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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Predatory gardens and rapacious father figures in The rose and the beast Liu, Corey


Scholarly discourse surrounding Francesca Lia Block’s novels tends to spotlight the author’s interrogation of pedagogies concerning sexual trauma. Lee A. Talley and Elizabeth Marshall, for instance, argue that Block’s texts invite the reader to rethink conventional approaches to sexual assault narratives. Block’s texts shift the critical attention placed originally on the victims of sexual abuse onto the victims’ male aggressors, whether that be the “skanky” (Block 102) rapacious father figure that “Wolf” recuperates from traditional fairytales (Marshall 218), or the cultural forces that enable predatory figures to both construct and enact their sexual fantasies in the first place (Talley 119). Like Marshall and Talley, my thesis examines cultural eroticisms of girlhood in Block’s work, attending to the predatory man’s imagination of eroticized girlhood. Specifically, my thesis focuses on three tales in The Rose and the Beast — “Beast,” “Snow,” and “Charm" — and explores the male characters’ sexualization of girlhood by emphasizing their engagement with a critically overlooked feature of the collection: the garden. First, I situate Sarah Dinter’s understanding of the literary garden as an expression of adult constructions of childhood within a psychoanalytic context, arguing, through Freud’s theory of dreamwork, that flowers in the garden function as objects of displacement through which the father in “Beast” and the gardener in “Snow” repress their pedophilic fantasies about their daughters. My second chapter focuses on “Charm” and considers the rapacious father figure’s pedophilia through a critical race and post-colonial perspective. Merging James R. Kincaid’s theory of childhood as an erotic lens with Anne Anlin Cheng’s work on racial melancholy and cultural constructions of the “yellow woman” (415), I interpret Pop’s photographs as potent expressions of the infantilization underlying the erotic racialization of the Asian woman — a racialization that both disavows and retains the character Rev as an ethnic other.

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