Women, Monstrosity and Horror Film: Gynaehorror, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Women, Monstrosity and Horror Film

Gynaehorror, 1st Edition

By Erin Harrington


288 pages

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9780367208066
pub: 2019-01-17
Hardback: 9781472467294
pub: 2017-08-15
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315546568
pub: 2017-08-10
from $24.98

FREE Standard Shipping!


Women occupy a privileged place in horror film. Horror is a space of entertainment and excitement, of terror and dread, and one that relishes the complexities that arise when boundaries – of taste, of bodies, of reason – are blurred and dismantled. It is also a site of expression and exploration that leverages the narrative and aesthetic horrors of the reproductive, the maternal and the sexual to expose the underpinnings of the social, political and philosophical othering of women.

This book offers an in-depth analysis of women in horror films through an exploration of ‘gynaehorror’: films concerned with all aspects of female reproductive horror, from reproductive and sexual organs, to virginity, pregnancy, birth, motherhood and finally to menopause. Some of the themes explored include: the intersection of horror, monstrosity and sexual difference; the relationships between normative female (hetero)sexuality and the twin figures of the chaste virgin and the voracious vagina dentata; embodiment and subjectivity in horror films about pregnancy and abortion; reproductive technologies, monstrosity and ‘mad science’; the discursive construction and interrogation of monstrous motherhood; and the relationships between menopause, menstruation, hagsploitation and ‘abject barren’ bodies in horror.

The book not only offers a feminist interrogation of gynaehorror, but also a counter-reading of the gynaehorrific, that both accounts for and opens up new spaces of productive, radical and subversive monstrosity within a mode of representation and expression that has often been accused of being misogynistic. It therefore makes a unique contribution to the study of women in horror film specifically, while also providing new insights in the broader area of popular culture, gender and film philosophy.


“It’s a fascinating and feminist look at gynaehorror, and one that’s highly recommended.” - Octavia Cade, Strange Horizons

"In this illuminating and fascinating book, Erin Harrington offers an interpretive framework for a body of films that are representative of what she has termed ‘gynaehorror’." - Sarah Arnold, Screening Sex

Table of Contents

Introduction: mapping the gynaehorrific imaginary

Defining gynaehorror

Gynaehorror from virginity to menopause

Gynaehorror in context

Gynaehorror as convention and challenge

1. Roses and thorns: virgins, vagina dentata, and the monstrosity of female sexuality

Defining virginity

Virginity in horror film

The virgin’s other: vagina dentata

Imag(in)ing the vagina

Vagina dentata in horror

A different sort of Teeth: reframing vagina dentata

Heteronormative horrors

2. The lady vanishes: pregnancy, abortion and subjectivity

Framing pregnant subjectivity

Keeping house: female corporeality in horror

Home invasions

Vessels and environments

Foetal visibility and the dissolution of the female subject

Inside: competing subjects

Abortion and taboo

‘Pro-life’ and Pro-life

3. Not of woman born: mad science, reproductive technology and the reconfiguration of the subject

Science, culture and masculinity

‘Mad science’ and men making life

Fearing science

Mad scientists and madwomen

Re-gendering mad science in Splice

Brave new worlds: cyborg futures and female subjectivity

4. The monstrous-maternal: negotiating discourses of motherhood

Psychoanalytic discourses of motherhood

The legacy of Mrs Bates: Norma, Thelma and Nola

Essential and ideal motherhood

Motherhood as instinct and imperative

The legal implications of transgressive motherhood

Millennial mothering and the horror of the single mother

States of Grace: competing discourses of motherhood

Monstrous motherhood

5. Living deaths, menstrual monsters and hagsploitation: horror and/of the abject barren body

The abject barren body

Menstrual horror

The horror of menopause

Ageing women in cinema

Psychobiddies, grande dames and horrific harridans

The ageing woman as (American) horror story

Afterword: monstrous miscarriages and uncanny births

About the Author

Erin Harrington is Lecturer in English and Cultural Studies at The University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

About the Series

Film Philosophy at the Margins

Film Philosophy at the Margins

Film Philosophy at the Margins picks up on the burgeoning field of ‘film philosophy’ - the shift from film analysis and explication to bringing together film with philosophy - and coalesces it with films, genres and spectator theory which have received little critical attention. These films could be defined as marginal due to containing marginalizing representations of violence and marginal invocations of sexuality and queer performativity, showing the margins of bodily modification from disability to performance art, being marginal in their abstraction of representative codes or in reference to their address to the politics of social control, spectatorship and cinematic pleasure as marginal due to its unique status and quality, and many other interpretations of extreme.

The film philosophy which underpins the exploration of these films is primarily Continental philosophy, rather than the more dominant field of cognitive film philosophy, utilizing increasingly attractive philosophers for film theory such as Deleuze, Guattari, Ranciere, Foucault, Irigaray and Kristeva. The series ultimately seeks to establish a refined and sophisticated methodology for re-invigorating issues of alterity both in the films chosen and the means by which Continental philosophers of difference can paradigmatically alter ways of address and representation that lifts this kind of theory beyond analysis and criticism to help rethink the terrain of film theory itself.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies