Research Output

(Re)encountering monsters: animals in early-twentieth-century weird fiction

  Early twentieth century weird tales occupy an important place in the development of genre fictions. Among the innovations they contribute are new forms of monsters, diverging from earlier Gothic or mythological traditions, which spring, in part, from a strand of post-Darwinian thought that understood any bodily shape to be possible in adaptation to environmental conditions. This paper explores three stories which, by staging human encounters with animal monsters of radical unknown shapes, suggest new ways in which humans and animals might relate to each other: William Hope Hodgson’s The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’ (1908), Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Horror of the Heights’ (1913) and Will A. Page’ ‘The Air Serpent’ (1911).
The encounter between characters and monsters is at root a colonial encounter between humans and the natural world, and often a violent one. By presenting weird animals as monstrous, the stories engage a number of anxieties associated with human-animal kinship and evolutionary superiority. By presenting monsters as strange Others but also as fellow creatures fit for their environments, however, these tales reach towards understanding animals as subjects in their own right with a claim to existing in their own spaces, destabilising the anthropocentric assumptions with which the human characters approach their adventures.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    12 September 2017

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  • Library of Congress:

    PR English literature

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    820 English & Old English literatures

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Alder, E. (2017). (Re)encountering monsters: animals in early-twentieth-century weird fiction. Textual Practice, 31(6), 1083-1100.



monster; animal; environment; anthropocentricism; colonialism; human-animal encounter

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