"A boy's best friend is his mother": cinematic re-tellings of the Ed Gein story
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This dissertation analyzes narrative re-tellings of the Ed Gein case, which occurred in Plainfield, Wisconsin in 1957. The author looks at true crime accounts of the event, the Psycho and Texas Chain Saw Massacre series, and The Silence of the Lambs. She examines the fantasies and anxieties that underlie these narratives and the shifts that take place in their articulation across the films, revealing patterns of repetition and variation that point to a central set of issues and concerns. This dissertation uses psychoanalytic theory and psychoanalytical narrative theory to carry out close, symptomatic readings of the texts. These readings demonstrate that the texts build their fantasies around the desire for a return to a pre-oedipal state, and that four anxieties repeatedly accompany this fantasy: the random and unexpected eruption of violence, the instability of identity, the family as the site of potential corruption and violence, and the past’s influence on the present. The narrativization of the Gein event functions to negotiate the relationship between the pleasurable expression of taboo wishes and the censorship of those wishes. This analysis contributes to an understanding of the function of narrative repetition, particularly in relation to the horror genre, and the relationship between a real event and fictional re-tellings of that event.