Women in White

WARNING: Major spoilers herein for the book and HBO miniseries Sharp Objects, as well as the novel and play The Woman in White. If that matters to you. 


“What is a white woman, anyway?”
– Catherine MacKinnon

 “Qué es un fantasma? (What is a ghost?)”
– Guillermo del Toro

It started with a pin prick and the sharp intake of breath.

It’s near midnight on a heavy, humid August night in Washington, D.C. and I’m trying to pack. Trying to forget the heat making the house swell and the broken air conditioner sitting underneath my window. The ceiling fan beats steadily, uselessly. I tiptoe lightly across the floor, but our hundred-year-old house moans in alarm anyway. The curtains lightly sway like summer dresses that have lost their bodies. It’s a night with all the makings of a great ghost story. So, I’ve decided to put one on.

I knew nothing of HBO’s miniseries Sharp Objects before selecting it from the streaming options available that night. I only felt this inexorable draw; something about the three white women staring back at me and the almost imperceptible cracks in their faces.

Something familiar. The first episode began with familiar sounds of my Southern childhood: the unmistakable sizzle of heat on asphalt; some old spiritual-inspired folk song; cicadas buzzing their last seduction before dying. Two girls appear like daytime apparitions roller skating down the road, sneaking into a giant antebellum mansion. Moving closely together – the younger one … didn’t I have a dress like that? –  they enter a room where a woman sleeps. Her hand lays sleepily over the edge of the bed. The older one – red-haired, like me a lifetime ago – grabs that hand and moves closer, closer with a safety pin. Flicking open the sharp point and then she –

Breath. A creak from the floor. A glimpse of white from the corner of my eye.

I start remembering.

“I wanted to speak to him again. My head is sadly confused. I mistook the directions he gave me. I took the turning that leads to the house. Nobody saw me. If I could but get out of the park! Do you know the way, sir?”[1]

“I walked through their home and I spied , my head down in my beer like a shamed ghost.”[2]

What sort of white woman am I?

With whom did I apprentice to learn this role?

Who did I watch from the wings before going on?

Who did I haunt before I was born?

There is a purely academic approach to these questions: Gender performativity. Judith Butler described in “Performative Acts and Gender Construction” how cultural norms compel us to use our body in recognizably gendered ways: “[T]o be a woman is to have become a woman, to compel the body to conform to an historical idea of ‘woman,’ to induce the body to become a cultural sign, to materialize oneself in obedience to an historically delimited possibility, and to do this as a sustained and repeated corporeal project.”[3] Butler’s stipulation that this “cultural sign” need not be authentic or emerge from our interiority opened up a frame to analyze the performativity of other “historically delimited” possibilities, such as race. While there is very little literature on race and performativity,[4] there has been a growing interest over the past quarter century in how we can disassemble racial constructs by using performance studies to understand how performativity disciplines the perceived “realness” of race[5] and how performativity can also be wielded to radically reform the cultural signs associated with gendered, raced, and sexualized bodies.[6]

There is even more to say on the intellectual history of these ideas; how they have been shaped and debated and brought to bear on a variety of objects. But, not here.

Because this is not an intellectual history. This is a haunted house.

Oh, life! What have you left to offer me? Oh, death! Should I feel the terror of you, if you came to me now? (He drops on a chair by the table, and hides his face in his hands. At the same moment, ANNE CATHERICK, dressed all in white, appears in the red glow of the sunset at the open window on the right. She pauses for a moment – looks off on the right – looks back at Walter; and, entering the room, lays her hand on his shoulder.)”[7]

“’She was wearing a white bed dress with white hair. She was just all white, but not like a ghost. That’s what I keep saying.’

‘White like how?’

‘Just like she’d never been outside before.” 

‘She smiled at me. For a second I thought it might be all right. But she didn’t say anything. And then she stopped smiling. She put her finger to her lips to be quiet. And then she was gone into the woods.’”[8]

“He said something about a woman in white,” reports Camille Preeker in the 2006 original novel Sharp Objects, written by Gillian Flynn. When the FBI agent Preeker is working with to investigate a serial killing case asks her to clarify what her young witness could have meant, she clarifies “It’s just a story kids tell around here.”[9]

I caught a glimpse of myself in Sharp Objects’ mirror and saw double: one a woman, Camille, and looming behind her, an idea, the Woman in White.

I was seeing them for the first time. I immediately recognized their faces.

