The latest issue of Humanities Education and Research Association / HERA’s Interdisciplinary Humanities journal includes an article on my doll research. It’s a print journal so only HERA members can access the entire text, but details can be found here.
My central focus was to analyse how dolls have the ability to act as memories (or mementos) of deceased children. I pay particular attention to the complex relationship between young girls and their toy dolls and analyse this relationship using feminist theory and psychoanalysis. While most of my discussion relates to the doll-like character of Claudia in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (1976), I also spend some time exploring the significance of doll figures in other texts such as Mexico’s Isla de las Muñecas (Island of the Dolls), Hans Bellmer’s anagrammatic doll designs and photography, and the real-life case of Antoly Moskvin’s mummified doll corpses.
Claudia’s significance as the core figure of this discussion can be traced back to the fact that Rice created her in a desperate attempt to preserve the memory of her daughter, Michele, whom she lost to cancer the year before she wrote the novel. Her resurrection of Michele led to the introduction of Claudia, who becomes the first memento infanti of the piece as she embodies the doll-like qualities of perfect beauty, youth, femininity, and silence.
The next section recounts the real-life story of Antoly Moskvin’s exhumation and mummification of young female corpses. My discussion explores how his collection of human dolls not only represent the memory of the girls they once were but also the manufacture of a a female figure according to the doll maker’s chosen design. In other words, they embody how the living girl’s identity has been replaced with a doll figure that can be read as a memory or imitation of a child who no longer exists.
The decorated landscape of Mexico’s Isla de las Muñecas is analysed in relation to its status as a piece of performance art that symbolizes the memory of a young girl’s drowning on the island. I emphasize the significance of the doll’s gaze during this process in terms of how it can have an unsettling and/or uncanny effect on the observer, especially when s/he is an adult as children don’t usually share the same fear of the doll’s animation.
Hans Bellmer’s creation of anagrammatic doll designs and photography is explored from the perspective of his intent to protest the perfectionism of ‘the Nazi human ideal’ that was prevalent in Germany at the time (in 1934). His deliberate mutilation of these female figures, and his distorted series of photographs that captured them, are examined through his interpretation of the female body “as an endless sentence” (Bellmer 1985) that can be re-arranged to create new meanings.
Further discussions of these texts will be included in my forthcoming book, The Gothic Doll: Gender Construction and Female Identity in Gothic Narratives (Palgrave 2018).