Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
2021 Olivia R. Silva
Based on our own privileges and placement within the social hierarchy, we each view the world differently depending on how we identify. Oftentimes, this "gaze" is incorporated into media through narrative voices and characters to induce understandings as well as act as a form of political commentary. Readers and viewers, in turn, can gain different and more diverse perspectives through seeing the world through different eyes. This paper examines the role of gaze in the 19th century Anti-Catholic convent exposé The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk. Monk's narrative surrounds a victimized Catholic nun and uses a gaze that is similar to the contemporary female gaze in perpetuating agendas rooted in Anti-Catholicism and the Cult of Domesticity. To understand the full impact of Monk's work on the literary sphere and in female representation, this paper juxtaposes the text to Matthew Gregory Lewis' The Monk, which utilizes the male gaze of the corrupt Catholic priest. Both texts deal with similar subject matter in terms of religion and gender and use the Anti-Catholic trope of the innocent woman and the depraved Catholic authority figure. The distinctions in their male and female gazes, however exemplify how gaze can affect a narrative, either for better or for worse. The Monk's male gaze unnecessarily objectifies women in the narrative to the point where the Anti-Catholic message is overshadowed. Contrastingly, Maria Monk's female gaze gives women room to tell their stories without worrying about being objectified. This comparison is meant to explore how literature progresses when there is a variety in gazes as well as examine what Maria Monk's voice meant for the 19th century literary canon.
Silva, Olivia, "Eye of the Beholder: How the Female and Male Gazes Perpetuate Anti-Catholicism and the Cult of Domesticity in The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk and Matthew Gregory Lewis’ The Monk" (2021). Scripps Senior Theses. 1635.