Ruined Abjection and Allegory in Deadgirl

in Screen Bodies
Sol Neely University of Alaska

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Deadgirl (2008) is a horror film that gained notoriety on the film-festival circuit for its disturbing premise: when a group of teenage social outcasts discover a naked female zombie strapped to a gurney in the basement of an abandoned asylum, they decide “to keep her” as a sex slave. Accordingly, two sites of monstrosity are staged—one with the monstrous-feminine and the other with monstrous masculinities. Insofar as the film explicitly exploits images of abjection to engender its perverse pleasures, it would seem to invite “abject criticism” in the tradition of Barbara Creed, Carol Clover, and colleagues. However, in light of recent critical appraisals about the limitations of “abject criticism,” this article reads Deadgirl as a cultural artifact that demands we reassess how abjection is critically referenced, arguing that—instead of reading abjection in terms of tropes and themes—we should read it in diachronic, allegorical ways, which do not reify into cultural representation.

Contributor Notes

Sol Neely is an associate professor of English and Philosophy at the University of Alaska Southeast. He completed his PhD in 2009 from the Philosophy and Literature PhD program at Purdue University. His work lies at the intersections of postsecular phenomenology, cultural studies, existentialism, and critical theory, and he teaches courses that draw this work into pedagogies of community engagement and social justice. He is co-founder of the Flying University, a prison-education program that brings university students into the prison to study with inmates. He is also co-founder and president of the North American Levinas Society.

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The Journal of Embodiment, Media Arts, and Technology

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