Date of Award

Fall 12-4-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in American Studies (MAST)


Interdisciplinary Studies

Committee Chair/First Advisor

Dr. Stacy K. Keltner

Second Advisor

Dr. David A. King


The trans-coded monster, which arose from the spectacle of real-life serial killer Ed Gein’s murderous and taxidermic hobbies and the “gay-panic” spun from the headlines of the Leopold and Loeb slaying, the monster serves as a functionary of social control on two levels. First, the societal level, in which the monster, as a product of society, teaches what is and is not permissible in that society.. The second level is the personal level, in which the monster teaches the audience about the boundaries of their own desire and that desire’s possibility. The product of these two levels’ methods of control is a pedagogy of tense familiarity wherein an uncomfortable identification with the monster arises and through which the very nature of the monster changes. The monster’s act of teaching social order in turn reveals a positive, albeit hidden curriculum where the audience learns about itself, its existence, and its experience. This accident of monster-methodology renders the monster sympathetic, normalized via the loss of mystery surrounding its depiction and the repetition of its own image; thus, the monster is a self-defeating tool – even when resurrected. In short, the pedagogy of monsters is like many others: when implemented correctly, it renders itself useless to subjects who have completely learned its structures – the audience graduates from their fear rather than being controlled by it.