Evil Carnate: A Validation of the Hidden Optimism of Horror
Winfield, Benjamin Arthur Abbott
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Edith Blaine is a religious woman with a troubled past. A lonesome spirit who seems condemned to failure at everything she pursues in life. Although she yearns to believe in God without a shred of doubt, her faith is mocked time and time again by the brutish reality that surrounds her. But when a critical head trauma wrecks Edith’s brain beyond repair, her once-benign personality is violently transformed into a psychotic killer’s. Only Edith’s hope in the human soul – manifested through her beloved basset hound, Barney – can sustain her along this dark existential journey blurring the line between good and evil. Evil Carnate is an exploration of one woman’s struggle between her spiritual faith, and the empirical reality that seeks to overwhelm her. Edith Blaine’s only means of maintaining her sanity is her own belief in an existence beyond the one we know. Evil Carnate drew its inspiration from works such as Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon (1958) (the shift of one radical perspective to another via first-person narrative), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) (Lucy Westenra’s emotional plight and subsequent transformation into a vampire), and Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) (the possibly sociopathic protagonist). The academic framework accompanying my novel is an evaluative essay designed to illustrate the hidden optimism of the horror genre. Nowhere could optimism seem more impotent than horror, which features everything from flesh-eating ghouls to bloodthirsty serial killers, but the consistent presence of the supernatural in horror is an ironic undermining ingredient to horror’s universe of supposed doom. Vampires, zombies, and other assorted creatures are themselves creatures from beyond the grave, which castrates the finality of death. From a grounded research perspective, my evaluative piece incorporates the material of many theology-based texts, the most crucial being Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity (1968) and Mere Christianity (1952) by C.S. Lewis. I chose Roman Catholicism as the religion of my protagonist, as it reflects the pathos of her physical/spiritual crisis the most acutely. Edith Blaine’s head injury also required the assimilation of textbooks on mental illness and neurological damage; the two most valuable sources were The Spiritual Brain (2008) by Mario Beauregard & Denyse O’Leary, and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1998) by Oliver Sacks.
The creative novel element of this thesis has been embargoed until 31/06/2020 to enable future publication. The critical research element is accessible for readers.
MPhil in English