Camille Preeker is the protagonist of the story, but not willingly so. She is damaged, but not trying to be healed by the course of the narrative. She is angry, but – like any Southern girl – does her best to be polite. At least to your face. She grieves, but she does not easily attach herself to others. She feels just a little too much to survive in this world without a little help and, as such, reaches for the whiskey bottle, or worse. She is neither a victim nor a triumphant survivor; she occupies a liminal space of suffering. Because – I knew, but could not exactly say why – she refused to be the proper white girl when she refused to either kill or be killed. There is no purity in limbo and there is no good white girl without a veil of purity. Mind, soul, or body.

The Woman in White is simply a role, one which is played by the story’s initially hidden antagonists: the unimaginably cruel murderers of two girls – Ann and Natalie – who continue to stalk the tiny fecund town of Wind Gap, Missouri.  Regardless of how the murder mystery at the center of Sharp Objects unravels and resolves in actuality, the Woman in White remains the force responsible for the deaths. Perhaps she is death herself.

Unlike Camille, the Woman in White is a stock character, a persistent phantom haunting folklore of the Western world. In Anglophone traditions, she was either killed by some shadowy villain or killed herself. Sometimes she holds the secret to a great treasure, but if you take more than your share she will curse you to a slow wasting death. Sometimes she appears as an imperiled figure emerging from the woods onto a lonely stretch of road, to whom you can offer a ride but at the risk of being killed in the tragedy she portends. Sometimes she endlessly retraces the path leading to her falling death at a cliffside, luring you to follow her as you try to offer help, naturally, because she is a white woman unaccompanied. This you, inevitably, is a man or boy just as imperiled and frightened by her as they are entranced.

The Woman in White flickering in and out of sight around Wind Gap manifests in nearly all of these ways. Sometimes she wears the face of Marian, Camille’s long dead little sister, guarding the sickening truth of her own demise. Sometimes she is Camille’s mental hospital roommate – who poisoned herself – appearing on an open stretch of road. Sometimes she is a faceless vision luring to the woods girls who will never return, bearing a chilling resemblance to Camille’s mother Adora.

That the Woman in White appears to Camille as reflections of her past – refracted visions from her own consciousness – summons the most famous version of this tale: Wilkie Collins’ Victorian sensation novel The Woman in White.[10] However, I sense that understanding the strange familiarity I feel with both Camille and the Woman in White will require confronting the forces of Collins’ 1871 melodramatic adaptation of the novel for the stage. Because, after all, if there is anything the sensational melodrama accomplishes with its spectators, it is shock, a trill of anxiety up the spine, and the siren call of moralizing empathy. Dare I say it … all the phenomenological elements of racialized gender performativity.

“ANNE, dressed entirely in white of cheap and poor material, is seated, with her back turned on SIR PERCIVAL, and with a book in her hand, on one of the low graves near the vestry-door, looking at the distant view ….

SIR P. What are you doing in the churchyard?

ANNE. Thinking of the dead.

SIR P. Suppose you try a change. Take a walk in the village and think of the living.

ANNE. I have no friends among the living.[11]

Wilkie Collins’ novel and later play The Woman in White follows the manipulation and wrongful imprisonment of a virtuous young woman named Laura Fairlie by the amusingly cliched Italian villain Count Fosco and a troupe of others. Laura is importantly imprisoned in a mental hospital under the name of her childhood friend, doppelganger, and secret half-sister Anne Catherick, an “hysterical” young woman who exclusively wears white in tribute to her girlhood wearing matching white dresses with Laura. It’s intricate plot and series of shocking reveals makes it an archetypal sensation play of the period, but its relationship to the Woman in White mythology and lasting popularity[12] make it a vital clue to the haunting I felt while watching Sharp Objects.

Like any writer worth his salt during the Victorian era, Collins found inspiration for The Woman in White in an amalgamation of urban legends, personal frights, and tales ripped straight from the headlines. One was the oft-seen, but rarely explained “striking, phantasmagoric image of a solitary female wearing white, wandering a London street”[13] Another was a domestic tragedy, “the real-life West End oddity, the White Woman of Berners Street, ‘dressed entirely in white … a conceited old creature , cold and formal in manner, and [who] evidently went simpering mad … because a wealthy Quaker wouldn’t marry her.’”[14] The origin story of most interest to this project, however, was the one Collins’ cited most and, not coincidentally, the one he likely exaggerated,[15] as well:

