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Rewriting the Female Gothic in the Antipodes: Fiona Kidman's Mandarin Summer

Doreen D'Cruz


This essay makes a case for Fiona Kidman’s recognition within the international feminist canon, giving particular focus to her contribution to feminist metafiction as realised in her redeployment of the Gothic genre in her second novel, Mandarin Summer (1981). In her re-invention of the genre, Kidman departs from the compromises of “victim feminism” that Diane Hoeveler has identified as characterizing the Female Gothic in favour of a tactical feminism which brings about the triumph of female cognitive power  Using the successive contexts invoked here by Kidman’s particular brand of feminism, the Female Gothic tradition, and Mandarin Summer’s textual ancestry in Jane Eyre, the discussion considers how a female epistemic site emerges through the tactical containment and encircling of patriarchal plots. This is partly enabled through the Janus-eyed vision of its central protagonist who rejects patriarchy’s binary divisions between women, and partly through her refusal to be complicit in the symbolic and actual murder of mothers. However, in Kidman’s denouement, the rescuing of women comes at a price, which is not entirely unexpected for the reader.   



Female Gothic, metafiction, tactical feminism, matricide, female madness, (female) sublime

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The Johns Hopkins University Press

ISSN: 1920-1222

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