Background Edit

Writer Jeffrey Cohen is known for the development of his Seven Theses of Monster Culture among other works related to the study of supernatural figures within society. With these seven theses, he attempts to explain the recurring motifs in various monster tales using his seven postulates. His theses are as follows:

  1. "The Monster's Body Is a Cultural Body"
  2. "The Monster Always Escapes"
  3. "The Monster is a Harbinger of Category Crisis"
  4. "The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference"
  5. "The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible"
  6. "Fear of the Monster is Really a Kind of Desire"
  7. "The Monster Stands at the Threshold... of Becoming"

Examples in the Media Edit

Many of these ideas have clear examples in both classic and modern media.

The Monster Always Escapes Edit

The monster or villain in countless horror stories always seems to make a near-impossible escape. This plot device is used quite frequently, so much so that it even extends to other genres outside of horror, suspense, and thriller.

One example of a monster slipping away unscathed would be Dracula in Season 5, Episode 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In this particular episode, Dracula can disappear almost into thin air by becoming a fine mist. In this way, he is able to escape several of Buffy's attacks. She is then hopelessly stabbing at nothing as he avoids her stake with ease.

The Monster is a Harbinger of Category Crisis Edit

Because these creatures lie outside of what one would consider natural, they often do not fit into preexisting labels used to categorize lifeforms. This is true on the basic level (male or female) and on a more advanced one (taxonomic rank).

The inability to categorize monsters results in confusion and frustration, further fueling the fear they inspire in humans. Humans have a tendency to fear what they cannot understand, and hate that which they fear. Eli, in the 2008 Swedish film, Let The Right One In, demonstrates this very simply when she states to Oskar that she is not a girl. While he thinks in terms of this or that, she knows that she lies in this undiscussed grey area as something that is not entirely human. Though she appears as a girl, she cannot accurately be described as such.

Fear of the Monster is Really a Kind of Desire Edit

This is seen quite often among tales of vampires. One of the most well-known examples would be Dracula and Mina's relationship in the 1992 film, Dracula.


Figure 1: Mina's desire for Dracula eventually overwhelms her, and she gives in to the vampire.

Upon first meeting Dracula, she is visibly uncomfortable and even downright bothered by his presence. However, as the film progresses, Mina becomes more and more obviously enthralled with the mysterious stranger. She becomes intrigued with him so much so that she almost willing gives herself to him and he takes her into a passionate embrace.

This is just one of several examples showing vampires as equally dangerous and attractive. In this case, Dracula represents sexual desire, passion, and even lust.

Cohen's Contribution Edit

Cohen's work is most effective when used to help analyze texts and other forms of media. His work further emphasizes the role monsters play as members of counter culture. Monstrous figures tend to be manipulated manifestations of the "others" in society, so it can be almost necessary at times to place vampire tales and the like under great scrutiny to discern the real message behind such content.

Bibliography Edit

From Class Content

  • Jeffrey Cohen: "Monster Culture: Seven Theses"
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997) Season 5, Episode 1: "Buffy vs. Dracula"
  • Let the Right One In (2008) Dir. Thomas Alfredson

From Outside Sources

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