This thesis explores the relationship between the desire for the "good life" and the Gothic. The haunted house is a feature familiar to the Gothic because of its reversal of the comfort a home usually brings. The haunted houses in the Gothic provide a physical space that exemplifies the psychological and emotional disorientation that results from seeking unattainable ideals of domestic happiness and fulfillment. This thesis analyzes the haunted houses of three first-person-narrated gothic novels: Henry James's The Turn of the Screw (1898), Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca (1938), and Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger (2009), arguing that each novel portrays the ruinous consequences of the narrator's desires within the gothic home. Sarah Ahmed's Queer Phenomenology (2006) and Lauren Berlant's Cruel Optimism (2011) provide a theoretical grounding for exploring how the haunted house as a physical space can illuminate the disorientation of desire. I argue that in each novel, the desire the outsider-narrator feels for the home, the good life, is destructive, and while the destruction varies for each story, the outsider remains hopeful amidst the chaos. The inescapable past and the hope of the future collide in all three novels, and with this collision comes a sense of disorientation, of terror even, for both the first-person narrator and the reader alike.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
English; Literary, Cultural & Textual Studies
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Campus-only Access)
Muhart, Morgan, "Disoriented Desire: The Haunted Good Life in the Gothic House" (2023). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 1794.
Restricted to the UCF community until August 2026; it will then be open access.