Dead white females

By SHARON STEEL  |  August 8, 2007

Dead White Female Authors: The Brontë sisters
BEST-KNOWN WORK Emily’s Wuthering Heights, 1847 (“Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves.”)
POP-CULTURE LEGACY dramarama; soap operas; telenovelas; Eva Longoria

Danielle Steel is a very lucky writer — she made a mint off a genre the Brontës owned two centuries ago. The careers of Charlotte, Anne, and Emily Brontë ended early, though there’s no telling how many more star-crossed, heavy-breathing bodice rippers they had left in them. Take Emily’s Heathcliffe, for example — he was the kind of man who’d gladly skin a litter of puppies if it would make Catherine love him. Stick him in a time machine and Heathcliffe would be a perfect new villain on creepy-goth soap Passions. (You wouldn’t even have to change his outfits.) In Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Edward Rochester hid his crazy old wife on the top floor of his gargantuan manor. Years later, V.C. Andrews threw some hormonal siblings with an incest-cursed bloodline into a garret and let the awkward sparks fly for Flowers in the Attic. Oh, and ABC’s pet lady-drama? Desperate Housewives clearly owes its exploration of sexual politics and small-town scandal to Anne’s shocking second novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

Dead White Female Author: Sylvia Plath
BEST-KNOWN WORK:The Bell Jar, 1963 (“The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.”)
POP-CULTURE LEGACY emo; LiveJournal; doe-eyed self-portraits; teenage ennui

Annotated guide to setting the scene for the ultimate cathartic shaking fit: 1) Throw a limited edition LP of Cat Power’s Moon Pix on your vintage record player. 2) Pour midnight-blue bath salts into the tub. Add liberal handfuls of silver glitter. 3) Artfully arrange your side-swept bangs over one eye to ensure maximum smoldering effect. 4) Take coy photos and post them on your MySpace blog. Suggested caption: “I am trying to break your heart. Don’t be jealous.” 5) Lower yourself into the tepid water (to mimic the temperature of your own bitter tears) and succumb to a re-reading of Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar. Fall Out Boy Pete Wentz wishes he could angst like this.

Dead White Female Author: Mary Shelley
Frankenstein, 1818 (“Was I, then, a monster, a blot upon the earth from which all men fled and whom all men disowned?”)
POP-CULTURE LEGACY slasher movies; nerd culture; goth; death metal with Cookie Monster vocals; Philip K. Dick

What do Iron Maiden, Saw, and Star Trek have in common with a fictional eight-foot-tall freakshow harboring serious revenge issues? Far more than you might imagine. A close reading of the definitive gothic novel Frankenstein — the tale of one scientist’s “cursed creation” — points to the basic framework of science fiction and horror. The pale, bookish daughter of a feminist and an anarchist philosopher, Mary Shelley said she had the initial inspiration for her reincarnated Prometheus during a sinister waking dream: “What terrified me will terrify others; and I need only describe the spectre which had haunted my midnight pillow,” she wrote. Not to mention her tumultuous marriage with her nutty poet husband, Percy — they were pretty much the 19th century’s Sharon and Ozzy.

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