Manipulation and subversion in the Gothic fairy tales of Tanith Lee

Van Der Westhuizen, Nadia (2017) Manipulation and subversion in the Gothic fairy tales of Tanith Lee. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Despite the great diversity of Tanith Lee's work - from science fiction short stories to epic historical novels - certain underlying themes and references consistently appear. This thesis examines Lee's applications of such themes and subtexts, arguing that her work is primarily Gothic regardless of which other genre coventions she uses. By offering a detailed assessment of her fairy tale retellings, this study demonstrates the prevalence of the themes, images and effects that have come to define the Gothic. Lee has developed several subversive narrative strategies that enable her to explore the relations between fairy tales and the Gothic, so the thesis focuses on the cultural significance of each genre's characteristic features in order to show how Lee manipulates conventions, and, in so doing, either reinforces or subverts societal norms. Lee's adaptations are assessed alongside traditional fairy tale variations and compared with a number of key Gothic texts, and the cultural and historical influence of both genres is discussed. Each chapter also briefly reviews significant developments in Gothic and fairy tale scholarship over the last few decades, which allows a more complex and nuanced understanding of the relationship between the two genres, as well as providing a context for the analysis which follows. With few exceptions scholars have ignored this author, preferring instead less genre-driven fairy tale retellings. This limited inquiry has resulted in a deficit of criticism on Tanith Lee, and the exact nature of the relationship between the fairy tale and the Gothic is still not well articulated. This thesis attempts to address that omission by examining the ways in which tale types and genre motifs are reworked in Lee's fiction, and by engaging with an under-explored intersection of folklore and popular culture.

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