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Reading: Beautiful Monsters: Sickness, Disability, and the Extraordinary Body


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Beautiful Monsters: Sickness, Disability, and the Extraordinary Body


Catherine Pugh

Independent Scholar, GB
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This essay builds on work by disability scholars such as Rosemarie Garland-Thomson and Kate Ellis to discuss the progression of the physically disabled body into the extraordinary body in horror films, including Alien: Resurrection (1997), Planet Terror (2007), and A Quiet Place (2018). Applying disability studies research in parallel with theories about the non-normative Gothic body, it argues that contemporary horror builds on the subversive Gothic; avoiding physiognomical prejudices, which suggest that external physical difference is caused by deviance within. This work draws from practitioners such as Fred Botting, Susan Sontag, Joshua David Bellin, Sharon Snyder, and David Mitchell, as well as director Breck Eisner, developing theories such as the transgressive – sometimes dangerous – figures of the supercripple and the hyper alive, before going on to discuss the fear of sickness underlining metamorphic monster narratives. The transgressive nature of the Gothic aligns with the metamorphic properties of sickness and disability, disrupting the healthy/sick, human/monster binaries. Therefore, this work argues that the key to characters with disabilities surviving – or even thriving – in horror and science fiction is to accept and create a symbiotic relationship with their disability, transforming the non-normative body into the extraordinary one.

How to Cite: Pugh, C., 2019. Beautiful Monsters: Sickness, Disability, and the Extraordinary Body. Studies in Gothic Fiction, 6(1), pp.53–63. DOI:
Published on 20 Jan 2019.
Peer Reviewed


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