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“I don’t even feel human anymore”: Monstrosity and Othering in Ken Dahl’s Monsters

Sathyaraj Venkatesan1 & Chinmay Murali2

1Associate Professor of English in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the National Institute of Technology, Trichy, India. Email: sathya@nitt.edu

2Research Scholar in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the National Institute of Technology, Trichy, India. Email: chinmay.murali@gmail.com

  Volume 10, Number 3, 2018 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v10n3.07

Received March 25, 2018; Revised October 11, 2018: Accepted October 27, 2018; Published October 27, 2018.

 

Abstract

The idea of the monster has functioned within various Western discourses, always carrying with it elements of difference, deviance, exclusion, and marginality irrespective of spatiotemporal differences. The monstrous often signified a liminal state of existence, remaining well within the western dualistic logic that operates through a series of binaries such as natural/unnatural, human/animal, self/other, normal/deviant. Within the discourses surrounding body and illness, sexual transgression and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as AIDS, syphilis, and herpes, among others, are often portrayed as monstrous. Ken Dahl’s autopathography Monsters (2009) is a harrowing account of his experience of dealing with herpes infection and the personal, psychological and socio-cultural impact of encountering his own vulnerabilities as an STD-infected person. In close reading Dahl’s memoir, this article aims to investigate the author’s use of the monster metaphor and abject art to depict the stigma he faced as a carrier of an incurable and contagious disease. Drawing theoretical insights from Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, and Julia Kristeva among others, the essay also seeks to examine the social mechanisms and the discourses surrounding body and illness which operate in stigmatizing and othering an STD patient as monstrous.

Keywords: comics, graphic medicine, abject art, monster, body, STD