J.J. Cohen Theses About Monster Culture in Gothic Literature

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Monsters: some theses
(J. J. Cohen)

• “The Monster’s Body is a Cultural Body”: monstrum (>monere, to warn, to hint at smth else): a sign of smth else • “The Monster always Escapes” (taking different shapes, in different ages) • “The Monster is the Harbinger of Category Crisis”: refusing categorization, hybrid and multiple, questioning binary thinking and introducing a crisis • “The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference”: the embodiment of the ‘Other’ (cultural, political, racial, sexual) the different or the inappropriate is turned into a monster - but at the same time it haunts the system pointing at the arbitrary nature of difference • “The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible”: monsters (of prohibition) are to be met with when we step outside ‘official’ geography, and into interdicted behaviours • “Fear of The Monster Is Really a Kind of Desire”: the creatures who terrify and interdict also evoke escapist fantasies (repulsion and attraction, as in the uncanny experience) • “The Monster Stands at the Threshold... of Becoming”: “this thing of darkness... I acknowledge mine” (monsters as a tool for self-knowledge) They ask us why we have created them.

One of the theses of Cohen has to do with a crisis: monsters are built on negative Stereotypes such as the Jews (ebrei) and black people. The monster is the embodiment of the “other” (cultural, political, racial, sexual) in order for the society to “destroy” the other, to underline its negative features. When we analyse for example Frankenstein, its behavior and characteristics are the reflection of the Jacobins in the French revolution. The sexual discriminations are shown in Dracula because he appeals both with women and men so he was, in some terms bisexual but at the same time it haunts the system pointing at the arbitrary nature of difference. Everyone who is not a middle class male white member, namely foreign people and women, is potentially a monster and female in particular are often...
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