Degree Name






Defense Date


Publication Date


First Faculty Advisor

Kristin Matthews

First Faculty Reader

Brian Roberts

Honors Coordinator

Aaron Eastley


Queer Theory, Eve Sedgwick, Shame, Sexuality, American Literature, Campus Novels


This thesis analyzes shame and queerness in contemporary gothic American campus novels, also known as “dark academia” novels. The thesis looks specifically at the novels The Secret History by Donna Tartt, published in 1992 and considered to be the first dark academia novel, and Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas, published in 2020 and a more modern adaptation on the subgenre. The two novels deal explicitly with how shame constitutes identity, specifically in regards to individuals who are depicted as queer or outside of heteronormative expectations of sexuality. Queerness in the context of this paper is defined as any portrayal of gender performance, sexual identity, or sexual interaction that is outside of traditional heterosexual societal norms, also known as heteronormativity. Through both novels, it becomes clear that shame is something that defines the identity and body. Using the university setting, dark academia novels show how shame functions within relationships and institutions surrounding queer individuals. Dark academia queers the traditional coming-of-age story, and further shows how shame can interrupt the experience of maturation within queer individuals and create a sense of arrested development.