One evening (the date is unspecified), Wilkie and Charles dined with Millais at their parents’ home at Hanover Terrace on the western side of Regent’s Park. Walking back towards Millais’ studio in Gower Street they heard a scream. Immediately afterwards a woman dressed in flowing white ran out of the garden of a house on the park’s Outer Circle. She rushed past them, but Collins caught up with her and escorted her away. He was not seen again until the following day. He told his friends he had rescued the woman, helping her to escape from the house where she had been incarcerated by a man who had controlled her with beatings and the use of mesmerism.[16]

This marketing-orientated explanation of how Collins came to write the novel not only upholds many of the traditional beats of the Woman in White myth, but also indicates the novel’s considerable subtext on gender and, I would argue, race. Through this fanciful tale of inspiration, Collins reinscribes the role white women were supposed to play in arts of sensation: white women were to suffer and be rescued.

Over the past 150 years, The Woman in White has been thoroughly analyzed as a text preoccupied with identity. Primarily, critics note how the books engaged with the question of how individual identity is determined, whether that be through name, appearance, voice, the law, or some ineffable essence. Curiously, the critical reception of the novel – and nearly nonexistent analysis of the play – have often overlooked the socialized gender and race identity central to how “the identities of Anne and Laura are intertwined and exchanged as they vie for the role of “woman in white.’”[17] While Anne and Laura both at some point don the trappings and take the name “Woman in White” they are presented to us as distinct, but interrelated personalities. Where Laura is lovely and vivacious, Anne consistently appears as a foreboding figure constantly associated with images of death: shadows, grave yards, corpses, and the like. They are both archetypal white ingenues of the period in their immense capacity of “hysteria;” Laura’s being a fear of the scheming people around her and Anne’s being the dread of something “she is never capable of articulating.”[18] Perhaps her own mind; perhaps her own capacity to scheme and hurt and manipulate.

In this presentation of two intertwined women, The Woman in White on stage doubled down on the generic promise of the melodrama: that someone would be in spectacular peril and that someone would usually be a young white woman. To illustrate, master of the form Dion Boucicault staged an even more popular iteration of this trope in his 1860 play The Colleen Bawn, a title which offers many overlapping interpretations from its Gaelic origin: “the Irish girl,” “the purest girl,” but most importantly “the white girl.”[19] Thereby, melodramas played a vital role in a larger cultural force in the 19th century Anglophone world, fashioning a racialized political weapon out of the engrained damsel in distress trope. As noted persuasively by Lisa Duggan, an imperiled white woman was the inciting character in the American lynching scenario.[20] Threats to white women were cited to support the Chinese Exclusion Act and other immigration restrictions.[21] It is no accident that Laura and Anne’s tormentor is unmistakably not white in his overwhelming Italian-ness.

But, of course, much of this has been observed and said and researched and protested.

Yet, what is this mysterious force pricking my hand in the dark of night and whispering into my ear, you’re missing something important … Sitting up, stock still, breathing heavy after awakening from that nightmare (surely it could not be real) I am shaken, wondering what I am if my “delimited possibility,” my racialized gender was forged from terror, death, and peril. Mine. Others’.

In order to seek out what I could be missing, I read deeply about how melodrama and its companion, the sensation novel or sensation play, operate dramatically. What effect do they have on the people watching. Could it be the same effect I felt watching Sharp Objects? In doing so, I discover D.A. Miller’s essay on sensation and gender in The Woman in White, in which he identifies a kind of sensational contagion. His analysis is worth quoting at length:

The fiction elaborates a fantasmatics of sensation in which our reading bodies take [the characters’] place from the start, and of which our physiological responses thus become the hysterical acting out. To speak of hysteria here, of course, is also to recall the assumption that always camouflages it – that what the body suffers, the mind needn’t think …. [O]ur hystericized bodies ‘naturalize’ the meanings in which the narrative implicates them, but in doing so they also nullify these meanings as such. Incarnate in the body, the latter no longer seem part of a cultural, historical process of signification but instead dissolve into an inarticulable, merely palpable self-evidence.[22]

In other words, Miller characterizes encounters with The Woman in White as nothing less than a process of possession.[23] If I had been in that London theatre in 1871 taking in the frightening danger befalling Laura Fairlie, my heart would beat faster, my muscles would tense, and my breath would bate; I would engage in a true mimicry of the sensations before me despite them not being “real” in any meaningful sense. For white women in the audience particularly, the strength of identification and mimicry is made all the more powerful. The sense of danger more real. The perceived reality of these reactions was an established point of fascination for theatre artists and critics of the period. Theatre critic G. H. Lewes, for instance, justified sensation theatre by its very ability to prompt audiences to reevaluate their own behavior: “The actor, he felt, needed to involve the audience and provoke them into thinking about how they might behave in the circumstances being represented on stage …. Sensation theatre, therefore, had its place.”[24] Critically, as Miller points out, the instant those sensations find a home in the body through behavior, they lose their context and are folded seamlessly into embodied knowledge allowing sensation plays like The Woman in White to persuasively “‘say’ certain things for which our culture – at least at its popular levels – has yet to develop another language.” Over dozens, hundreds, thousands of repetitions what was once narrative becomes instinct.

