“A Woman with an Attitude”: Male and Female Gothic and Siouxsie and the Banshees

Notably, the [1976 Thames Television interview with the Sex Pistols] also showcases Siouxsie’s measured response, one that encapsulates what her life and music has always been about — a challenge to patriarchal structures through measured control mixed with playful dismissiveness.

Diana Edelman, Women in Rock, Women in Romanticism, p. 123

Diana Edelman contributed chapter 6 of Women in Rock, Women in Romanticism, in which she analyzes Siouxsie Sioux’s lyrics and performances from about 1979 to 1988 in the light of scholarship on the Gothic, both male and female. The Gothic posits relationships between “physiological horror,” so that horror is focused on the body, and “psychological terror,” so that terror is focused on the mind, and defines the Gothic itself as “a family romance in which the patriarchy defines what constitutes otherness and difference, but the Gothic itself is what challenges this framework” (p. 126).

Edelman presents a Siouxsie who says she “enjoyed being a freak in a middle class suburb” (p. 128), but who also suffered at the hands of an alcoholic father and was molested by “someone in the area” when she was nine (p. 128). She explores the “horrors of the female body consistent with both male and female Gothic” (p. 132), and in songs like “Placebo Affect” she “exposes the ‘cracks’ in the patriarchy of the medical profession in general” (p. 133).

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Edelman presents a Siouxsie who doesn’t fit neat categories: she displays characteristics of both male and female Gothic, invites and resists the male gaze, employs masquerade to deflect it, but all in all presents a vision of “woman unbound” that is “consistently Gothic” (p. 136).

Diana Edelman is Chair and Professor of English at the University of North Georgia specializing in British Romanticism and the Gothic. Her monograph Embryology and the Rise of the Gothic Novel was published in July 2021.

Women in Rock, Women in Romanticism

Women in Rock. Women in Romanticism (Routledge, 2022) is the first book-length work exploring the interrelationships among contemporary women rock musicians and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art and literature, the literature of the Romantic era. LIMITED QUANTITIES ONLY available at a 37% discount.


Published by James Rovira

Dr. James Rovira is higher education professional with twenty years experience in the field in teaching, administration, and advising roles. He is also an interdisciplinary scholar and writer whose works include fiction, poetry, and scholarship exploring the intersections of literature and philosophy, literature and psychology, literary theory, and music and literature.. His books include Women in Rock/Women in Romanticism (in development), David Bowie and Romanticism (forthcoming 2022), Writing for College and Beyond (a first-year composition textbook (Lulu 2019)), Reading as Democracy in Crisis: Interpretation, Theory, History (Lexington Books 2019), Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, and Rock from Dylan to U2 (Lexington Books, 2018); Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018); and Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety (Continuum/Bloomsbury, 2010). See his website at jamesrovira.com for details.

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