Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
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The chapters within this dissertation concentrate on textual analysis of literature and film in which monsters appear in various forms, and particularly how those monsters still coincide with Noel Carroll's definition of "art-horror" in his book Philosophy of Horror, while proving that Carroll's definition of monster - and any others who may attempt to limit the definition of monstrosity - is incomplete and much too restrictive. I will be concentrating on monstrosity as it appears in gothic and horror fiction, film, and other elements of popular culture in order to explore the concept of "the monstrous" on multiple levels.
The first chapter will examine the monster which lies at the foundation of the Gothic/Horror genre: the monstrous house, or the haunted house. The chapter "The House Askew" examines both fiction and film of the United States in order to show how the human - not the house - is actually the one who is haunted within these stories. This begins from early U.S. Gothic texts, including Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland, Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables, Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," and H.P. Lovecraft's "Pickman's Model." These texts all show that the haunting of the human stems from moral conventions set up through Puritan standards, and that the inhabitant must either face their "sins" and become expiated, or fall victim to their own disgraces. Following these texts, an examination of the films Signs, The Others, and 1408 again show that when ghostly manifestations occur in haunted houses, it is almost always directly due to the haunting pasts of the people who inhabit the house, rather than the past of the house itself. Finally, this chapter examines Danielewski's postmodern masterpiece, House of Leaves. This text is the most compelling example of monstrosity because in this case, the book itself - and by association, academia - is what becomes the monster, which is even further proof that the definition of monster has been broadened.
Next, the chapter "Terrifying, Horrifying, Disgusting Zombies" examines George Romero's Night of the Living Dead and Max Brooks' novel World War Z among other legends of zombies found in history and popular culture. The chapter also examines some of the cultural fears and taboos brought about in zombie fiction and the popular culture zombie craze - the fear of the horde, the fear of mass infection, and the taboo of cannibalism.
The chapter "Don't Be Fooled by the Handsome Fellow in the Mansion" takes an interest in the way the definition of vampire, and the myths surrounding vampires, have expanded through popular culture, especially through TV and film. It begins with an examination of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend which shows how the human, rather than the monsters, are really the antagonists within a post-apocalyptic society. It also discusses Stephen King's `Salem's Lot as a metaphor for post-Vietnam America. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the vampire in popular culture. Because of texts like Twilight and television shows like HBO's True Blood, for example, vampires have been given a whole new life that is almost entirely human. The final chapter, "Anything Coming Back to Life Hurts" highlights the fact that in much African American literature, including Toni Morrison's Beloved, the monstrous appears in the form of the human construct of slavery or of one's relationship to the past. It reflects the particular connection between the Gothic tradition and the American past, beholding a darkly coded understanding of what lay beneath the American nation's usually optimistic surface. That darker note concerns, in part, the legacy of slavery and racial discrimination. Morrison's Gothicism and Horror expresses the atrocity of black experience in the South, in which the nightmare past is re-experienced through a "spiteful" haunted house and the revenant of a murdered child. Morrison utilizes three types of monsters in order to articulate these underlying cultural fears. Morrison and other African American authors prove that all hauntings are, in fact, due to one's relationship to one's own history, both personal and cultural. In the conclusion, I will be commenting on how I envision this project to proceed, the other monsters which were not included within this dissertation, and the general relevance of a study of the monstrous in scholarly circles.
Horror films; Monster films; Monsters in motion pictures
American Literature | Film and Media Studies
Hansen, Michelle Kay, "Monsters in our Midst: An Examination of Human Monstrosity in Fiction and Film of the United States" (2012). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 1572.