Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Amy Rust, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brooke Sadler, Ph.D.


anxiety, hegemony, motherhood, repetition, stabilization


This thesis will examine the representation of motherhood in horror cinema in order to discuss the problems and potentials of repeated domestic traditions. While maternal horror narratives impose gender roles based on heterosexual hegemonic biases, some of these films also examine the feminine experience and criticize the patriarchal institutional structures that affect domesticity and femininity. If we discuss these promising features, we can build on the implied trajectories, and engender more representation of marginalized experience in order to seek out new methods of cultural stabilization and unity. This proposal relies on Jacques Derrida's theory of hauntology, which addresses past and future specters of anxieties and ideologies, and suggests that in order to confront these anxieties, we must recognize how and why mainstream repeats cultural traditions, and how to engage these specters to project new resolutions. By studying The Ring (2001), Silent Hill (2006), and Mama (2013), I have determined that most maternal horror narratives impose gender roles and standards upon its mother characters, but their conclusions criticize patriarchal rhetoric, and repeat cultural traditions with new, progressive implications that can both challenge and resolve cultural stability. This thesis intends to generate more discussion for domestic representation in mainstream media, negotiate our desire for cultural stability with destabilizing, non-hegemonic resolutions, and call attention to the social pressure enforced on mothers that neglects their experience and position.