Children of the Quorn: the vegetarian, raw, and the horrors of vegetarianism

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Flesh, consumption, and the Gothic have enjoyed a productive consanguinity for centuries—from the reconstituted body of the creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), to the vampires and zombies that have proliferated across the genre. This article considers this Gothic preoccupation in light of a particularly prominent trend in contemporary Gothic and horror stories: vegetarian horror. The article positions vegetarian horror as an off-shoot of Gothic Nature and the ecoGothic, exploring the history of the Gothic’s politics of consumption in light of ecological concerns, paying particular attention to Han Kang’s surreal and unsettling novel The Vegetarian (2007; English translation 2015) and Julia Ducournau’s vegetarian cannibal film Raw (2016). These narratives develop vegetarian horror in relation to enduring concerns surrounding the ethics and implications of meat-eating: they insist fundamentally on the unbroken spectrum that exists between inanimate nature, the animal and nonhuman world, and the human. Further, they illustrate the violence, and most significantly the self-violence, that emanates from a system that tries to proclaim humanity’s distinguished place in, or separation from, this spectrum. Where vegetarian horror differs from the traditional blood-suckers and cannibalistic undead is in its figuration not of monstrously Other practitioners of transgressive eating, but of the everyday eating practices of large swathes of humanity as a site of gory Gothic horror. These works reiterate that acts of consumption are always political. Finally, however, contemporary vegetarian horror narratives offer no easy answers—vegetarianism and veganism are not simply proclaimed as more ethically sound, less horrific ways of engaging with the more-thanhuman world. Rather, they illuminate the ever-present spectre of violence that predominates humanity’s ways of engaging with the world and suggest the pitfalls of many—if not all---ethical and moral codes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-102
Number of pages25
JournalGothic Nature: New Directions in Eco-Horror and the EcoGothic
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2019


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