“Wait, you haven’t heard the best of it. Mrs. Fairlie used to dress me all in white, just as her own little girl was dressed. It amused her to see us together, we were so like each other. The cleverest people were taken in by it, they couldn’t tell which was which. Do you know Miss Fairlie? Are we like each other still?”[25]

“I wear this for Adora. When I’m home, I’m her little doll.”[26]

In his novel Basil, Collins’ eponymous protagonist laments over the “ghastly heart-tragedies … which are acted and re-acted, scene by scene, and year by year, in the secret theatre of home; tragedies which are ever shadowed by the slow falling of the black curtain that drops lower and lower every day – that drops, to hide all at last, from the hand of death.”[27] In other words, he despairs, that we are destined to repeat familiar scenarios and scenes and character roles over the course of our lives and, most tragically, that repetition is, in sum, our lives.

Over time, white women come to understand whose narratives to repeat, to craft into instincts and when to deploy them. With both roles played by the same actress in The Woman in White, we see Laura and Anne as not just obvious siblings, but also eerie shades of the same woman offering spectators who seek to embody white femme two opposing sides of one coin. Femininity is frequently shaped into binaries – Madonna and whore being the most overarching example – and this iteration of white femme is no different. Laura is the pure heroine to Anne’s complicated imitation. The one an imperiled white heroine and the other this perilous Woman in White, whose personal wreckage is a harbinger of tragedy. They never appear on stage together in The Woman in White and yet we know, undoubtedly, that they are the same physical form. They both occupy the white dress, the white skin, the white body.

But, how can this be? I feel the ghostly tugging at my fingertips and return to my maddeningly academic research notes:

Undergirding this project’s exploration of critical whiteness is an argument that racialized gender is understood best through the theory of performativity. Theories of performatives and performativity relate to the earliest concern of performance studies: the so-called “is/as” performance divide. This divide distinguishes between those events in culture we understand are (is) performance with a creative fictional dimension, e.g. musical theatre, dance, etc. and those events we can understand as performance, e.g. marriage rituals, sports, self-fashioning, etc.  Race-gender performativity, of course, falls in the latter camp. The origins of gender performativity, in particular, lay with two major critical theories. The first is J.L. Austin’s theory of performative utterances, which are phrases that do not “describe my doing of what I should be said in so uttering to be doing or to state that I am doing it: it is to do it,” the best example of which is the Judeo-Christian marriage ritual of saying “I do” which must occur for a person to become married. The second critical theory is Michel Foucault’s understanding of discipline as the work of both biopolitics and the regulating social power he analyzes in the History of Sexuality. In the 1980s, Judith Butler found it useful to bring Foucault’s discipline and Austin’s performative utterances together in order to theorize gender as a distinct “corporeal style” from biological sex. 

The starting point of this project is critical whiteness studies. My particular interest in critical whiteness is around white femininity, thereby it is important to note that I enter the literature with that paradigmatic bias. The first, Lisa Duggan’s book Sapphic Slashers, which posits the creation of two distinct political figures around the turn of the 20th century – the masculine white lesbian predator and the feminine white lesbian victim – began with legal, journalistic, and artistic narratives of one murder trial. The second was Catherine MacKinnon’s frankly noxious essay “What is a White Woman Anyway?,” a rebuke to woman of color feminisms that questions the meaning of whiteness, which serves as a central work I position myself against in my work. Critical whiteness studies (sometimes shortened to CWS) emerged from interracial conversations and collaboration in history and ethnic studies departments in the United States, expanding to analyze the operation of whiteness in colonial and post-colonial areas all over the world. The field has a deceptively simple mission: understand whiteness through a sharply critical lens as a specific social-cultural-racial phenomenon rather than as an unraced dominant cultural paradigm. At its core, critical whiteness studies also operates in a constant state of anxiety that it will legitimate whiteness as a race rather than as a socio-political position; a fear that foundational writers like Richard Dyer, Ruth Frankenberg, and Birgit Brander Rasmussen use as a productive mode to move the field forward. This anxiety has drawn criticism from prominent intellectuals – the most succinct might be Sarah Ahmed  – but the field continues to work with rather than against the possibility of reinforcement. Performance studies and visual art have been reluctant or slow to engage with critical whiteness studies because, as Tim Engles writes, in those forms “race matters somewhat differently;” that is to say that in these fields, we are still developing representation for people of color and so issues of whiteness are more often taken up in how they are critiqued by artists of color. However, taking a performance studies approach, I am less interested in how artists engage with whiteness and more interested in how whiteness is performed. I do not care for how being white is described, I want to know how white is done.

