While some theorists have hinted at various social functions served by the gothic genre—such as providing an outlet for grief, anxiety, and violence in their various forms—recent research within the last few decades into sociology, military science, and trauma studies supplies compelling new ways of rereading the horror genre. In addition to providing an outlet for grief, anxiety, and violence in their various forms, horror media can now be read as a preemptive measure in an effort to mediate the immediate and long-term effects of the trauma and horror faced by humanity. I argue that in much the same way an author may write a self-help tract such as The Gift of Fear to try and inform women how to repel a sexual predator by graphically relating harrowing tales of sexual predation, so do some horror texts and film claim to preemptively mediate different types of trauma before, during, and after it occurs. This is done in each case not by merely scaring readers, but by inoculating them against them against future debilitating trauma before, during, and after it may occur. The relatively recent (or at least recently popularized) genre of self-help books that overtly seeks to prepare its audience for future trauma by exposing them to it in a controlled environment draws upon the canon of gothic literature for its inspiration as well as for its rhetorical strategies and literary devices. Without discounting the aesthetics and the utility of horror as a psychological outlet, I will show that gothic media can be reread and reconfigured within this new framework. By realigning horror studies within the framework of trauma studies and the possibility for inoculation against future trauma, this study will provide new insight into one how popular culture often portrays trauma through text, and I will seek to establish a new category affiliated with both trauma theory and horror, the study and representation of pre-memory. This thesis will also present as a case study the rhetorical self-inoculation of American horror author H.P. Lovecraft.



College and Department

Humanities; English



Date Submitted


Document Type





Trauma, Gavin de Becker, Dave Grossman, Lovecraft, Horror, Gothic, Inoculation, Inoculative Nonfiction, The Gift of Fear, On Killing, On Combat, Fear