• ‘But by blood no wolf am I’: Language and Agency, Instinct and Essence – Transcending Antinomies in Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy

    Bill Hughes (see profile)
    Cultural Studies, Gothicists, Horror, Speculative and Science Fiction
    Arts, Gothic, Literature, Popular culture--Study and teaching
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Paranormal Romance, Werewolves, YA Fiction, Gothic, Literary criticism, Popular culture studies
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    Young Adult dark romance is often more questioning than its adult counterpart; different, less constraining commercial imperatives are perhaps at work, or readers’ expectations less fixed. This chapter will show how, woven into a sensitive coming-of-age narrative of first love and familial problems, Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy performs a far more sophisticated interrogation of the boundaries of animality and humanity than other such fictions, highlighting the centrality of language and its relationship to agency. The hero, Sam’s, struggle with his lupine nature becomes an existentialist refusal to be defined by nature; other characters are tempted instead to yield to a fatalistic surrender of will. The books are tantalisingly ambivalent about the appeal of the instinctual and the borderline between an embodied humanity and the animal, particularly as manifested in the love affair of the teenage protagonists. For Marcuse, the surplus-repression of the proximity senses (smell, taste) enforces the isolation of individuals in civilisation. Stiefvater continually emphasises the sense of smell both as a trigger to sexual attraction and as an aspect of the pack sociality and sense of belonging of the wolves. Through such devices, she concretely renders the nearness of Grace and Sam (her young lovers) to wolfhood. This is contrasted with her exploration of human subjectivity through language, particularly in the perceptive depiction of silences and miscommunications and her hero’s absorption in books and poetry.
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    6 years ago
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