How is white woman done?

It flashes in my mind suddenly, like a vision of the past or the future. This Woman in White is not a dueling consciousness or two distinct roles, rather it is more akin to the DuBoisian double consciousness. It is a fractured, but interrelated understanding of one’s position in the social world. It is a binary consciousness wherein one is compelled to cleanly shift from one consciousness to the other, as opposed to the true dual knowledge of what DuBois proposes. To be a Woman in White is to have amnesia between the worlds; to harm without memory of victimhood, to lament victimhood without memory of what it was to harm.

This ghost story, then, is a public project of my personal wondering: What is the malevolent force haunting my house?

“Dreaming of her last night. Dreaming of her now. Oh me! Mad! Mad! …. Anne Catherick? No …. A spirit from the dead?”[28]

“I dreamt my mother was slicing an apple onto thick cuts of meat and feeding it to me, slowly and sweetly, because I was dying.”[29]

I obsess over Camille Preeker because something tells me she can show us the potential danger of uncritical performativity, repeating endlessly the sinful corporeal project of the mother. But, I also believe that repetition with a difference is possible and Camille Preeker in Sharp Objects represents the modern fruition of those differences over time.

At the conclusion of both the novel and the miniseries, we learn that – as she always does – the feared woman in white was a malevolent force manifesting in two. Once, in Camille’s mother Adora and again in her much younger sister, Amma.

Adora’s Munchausen by Proxy disorder – a literally sickening love she lavished on her children – nearly kills both Camille and Amma, but successfully killed Camille’s sister Marian. Adora wanted to care for her daughters, so much so that she poisoned them nearly to death so she could tend to their bedside. Camille had always resisted this care. She could never play the role of sickly daughter and so her mother, admittedly, never could come around to loving her. She only loved her daughters when they were in peril.

Amma is the ruthless murderer of her childhood playmates, Anne and Natalie; whose own crimes unknowingly kept all adults around her worried that she would be next. She killed the girls in large part because they had become the pet projects of her mother. They took away her literally suffocating attention. In her confession, Amma recalls that in a tutoring session, Natalie bit Adora in a fit of rage. She moans that it was simply unfair that Natalie could bite her mother, while Amma could not. It is an admission of another binary consciousness: a love and hatred for the poison that bore you. She only felt like herself when she was being dangerous. A role she asks Camille to play several times unsuccessfully: “Be dangerous like Mama said.”

How does Camille escape this unbearably toxic legacy? The legacy that the miniseries takes pains to interlace with memories of Wind Gap’s Confederate past. The legacy that is palpably parallel to the legacy of white American women. Appropriately, we are left to wonder if she can.

The book closes with a series of events that the miniseries titles “Milk.” Camille leaves Wind Gap and both her mother and sister in prison for life. She returns to Chicago – a new home – and lives with her boss and his wife. They take her through a therapy technique that is supposed to teach her how to accept genuine love through a repetition of childhood. They feed her like a baby. They tuck her in at night. It is an ode to rebirth certainly, but also to a regimen of social reprogramming. Now recognizing that the ways of being she inherited from her mother and grandmothers – the very same that made her sister Amma into a remorseless killer – are inevitably violent, Camille can be remade into another kind of woman that rejects these inherited roles. However, there is ambiguity in how Flynn closes the novel:

Sometimes I think about that night caring for Amma, and how good I was at soothing her and calming her. I have dreams of washing Amma and drying her brow. I wake with my stomach turning and a sweaty upper lip. Was I good at caring for Amma because of kindness? Or did I like caring for Amma because I have Adora’s sickness? I waver between the two, especially at night, when my skin begins to pulse.

