This essay explores how Caitlín R. Kiernan deploys the figure of the gothic body to express the oppression of submerged individuals and groups. Kiernan's gothic figure is a body that varies from socially accepted constructs or expectations of bodily appearance, form, sexuality or gender and is usually experienced as physically unusual or grotesque, often through unwanted display or spectacle. This essay reads a selected sample of Kiernan's fiction through several theoretical lenses, including Julia Kristeva's work on abjection and melancholia, Judith Butler's theory of subjection, Garland-Thomson's disability theory, and Elaine Scarry's work on the body in pain. These lenses reveal how Kiernan's fiction pushes upon readers the reality of physical and psychological trauma to our biological self with all of its fragility, disease, and hurt. That trauma results from the tyranny of socially constructed and enforced norms and standards that differentially affect marginalized individuals and communities.


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pp. 78-98
Launched on MUSE
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