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A Tentacular Teratology: The Abcanny Monstrous

O'Connor, Robert ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8892-5929 (2022) A Tentacular Teratology: The Abcanny Monstrous. Fantastika Journal, 6 (1). pp. 56-72.

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Abstract

The tentacular monster is a recognisable staple in Fantastika as a metaphor and motif for an invading ‘otherness’ upon our established status quo. They simultaneously remind us of the wonders of our natural world but also defamiliarise it as something which is still significantly incomprehensible to us. Whether it is the real-life aquatic specimens of the Spirit Collection in the British Natural History Museum, the Weird Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft or more recent examples in popular culture, the tentacled monster is an alluring mystery, symbol of revulsion, and social metaphor, inviting us to consider our own physical bodies and materiality in our ever-shifting, incomprehensible, anthropocentric contemporary moment.
China Miéville describes such tentacular monsters as “abcanny,” referring not only to Sigmund Freud’s theory of uncanny repression being brought back to the fore but also using the prefix ab- to refer to a sense of abnormality. The choice of prefix also invites consideration of Julia Kristeva’s theory of the abject and the repulsive disruption of physical boundaries. Gelatinous and tentacular monsters are the perfect encapsulation of this abcanny ideal, a formless mass of writhing biology at times eerily familiar but, more commonly, uncategorisable. Playfully mirroring Miéville’s essay defining the term, this article explores how theorisations of the abcanny body are developed through representations of tentacular monsters, demonstrating how a variety of texts apply fantastical teratology as a methodology for examining how we survive, negotiate, and engage various aspects of a contemporary culture which constantly shift and evade comprehension, as well as inviting communication of interspecies narratives which challenge anthropocentric values.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
School/Department: School of Humanities
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/5949

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