Disability and Horror

  • Alan Gregory


Horror literature is full of monstrous and unusual bodies but has hitherto been largely neglected by the swiftly emerging field of disability studies. In this chapter, Alan Gregory argues that Gothic horror’s uncomfortable conflation of disability with monstrosity creates a binary opposition between two cultural extremes through the presentation of the disabled body as either an object of public spectacle or private seclusion. The Gothic thereby offers an unlikely, radical space in which representations of disabilities can be renegotiated. Gregory offers a survey of depictions of disability as a challenged and dependent symbol of evil, monstrosity, or Otherness across several horror texts, including Geek Love, House of Small Shadows, The Dark Tower, and Hannibal.


  1. Aldana Reyes, Xavier. 2016. Introduction: What, Why and When is Horror Fiction? In Horror: A Literary History, ed. Xavier Aldana Reyes, 7–17. London: The British Library.Google Scholar
  2. Bolt, David. 2007. Literary Disability Studies: The Long Awaited Response. Unpublished Conference Paper, The Inaugural Conference of the Cultural Disability Studies Research Network. Paper presented at Liverpool John Moores University, May 26. Accessed May 31, 2017.
  3. ———. 2014. The Metanarrative of Blindness: A Re-Reading of Twentieth-Century Anglophone Writing. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  4. Cheyne, Ria. 2013. Fearful Bodies, Fearful Minds: Disability and Horror. Paper presented at Avoidance in/and the Academy: The International Conference on Disability, Culture and Education, Liverpool Hope University, September 11–12.Google Scholar
  5. Dunn, Katharine. 2006. Geek Love. London: Abacus.Google Scholar
  6. Egan, James. 1987. The Dark Tower: Stephen King’s Gothic Western. In The Gothic World of Stephen King, ed. Ray B. Browne and Gary Hoppenstand, 95–106. Bowling Green: Popular Press.Google Scholar
  7. Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. 1997. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  8. ———. 2009. Staring: How We Look. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Gregory, Alan. 2015. Staging the Extraordinary Body: Masquerading Disability in Patrick McGrath’s Martha Peake. In Technologies of the Gothic in Literature and Culture: Technogothics, ed. Justin D. Edwards, 141–153. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Hall, Alice. 2015. Literature and Disability: Contemporary Critical Thought. London and New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Longmore, Paul K. 2003. Screening Stereotypes: Images of Disabled People in TV and Motion Pictures. In Why I Burned My Book and Other Essays on Disability, 131–146. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Mitchell, David T., and Sharon L. Snyder. 2000. Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  13. Nevill, Adam. 2013. House of Small Shadows. London: Pan.Google Scholar
  14. Punter, David. 2000. A Foot is What Fits the Shoe: Disability, the Gothic and Prosthesis. Gothic Studies 2 (1): 39–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Simpson, Philip L. 2010. Making Murder: The Fiction of Thomas Harris. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  16. Spooner, Catherine. 2006. Contemporary Gothic. London: Reaktion.Google Scholar
  17. ———. 2017. Post-Millennial Gothic: Comedy, Romance and the Rise of Happy Gothic. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  18. Stoddard Holmes, Martha. 2013. Disability. In The Encyclopedia of the Gothic, ed. William Hughes, David Punter, and Andrew Smith. Blackwell Publishing. Blackwell Reference Online. Accessed May 31, 2017.
  19. Strengell, Heidi. 2007. Stephen King: Monsters Live in Ordinary People: The Novels and Stories of Stephen King. London: Duckworth Overlook.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Gregory
    • 1
  1. 1.Lancaster UniversityLancasterUK

Personalised recommendations