The subject of this thesis is fin de siècle Gothic fiction, more specifically an analysis of issues relating to gender roles and sexuality in this literature. In particular, the thesis focuses on Gothic villains and their gender identity, as well as the villains ability to influence, invert and undermine the gender identity of their victims. Four novels are analysed: Dracula by Bram Stoker, The Beetle by Richard Marsh, The Sorrows of Satan by Marie Corelli, and The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen. The original research is found in four main chapters, chapters 4- 7. The first of these chapters concerns the Sinister Figure , the Gothic villain found in all the four novels analysed. The following two concern the victims of this figure and the impact he or she has on them. Chapter 7 deals with the possibility of a homosexual reading of these novels. The chief findings are as follows: the Sinister Figure is androgynous, and therein lies much of the terror and the fascination the victims feel on encountering the figure. The victims themselves, after contact with the figure, are tainted and assume androgynous traits. In the case of women this means they become independent and sexually aggressive; in the case of men, the contact with the Sinister Figure means a loss of autonomy and enforced passivity, which leads them to question their masculinity. The more extreme examples of gender inversion can be read as representations of homosexuality. The Sinister Figure is almost invariably killed in the end, and stable gender relations thereby regained.
While these findings certainly have implications for one s understanding of Late Victorian neuroses and social concerns, not to mention their definitions of what constituted real masculinity and femininity, the thesis is primarily a literary one. There is therefore no in-depth historical analysis incorporated into the thesis, though chapter 2 functions as an overview. The method employed is close reading, with a new historicist perspective.