Killer Plants & Gothic Gardeners: Gendered EcoGothic Monsters
In A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari challenge traditional dichotomies of Western philosophy and binary linear logics inherent in patriarchal hierarchies by suggesting that an alternative perspective of multiplicities is key to understanding our world. Using the reproductive and regenerative nature of a plant rhizome (bulbs and tubers) to illustrate the interactions between semiotic, material and social flows, they suggest that plants, ‘even when they have roots, … always … form a rhizome with something else—with the wind, an animal, human beings’. This notion of interconnectedness underlines recent developments in both ecofeminism and material ecocriticism in analysing the intermingling of agencies, material forms and forces, of both human and non-human life, in a ‘constant process of shared becoming’ that informs us about ourselves and the world we live in.
Blossoming in that liminal space of Weird-Gothic-Science Fiction, plant monster fiction is equally rhizomatic. Rooted as they are across several genres, not only are these narratives themselves literary hybrids but the vegetable monsters they feature embody the human fascination with the grotesque and monstrosity. Although monster theory is based on dichotomous notions of ‘Other’ – an ‘other’ often aligned with the female body in gothic texts – an ecofeminist lens can provide an alternative perspective through the interconnected, rhizomatic nature of the hybrid. From tentacled blood-suckers, to carnivorous exotics with a desire for human flesh to human-plant hybrids, plant monster fiction has received little attention within a Gothic context or from an ecofeminist perspective.
My research aims to establish plant monsters as ecoGothic tropes by exploring how the gendered attributes of plant and gardener reflect cultural anxieties of their time and asserting their material ecoGothic monstrosity through their consumption of humans. Emerging ecoGothic criticism has largely focused on bleak landscapes, dark forests and spectral settings, exploring nature in the Gothic genre with an ecocritical eye. Analysing plant monsters as distinctive tropes, I would argue, provides a concrete hybridisation of ecocriticism and gothic theories as ecoGothic. Drawing on ecofeminist concepts of interconnectedness, such as Stacy Alaimo’s material trans-corporeality and Nancy Tuana’s viscous porosity alongside Female Gothic theories of monstrosity and the grotesque, my research aims to demonstrate how the plant monster not only challenges androcentric socio-cultural interpretations (particularly the gender associations) but also presents a case for the (hu)man-eating plant as an ecoGothic monster.
Research Degree: PhD, Part-time