Children's Literature in Education

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 159–168 | Cite as

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

  • David RuddEmail author
Original Paper


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.


Uncanny Lacan Psychoanalysis Abject Kristeva Freud 


  1. Bettelheim, Bruno. (1976). The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. London: Thames & Hudson.Google Scholar
  2. Coats, Karen. (2008). Between Horror, Humour, and Hope: Neil Gaiman and the Psychic Work of the Gothic. In Anna Jackson, Karen Coats, & Roderick McGillis (Eds.), The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the Borders. Abingdon & New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Creed, Barbara. (1993). The Monstrous Feminine. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Derrida, Jacques. (1994). Spectres of Marx (Trans. Peggy Kamuf). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Fink, Bruce. (1995). The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance. Princeton: Princeton UP.Google Scholar
  6. Freud, Sigmund. (1985). The Uncanny. In Art and Literature (Trans. Albert Dickson) (pp. 359–376). London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  7. Gaiman, Neil. (2003). Coraline. London: Bloomsbury, 2003; New York: Scholastic [orig. 2002].Google Scholar
  8. Gaiman, Neil. (2006). Absolute Sandman (Vol. 1). New York: Vertigo.Google Scholar
  9. Kristeva, Julia. (1982). Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (Trans. Leon S. Roudiez). New York: Columbia UP.Google Scholar
  10. Reynolds, Kimberley. (2007). Radical Children’s Literature: Future Visions and Aesthetic Transformations in Juvenile Fiction. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  11. Žižek, Slavoj. (1992). Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan Through Popular Culture. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Arts, Media and EducationUniversity of BoltonBoltonUK

Personalised recommendations