The Horror of Loss: Reading Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook as a Trauma Narrative

  • Paul Mitchell Universidad Católica de Valencia San Vicente Mártir

Abstract

This article responds to the critical debate around Jennifer Kent’s horror movie, The Babadook (2014), by offering an analysis that moves beyond its use of generic codes and its sociopolitical representation of maternity. It contends that reading the film as a trauma narrative allows us to better understand the horrifying experience suffered by Amelia Vanek (Essie Davis): her husband’s premature death in a car accident. Taking Dominick LaCapra’s concepts of acting out and working through as key interpretive tools, the analysis demonstrates how Kent conveys posttraumatic stress disorder as both a visceral and a material experience, inscribing absence and loss onto the cinematic texture of the film. The article offers the conclusion that, as The Babadook enacts Amelia’s process of recuperation, figured as a psychosomatic struggle against her monstrous Other, she becomes able to express her trauma and, in doing so, is finally able to accept her husband’s death.Keywords: Babadook; horror; cinema; loss; posttraumatic stress disorder; monstrosity

Author Biography

Paul Mitchell, Universidad Católica de Valencia San Vicente Mártir
Paul Mitchell teaches in the English Department at the Universidad Católica de Valencia San Vicente Mártir. He is the author of The Poetry of Negativity (València: Universitat de València, 2011) and several articles about the American writer Sylvia Plath. He also publishes on the representations of trauma in contemporary gothic literature and cinema.

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Published
2019-12-23
Section
Articles