John Sears
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Fathers, friends, and families
Gothic kinship in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary
in Gothic kinship
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Chapter 6 is also concerned with the American nuclear family in his discussion of Pet Sematary, Stephen King’s most complex and pessimistic analysis of the American family. This Gothic novel presents the family from the outset as an effect of significations produced and read in faces. Faces demarcate structures of communication, exchange and power that regulate and organize the family and its relations to friends, neighbours and others – and, eventually, to Otherness itself. Sears argues that King deploys facial codes to figure this displacement and fracturing. Defaced elements of the family return as murderously persistent trace-effects of patriarchal desire. Pet Sematary deploys these faces and facelessnesses to envisage a critique of fatherhood itself as a dangerous surplus to its own structures, deluded, irrational, driven by the very forces it seeks to repress. Sears reads the facial troping of King’s novel as a definitive intervention in contemporary Gothic’s rethinking of the family.

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