediately.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

Meet Bertha Mason, the original madwoman in the attic and symbol of all the trauma of British colonialism; meet Jane Eyre, the most clear-eyed and fierce narrator ever penned.

Witches, Midwives, and Nurses, by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English

A pamphlet written in a blaze of anger during the women’s liberation movement in 1973, this was the first book to argue that women healers had been demonized and that the witch-hunt was a regime of terror launched against women challenging patriarchal institutions, economies, and laws.

Fledgling, by Octavia Butler

A vampire tale, an allegory of race and otherness, and a novel about survival from the late, brave, and brilliant Octavia Butler.