Lately, I’ve been leaning toward kindness.[30]

Ultimately, Camille still feels the draw of the performative, the haunting presence of the role her mother played, but could resist it for what it is: a sickness, a possession. Though, it should leave us unsettled that just like the persistent consciousness of the Woman in White, Camille fashions her option into a binary – kindness or sickness – as if they are mutually exclusive.

Lately, I’ve been leaning toward both.

“When Anne dies, she shall die – before all the witnesses – in your wife’s clothes, under your wife’s name.”[31]

“But what lies beyond? What terrible discovery is waiting for us when I see Anne Catherick to-morrow?”[32]

It is now clear: I am being haunted by generations of white women who have taught me how to be and, most curiously, taught me how to be in a constant state of danger. If Laura Fairlie is what I am supposed to be, Anne Catherick is more like what I am. A ghost not quite dead yet. A reflection. A wisp of nothing in a white dress. And it is this sensation that brings me into communion with Camille Preeker – an Anne Catherick for this new century – and the shadow archive of white femininity she embodies. A white femme that resists its own capacity for harm by turning that harm inward.

Perhaps – I ponder late into the night, trying to dispel the suspicious murmurings deep in this cursed house – the Woman in White did not become death. Maybe death became her.

[1] Collins, Wilkie. The Woman in White: A Drama. London: Publisher By the Author, 1871. 26.
[2]Flynn, Gillian. Sharp Objects: A Novel. First Paperback ed. New York: Broadway Paperbacks, 2012. 55.
[3] Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Construction,” in Sue-Ellen Case (Ed.). Performing Feminisms: Feminist Critical Theory and Theatre. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990. 189. Emphasis mine.
[4] For potentially obvious reasons, it is a precarious argument to make as it could reinforce arbitrary political race categories and echoes many of the concerns that are central to the continuous theorization of critical whiteness studies.
[5] Lisa A. Flores (2014) The Rhetorical “Realness” of Race, or Why Critical Race Rhetoricians Need Performance Studies.” Text and Performance Quarterly, 34:1, 94-96, DOI: 10.1080/10462937.2013.849356
[6] See: Muñoz, José Esteban. Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics. Milwaukee, MI: Minnesota University Press, 1999.
[7] Collins 22.
[8] Flynn 80-1.
[9] Flynn 36.
[10] Important to note that while I came to this realization independently, popular cultural commentators have also noted this potent allusion. See: Foster, Emily. “Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects: Rewriting the Woman in White.” Politics/Letters, December 20, 2018. http://politicsslashletters.org/gillian-flynns-sharp-objects-re-writing-the-woman-in-white/
[11] Collins 5-6.
[12] “Janice Norwood gives details of this and other versions that appeared in Norwich, at Sadler’s Wells in London, in Cambridge, in Berlin, the Netherlands and Australia before Collins wrote his own dramatisation. Another production appeared in Leicester in 1870 that is frequently referred to by writers on Collins, though there is disagreement as to whether it is a pre-London run of Collins’s own adaptation or a revival of Ware’s version.” Wise, Sarah. “A Novel for Hysterical Times.” History Today (August 2010): 49.
[13] Wise 49.
[14] Wise 47.
[15] “It is possible that Collins was mythologising his first sight of [this woman] in order to sugar the wholly unrespectable fact that he kept two mistresses.” Wise 48.
[16] Wise 48.
[17] The Wilkie Collins Society.
[18] Miller, D.A. “Cage Aux Folles: Sensation and Gender in Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White.”  Representations no. 14, The Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and Society in the Nineteenth Century (Spring 1986): 107-136. 135.
[19] Leonard, Mae. “ In Search of the Colleen Bawn.” The Irish Times (online), February 3, 2014. https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/in-search-of-the-colleen-bawn-1.1675472.
[20] Duggan, Lisa. Sapphic Slashers:  Sex, Violence, and American Modernity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001.
[21] It is worth noting that this had a ripple effect on racialized gender performativity for Asian American men, as well. See: Shah, Nayan. Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and Law in the North American West. Oakland: University of California Press, 2012.
[22] Miller 108.
[23] Though, one he oddly attributes this process of performative possession to the men in the audience, as if to forget that women were also in attendance and would, undoubtedly, identify with the perceived hysteria and fear of the female characters Miller concerns himself with.
[24] The Wilkie Collins Society.
[25] Collins 6.
[26] Flynn 67.
[27] The Wilkie Collins Society.
[28] Collins 70.
[29] Flynn 42.
[30] Flynn 393.
[31] Collins 53.
[32] Collins 41.

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