Diseases and Disabilities in North-American Gothic Fiction

A Research Project by Jasmin Glock


How can disability and fear be represented in gothic fiction? What disability causes what kind of fear? Looking at physical disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, and dementia in North-American gothic fiction, this project will examine how disabled characters in particular experience fears and anxieties. It will also challenge the assumption that fear and disability are always inextricably linked to each other. As the conceptualization of the two differs vastly in the humanities and the life sciences, I use a binocular approach that takes both conceptualizations into account: as metaphor and lived biomedical experience.

With this approach, the project also takes a stand on an ongoing debate in the field of disability studies. In- and outside of academia there is the idea that the social model is “good” while the medical model is viewed as negative and often reduced to eugenic practices. This dissertation challenges this mindset, and aims at synthesizing the two models to bridge the gap between these seemingly contrary approaches. The literary analysis will show that it does not have to be either one or the other as the experiences of fear and disability can have both metaphorical and bodily dimensions. Only both views together can adequately reflect the complexity of these experiences.


Author: Jasmin Glock