Unaccountable Violence: The Murderous Child in the British and American Novel, 1954-2003

About the project:

This project considers the particular forms of trouble that arise when the figure of the child overlaps with the figure of the murderer in literary narratives. I approach this topic through close readings of five British and American novels that feature murderous children: The Bad Seed (1954) by William March, Lord of the Flies (1954) by William Golding, We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962) by Shirley Jackson, The Wasp Factory (1984) by Iain Banks, and We Need to Talk About Kevin (2003) by Lionel Shriver.

I suggest that by constructing their child characters as unsolvable mysteries, these novels use the specificities of the murderous child to make visible the epistemological predicaments that are inherent to modern constructions of the child more broadly. Through close readings informed by narrative theory, I show how literary form reflects the tension between bafflement and mastery that so often characterizes attitudes towards the figure of the child. I use queer theory to discuss the significance of the way in which these texts destabilize the image of the child, and challenge heteronormative norms of growth, development, and closure.


PhD Fellow at the Centre for Gender Research, 2015-2018

Published Dec. 23, 2016 10:38 AM - Last modified June 9, 2022 9:33 AM