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    Killer Plants and Gothic Gardeners: gendered ecoGothic monsters as cultural representations of eco-social anxieties in literature and film from 1890-2015

    Fitzpatrick, Teresa ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0555-1496 (2022) Killer Plants and Gothic Gardeners: gendered ecoGothic monsters as cultural representations of eco-social anxieties in literature and film from 1890-2015. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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    Plant monsters in the popular imagination seem to be synonymous with two particularly iconic ‘man-eating plants’ narratives: John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids (1951) and both versions of (The) Little Shop of Horrors (1960 and 1986). The present study situates these texts within a broader chronology that illustrates the development of such memorable plant monsters. Although these texts have been explored as Cold War invasion narratives and commentary on capitalist consumerism, studies of the plant monsters themselves are few and/or of limited focus. Beginning with the weird man-eating plant tales of the late nineteenth century, this project traces the earlier iterations of these iconic plant monsters and the anxieties they represented, re-examines these key texts and their various adaptations through a different lens, before considering post-millennial re-appropriations of plant monsters for their contemporary context. Building on the recent ecoGothic approach that applies ecocriticism to Gothic narratives, this study develops a material ecoGothic framework, drawing ecocritical concepts together with gothic theories. Within this framework, cultivated vegetable monstrosities alongside the relationship between plant and gardener are explored as eco-monsters that reflect their contemporary anxieties, establishing plants as eco-femmes fatales figures, illustrating hypermasculinity through a gothic trans-corporeality and identifying an eco-body horror that can result in an ecoGothic posthuman figure. Women and nature have a long association in Western philosophy that has traditionally contributed to the construction of femininity in the male imagination. This study uses a material ecoGothic framework to highlight how the plant monster has been used across the long twentieth century to reflect anxieties and attitudes to gender as they change according to their socio-political landscape. Indeed, as these troublesome plants and their meddlesome gardeners illustrate, in transgressing the boundaries and dispelling the nature/culture divide, close ties between gender anxieties and environmental concerns are, in fact, inseparable.

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