The Monster Within: The H[a]unted Self and its Purpose in Horror Fiction

This panel aims to examine literary themes traced from theories in trauma, ecocriticism, and gothic ecology that are foundational in contemporary horror genres, which build an important connection between natural phenomena and the psychological development of the human self. Each paper focuses on specific themes highlighting the significance horror writers have on an individual’s growth and development by uncovering universal truths of human error. If humanity continues to push against nature until nature is virtuous in the end, as theorists in Gothic ecology point out, and traumatic experiences can arise from internal conflict that often come as a result of pitting the envisioned self against the natural self—a theme denoted from aspects of psychoanalytic criticism— and these are both themes examined in horror literature, then it can be concluded that horror writers and their examination of the human self are pivotal in maintaining a harmonious connection between human kind and the natural world that would ensure a society that does not collapse on itself.

The four papers in this panel discuss the significance of the horror genre through the examination of themes in Ecogothic and ecofeminist theory, psychoanalytic criticism, and body horror by looking at the relationship between place and the self across texts from 19th Century Gothic Literature to contemporary literature and popular multi-modal compositions. In looking at the relationship between place and the human self, we aim to illustrate the idea that hunting for unattainable ambition can lead to a haunted self and a person’s ultimate downfall. While this theme is often seen in literature and modern horror compositions, it is a theme that holds significance within studies of both philosophy and psychology and is worth examining as it builds into ongoing conversations of mental health and human relationships.

Chair: Diana New