Hello everyone and welcome back to #theorythursday. I cannot believe how quickly the time is passing by. Next week is the last week of October and then we are moving onwards and upwards into a new month. Last week I talked about the difference between horror and terror, and you should check that out if you haven’t already. Today I am talking about subversive literature.
If you follow me on Instagram (@katelovesliterature), then you will already know that I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has left me a comment either on Instagram, or here on the website, and to those of you who sent me a kind message, thank you so much. I really appreciate the support and engagement that I have received during the month of October. I have really embraced the Halloween spirit, and I have been talking a lot about horrors, which I know not everyone enjoys. I will be taking a break from horror as we move into November, but I’ve enjoyed challenging myself to watch movies that I usually wouldn’t as horror is definitely not my favourite genre, but I have found that there are aspects of it that I do enjoy.
With that being said, let’s dive into the second last #theorythursday in October.
What is subversive literature?
Subversive literature is literature in which the plot challenges things we consider normal.
A subversive narrator will take things that the reader should already be familiar with, and challenge our understanding of that thing. Subversive narratives are common in gothic literature, which is why I decided that I would talk about subversive literature in October because it fits into the horror/gothic themes that I have been exploring this month.
An example of subversive literature can be found in a text such as Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto or in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Both of these novels subvert the idea of home being a safe place. Usually one’s home is their safe place, their sanctuary, their escape from the world, but in these novels, and in many other gothic novels, the home has become the place where danger lurks. Home is the place where the characters must escape from. Sanctuary is found outside of the home rather than in the home, and this development warps the reader’s idea of safety. When we read these novels, we no longer view the home as a safe space, because the idea of being safe at home has been twisted by a subversive narrative.
I think that Neil Gaiman’s novella Coraline is another example of a subversive piece of literature. The character Coraline feels ignored by her parents who have to work around the clock, and so when she first encounters her “other mother” and “other father” in the parallel universe that she discovers, at first everything seems wonderful, so much so that she starts to prefer her “other mother”, but she soon learns that all is not as it seems and her idea of everything being perfect in the parallel universe is challenged and subverted when she learns that the perfect parallel universe is actually a place of nightmares.
Why is it important to know about subversive literature?
As I’ve said above, I felt that it was a good idea to talk about subversive literature alongside the gothic and horror that I have been discussing in October, because subversive narratives are often found in horror movies and gothic novels. I also think that it is important to understand subversive literature, because subversive literature can be extremely powerful. Subversive literature is sometimes radical, or political. Subversive narratives are often employed when an author wants to make a statement, but this isn’t always the case. I think there is something very powerful about a book having the power to take something that we think we understand and challenge it and twist it so much so that we have to re-examine our understanding of that thing. That is powerful. That is thought provoking. That is how conversations start. That is how critical thinking begins, when we are challenged, and so that is why I think that subversive literature is so important, because it has the potential to be incredibly moving and powerful.
This has been Theory Thursday. I hope you all enjoyed it. Thank you all again for the lovely support I’ve received this past month. It is much appreciated, and I am so excited for the months to come.
Happy Friday Eve.