A Study of the Supernatural in Twenty-First Century Young Adult Gothic Literature

  • Meriem Lamara

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The field of Gothic studies is an ever-evolving one, and while existing critical studies have approached the Gothic through various thematic, cultural, and political concerns, little attention has been paid to the Gothic in Young Adult literature (YA), and specifically to the portrayal of the supernatural in twenty-first-century YA Gothic literature. This thesis fills this gap through close analysis of a selection of YA Gothic novels and by drawing from a variety of interdisciplinary sources, including mythology, folklore, fairy tales, and earlier Gothic texts. Central to this thesis is the understanding of the shifting representation of the supernatural as well as the Gothic and as such, over four chapters, this thesis traces the evolution of the supernatural, focusing primarily on what I refer to as the ‘supernatural Other’ in Gothic literature. Accordingly, it begins by an exploration of the rise of the supernatural Gothic, considering a spectrum of earlier Gothic narratives from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. This thesis demonstrates that the portrayal of the supernatural has always been defined in terms of experimentation, re-imaginings, and the authors’ original approach to the supernatural. The supernatural Other is indeed a hybrid, created from the fusion of myths, folklore, and fairy tales. The study then analyses a range of twenty-first-century YA Gothic texts that offer a re-evaluation of supernatural beings who have been represented as monsters. I consider how such beings embody the societal and cultural fears and anxieties of particular times; the vampire in particular has often been read as a reflection of such anxieties.

The Gothic’s concern with Otherness as well as the portrayal of supernatural beings as the ultimate Others and the personification of the uncanny, is central to the YA Gothic narratives examined in this thesis. However, the thesis argues that while the YA Gothic’s supernatural Other is often portrayed as dangerous and as a threat destabilizing the set geographical and physiological boundaries as well as the prevalent cultural norms, values and morals of the time, it is also represented as sublime and desirable. The thesis concludes by examining the role of the supernatural in the development of the heroines of YA Gothic and suggests that supernatural Otherness becomes a medium of empowerment for the heroines who embrace it, allowing them to renegotiate their position within their socio-cultural environment, and thus reflecting social and cultural shifts in how gender is represented and understood. It is hoped through the discussion in this thesis to further the critical debate about twenty-first-century YA Gothic.
Date of AwardFeb 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorRichard Canning (Supervisor), Phillippa Bennett (Supervisor) & Gerri Kimber (Supervisor)


  • Gothic literature
  • Gothic studies
  • YA
  • Young Adult fiction
  • supernatural fiction
  • contemporary literature

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