The Call is Coming from Inside the House: Surveillance and Haunted Houses in Contemporary Literature

Erskine, Pamela Avery, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Wall, Cynthia, AS-English (ENGL), University of Virginia

From the very beginning of gothic literary history, preternatural forces have haunted architectural structures such as castles, abbeys, and manors, giving the impression that the buildings themselves are alive. Perhaps they even have eyes. In contemporary literature, these grand literary estates of old have evolved into houses, which, though still imposing, are far more ubiquitous and therefore far more accessible to a contemporary audience. The plots of these haunted house stories adhere to a long gothic tradition of the uncanny, with their horrors incorporated directly into the houses’ structures. The contemporary haunted house’s architecture informs the protagonist’s relationships to the house, encouraging a sense that they are eternally and inescapably under the house’s watchful eye. Using theory presented in Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, this thesis analyzes Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (1959), Anne Rivers Siddons’s The House Next Door (1978), and Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key (2019) to explore how surveillance in contemporary haunted house literature intentionally attacks our inmost desires.

MA (Master of Arts)
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