, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 159-168
Date: 17 May 2008

An Eye for an I: Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and Questions of Identity

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Abstract

This paper sees Neil Gaiman’s Coraline as following a darker tradition in children’s literature, most commonly found in the fairy tale. It explores some of the existential issues that concern us all: to do with identity, sex, death, ontology, evil, desire and violence. The article takes a largely psychoanalytical approach, showing how Freud’s concept of the Uncanny is particularly helpful in explaining both the text’s appeal, and its creepy uneasiness. Namely, our fears about existence and identity as separate beings: our worry that we will either not be noticed (being invisible and isolated), or we will be completely consumed by the attention of another. Lacan’s concepts of the Symbolic and the Real provide the theoretical underpinning for this reading, together with Kristeva’s notion of the abject.

Dr. David Rudd is Professor of Children’s Literature at the University of Bolton, UK. He has published about 100 articles in this and related areas and is currently working on the Routledge Companion to Children’s Literature. He is Co-editor (UK) of Children’s Literature in Education.