Monstrous bodies – Judith Halberstam


Back to June Cummins for a moment…. In her analysis of Gothic gendering in Harry Potter, June Cummins refers us to Judith Halberstam‘s work, Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (1995), explaining that Halberstam “examines the function of monsters in several famous British Gothic novels that include monstrous characters and argues that these monsters are used in order for humans to define themselves against.” (p.180) Cummins goes on to quote Halberstam a couple of times:

“Within the nineteenth-century Gothic, authors mixed and matched a wide variety of signifiers of difference to fabricate the deviant body – Dracula, Jekyll/Hyde, and even Frankenstein’s monster before them are lumpen bodies, bodies pieced together out of the fabric of race, class, gender, and sexuality” ([Halberstam] 1995: 3).

“The emergence of the monster within Gothic fictions marks a peculiarly modern emphasis upon the horror of particular kinds of bodies” ([Halberstam, p.]3)

“monsters not only reveal certain material conditions of the production of horrror, but they also make strange the categories of beauty, humanity, and identity that we still cling to” ([Halberstam, p.]6)

I wondered, reading these quotes, if Halberstam’s work might be relevant to Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series and the Strigoi (evil vampires) as they contrast with the Moroi (‘good’ or at least morally ambivalent vampires). Just a thought…

Ref: (all quotations p.180) June Cummins ‘Hermione in the Bathroom: The Gothic, Menarche, and Female Development in the Harry Potter Series’ pp.177-193 Eds. Anna Jackson, Karen Coats and Roderick McGillis (c2008) The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the Borders. Routledge: New York

Reference is to Judith Halberstam (1995) Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters. Durham, NC; London: Duke University Press.


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