Title page for ETD etd-06012010-231720

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Pulliam, June
Author's Email Address jpullia@lsu.edu
URN etd-06012010-231720
Title Monstrous Bodies: Femininity and Agency in Young Adult Horror Fiction
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Roberts, Robin Committee Chair
Bach, Jacqueline Committee Member
Bickmore, Steven Committee Member
Richardson, Malcolm Committee Member
Weinstein, Sue Committee Member
Parker, Margaret R. Dean's Representative
  • adolescence
  • anger
  • body image
  • feminism
  • feminine sexuality
  • girlhood
  • haunting
  • lycanthropy
  • monsters
  • sisterhood
  • Spiritualism
  • witchcraft
  • Wicca
  • women's anger
Date of Defense 2010-04-01
Availability unrestricted
Young Adult horror fiction with female protagonists presents sympathetically the untenable situation of adolescent girls within society whereby they are increasingly pressured to embody a doll-like feminine ideal that deprives them of voice and agency. In Young Adult horror fiction, the monstrous Other problematizes what is presented to girls as “normal” and “natural” feminine behavior. As a double with a difference, the monstrous Other is an iteration of femininity whose similarity to the original implies the possibility of resisting restrictive gender roles. Because in Young Adult horror fiction the monstrous Other is nearly always a sympathetic character, it is fairly easy for the reader or viewer to identify with this character and thereby formulate her own strategies to resisting a restrictive gender role.

Monstrous Bodies: Femininity and Agency in Young Adult Horror Fiction examines three types of monstrous Others, each offering a different model of resistance to feminine subordination. In Chapter 1, the figure of the ghost reacquaints girls with strengths they have repressed in order to be conventionally feminine. The teen female werewolves in Chapter 2 refuse restrictive gender roles by accepting as strong and beautiful the parts of themselves that are at odds with normative femininity. And in Chapter 3, teen witches resist subordination when they can view the world holistically and so reject their cultures’ hierarchal and oppressive model of knowledge.

Young Adult horror fiction does not simply reproduce through the form of the monstrous Other sexist ideas about women. Rather, Young Adult horror fiction uses these tropes of horror to deconstruct sexist ideas about women’s supposed essential nature which have been used to justify feminine subordination. In this way, Young Adult horror fiction differs from mainstream horror fiction, which is as likely to affirm sexist ideas about women (as well as racist ideas about non-whites) as it is to challenge these ideas.

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