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Deviant subjectivities: monstrosity and kinship in the Gothic imagination

Hayles Gledhill, E. (2019) Deviant subjectivities: monstrosity and kinship in the Gothic imagination. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00085486


This thesis posits British and American Gothic as a construction of, and critical engagement with, Enlightenment cultures of embodiment and subjectivity: its monsters are reflections on, and explorations of, those figures excluded from the humanist subject position, as it was constructed by John Locke and later Sentimental philosophers. The concept of heteronormative kinship is central to the philosophical understanding of the subject in the modern era; from scientific ideas about genus and species, to philosophical debates about the structure of the nation state, family is the key term. Interrogating kinship and its relation to normativity in texts ranging from Frankenstein to the splatterpunk novels of Clive Barker and Poppy Z. Brite, and nineteenth-century plantation novels to television crime dramas, I argue, is crucial to understanding the cultural construction of humanity itself. Focusing on representations of the monstrous as a deviation from the norm of an able and reproductive body, I centre my analysis on the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and disability, taking a critical stance informed by critical disability studies and feminist queer theory. Previous studies have read physical anomaly as a metaphor for other minority identities, and so (dis)ability disappears as a question in its own right. In this respect, critical discourse may continue to re-enact Enlightenment structures of domination, hegemony, and universalization, even as they seek to challenge them. Charting Gothic explorations of the relationship between self-subject-citizen and other-object-monster, from their eighteenth century origins to the contemporary era, I examine changing representations of monstrosity and kinship within an historicised context. I argue that what is under consideration in all Gothic art and critique which features the monstrous – no matter its political stance or thematic focus – is the subject itself. These fictions provide a space in which monstrous otherness – a deviant subjectivity – can be expressed and explored as an embodied identity and lived experience.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Mangham, A. and Thompson, S.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Literature and Languages
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:85486
Date on Title Page:2018


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