Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Jana Tigchelaar

Second Advisor

John Young

Third Advisor

Joel Peckham


This study examines the psyches of the female protagonists from three of Shirley Jackson’s Gothic novels: Eleanor Vance in The Haunting of Hill House, Aunt Fanny Halloran in The Sundial, and Merricat Blackwood in We Have Always Lived in the Castle. A psychoanalytic and feminist reading is applied to the texts to elucidate the characters’ rejection of the Symbolic Order and regression to the Imaginary Order, and Lacan’s theories of the Desire of the Mother and objet petit a are also applied to the texts to further delineate this regression. Julia Kristeva’s work regarding the lost object of the mother is drawn upon as well in exploring the characters’ desires for their mothers underscoring their position within the Imaginary. Finally, the protagonists’ utilization of stories in establishing psychosocial boundaries is argued as an additional means by which these women usher themselves into fantasies removed from reality.


Jackson, Shirley, 1916-1965 -- Criticism and interpretation.

Horror tales, American -- History and criticism.

Women in literature -- Criticism and interpretation.