Gothic Feminism Reading List


Gothic writing is about the return of the repressed, the emergence of the uncanny, the haunting of those who have been wronged. 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. 

Jessie Kindig, Verso editor and editor of the Verso Book of Feminism, brings together her gothic feminist highlights.

See also, from our Halloween archive, our roundtable on Silvia Federici’s incantatory and incendiary Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation, with contributions from Sarah Jaffe, Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, So Mayer, and more.

Because feminism is about bodily sensation...

Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life (2017)

Soraya Chemaly, Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger (2018)

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber (1979)

... and because the laugh of the medusa is part of her power.

Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (1980)

Hélène Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa” (1976)

Because the original teenage lesbian vampires were so much better than Twilight...

Sheridan La Fanu, Carmilla (1872)

...and because the strictures of gender are the real monster.

Susan Stryker, “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage,” Gay Lesbian Quarterly (1994).

Allyson Mitchell and Cait McKinney, eds., Inside Killjoy’s Castle: Dykley Ghosts, Feminist Monsters, and Other Lesbian Hauntings (2019)

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)

Because history is a haunting...

Avery Gordon, Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (1997)

Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987)

Grace Cho, Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War (2008)

... and colonialism induces a madness that is a kind of knowing and power that is a kind of witching.

Maryse Condé, I, Tituba (1986)

Ranjana Khanna, Dark Continents: Psychoanalysis and Colonialiasm (2003)

Because destruction is one way we come into being....

Sabina Spielrein, “Destruction as the Cause of Coming into Being” (1912)

Edgar Allen Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839)

... and because the madwoman in the attic is trying to tell you something.

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)

Selma James, The Ladies and the Mammies: Jane Austen and Jean Rhys (1986)

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)

Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination (1979)

And of course, because there is still witching to be done, and witches stay ready.

Alex Mar, Witches of America (2016)

Helen Oyeyemi, White is for Witching: A Novel (2009)

Sarah Shin and Rebecca Tamás, eds, Spells: 21st-Century Occult Poetry (London: Ignota, 2018).

Lucile Scott, An American Covenant: a Story of Women, Mysticism, and the Making of Modern America (2020)

Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell, W.I.T.C.H. Manifesto, 1968.

And from Verso's own shelves:

At once a time-travelling horror story and a fugue-like feminist manifesto, this is a singular, genre-warping new novel from the author of the acclaimed Paradise Rot.

Throughout written history and across the world, women have protested the restrictions of gender and the limitations placed on women’s bodies and women’s lives. People—of any and no gender—have protested and theorised, penned manifestos and written poetry and songs, testified and lobbied, gone on strike and fomented revolution, quietly demanded that there is an “I” and loudly proclaimed that there is a “we.” The Verso Book of Feminism chronicles this history of defiance and tracks it around the world as it develops into a multivocal and unabashed force.

Packed full of feminist rage, read a selection of witchy excerpts here.

In a moment of rising authoritarianism, climate crisis, and ever more exploitative forms of neoliberal capitalism, there is a compelling and urgent need for radical paradigms of thought and action. This unique book, tracing forty years of anti-racist feminist thought, includes interviews with Avtar Brah, Gail Lewis and Vron Ware on Diaspora, Migration and Empire. Himani Bannerji, Gary Kinsman, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, and Silvia Federici on Colonialism, Capitalism, and Resistance. Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Avery F. Gordon and Angela Y. Davis on Abolition Feminism.

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

A leader of Latin America’s powerful new women’s movement rethinks the meaning of feminist politics.

 The story of how enslaved women struggled for freedom in the West Indies.

Where pregnancy is concerned, let every pregnancy be for everyone. Let us overthrow, in short, the “family.”

The most influential theory of the origins of women’s oppression in the modern era, in a beautiful new edition.

Feminism as the bulwark against fascism.

The most comprehensive collection of feminist manifestos, chronicling our rage and dreams from the nineteenth century to today, including the W.I.T.C.H Manifesto.

Glitch Feminism is a vital new chapter in cyberfeminism, one that explores the relationship between gender, technology and identity. In an urgent manifesto, Russell reveals the many ways that the glitch performs and transforms: how it refuses, throws shade, ghosts, encrypt, mobilises and survives. Timely and provocative, Glitch Feminism shows how an error can be a revolution.

Females is 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.

Will and Testament is a lyrical meditation on trauma and memory, as well as a furious account of a woman’s struggle to survive and be believed. Vigdis Hjorth’s novel became a controversial literary sensation in Norway and has been translated into twenty languages.

SCUM Manifesto was considered one of the most outrageous, violent and certifiably crazy tracts when it first appeared in 1968. Valerie Solanas, the woman who shot Andy Warhol, self-published this work just before her rampage against the king of Pop Art made her a household name and resulted in her confinement to a mental institution. But for all its vitriol, it is impossible to dismiss as unhinged. In fact, the work has indisputable prescience, not only as a radical feminist analysis light-years ahead of its timepredicting artificial insemination, ATMs, a feminist uprising against under-representation in the artsbut also as a stunning testament to the rage of an abused and destitute woman.