Signs of (mis)Interpretation: Eavesdropping and Curiosity in The Castle of Otranto

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Lim, Jane
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서울대학교 인문대학 영어영문학과
영학논집 29(2009): 59-69
eavesdroppinginterpretationprivate spherepublic spherefemail subjectivityhistory of legitimact
This paper examines eavesdropping as a peculiar means of communication adopted by the female characters in The Castle of Otranto that signdies women's covert desire to resist their designated private boundaries. The patriarchal order of Manfred demarcates women's sphere to the domestic area, forbidding them to access any information that takes place outside the private sphere. The deviant act of eavesdropping becomes an actives means for women to obtain the truth.
Matilda, by eavesdropping on Theodore, not only discovers who Theodore is but also finds her hidden desire for the stranger. Furthermore, she comprehends Theodore's identity to be relevant to the search of legitimacy. Through the unlawful intervention of eavesdropping, she deviates from her "proper" sphere only to gain power that surpasses the male community with her insightful interpretation. In this novel, eavesdropping occurs only between male and female and never between women, as women address each other in a more direct voice. Manfred's eavesdropping is differentiated from Matilda's in that it is an act of punishment rather than a channel to access the truth.
Yet although the issue of legitimacy is resolved, the patriarchal reinforcement stands on an unsound foundation. Matilda's fatal death problematizes the
obsession with the male succession and the domestication of women. As this text plays with the boundaries of the private and the public sphere, eavesdropping functions as a means to traverse these boundaries and further enables women to seek subjectivity.
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College of Humanities (인문대학)English Language and Literature (영어영문학과)영학논집(English Studies)영학논집(English Studies) No.29 (2009)
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