Date of Award

Fall 12-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Dr. Nancy Easterlin

Second Advisor

Dr. Dan Doll

Third Advisor

Dr. Dan Gonzalez


This article analyzes The Castle of Otranto from a biocultural perspective. Firstly, the theoretical landscape of Gothic horror is explored. This is followed by some suggestions on how evolutionary approaches might add to the conversation about Gothic horror. The last section applies evolutionary and cognitive approaches to The Castle of Otranto in a reading of the novel. Attention is paid to the varied ways in which Gothic horror subverts and undermines evolved strategies for the creation of meaning and understanding. Gothic tropes such as the Gothic tunnel or labyrinth undercut the dynamic and ongoing creation of place that is essential for the human wayfinding species. These tropes lead to people ineffectually attempting to orient themselves within a place. Disorientation is an innately terrifying scenario for a species that relies heavily on information to orient itself in an environment. Confusion, ambiguity, and disorientation work against the adapted advantages that have shaped human evolutionary past and present. Place and evolved place creating techniques are discussed with in the context of the novel.


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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.