Freudian Horror in Joyce Carol Oates’ A Fair Maiden: Affect and Oedipal Desire

Katherine E. Walton Ph.D. Candidate in English at the University of Toronto


Many of Joyce Carol Oates' novels are engaged with experiences and sensations of fear; a great number of her literary contributions can more generally be located within the genre of horror fiction, where she emphasizes especially the very human forms which lend shape to our fears. These works frequently posit the work of horror as firmly situated within human consciousnesses and depict terrible desires made real by human agents within human worlds. This paper examines Oates' A Fair Maiden (2010), a novel which has heretofore received little scholarly attention. From a Freudian perspective, the narrative's richly textured psychological dynamics offer much material for an extended discussion regarding the affective aspects of the genre as well as its human dimensions of fear and monstrosity.