Ghost meat horror, trauma, and visceral history

Catherine Belling*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ambivalent attraction of feeling horror might explain some paradoxes regarding the consumption of representations of atrocities committed in the real world, in the past, on actual other people. How do horror fictions work in the transmission or exploitation of historical trauma? How might they function as prosthetic memories, at once disturbing and informative to readers who might otherwise not be exposed to those histories at all? What are the ethical implications of horror elicited by fictional representations of historical suffering? This article engages these questions through the reading of Mo Hayder’s 2004 novel The Devil of Nanking. Hayder exploits horror’s appeal and also—by foregrounding the acts of representation, reading, and spectatorship that generate this response—opens that process to critique. The novel may productively be understood as a work of posttraumatic fiction, both containing and exposing the concentric layers of our representational engagement with records of past atrocity. Through such a reading, a spherical rather than linear topology emerges for history itself, a structure of haunted and embodied consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)66-80
Number of pages15
JournalEnglish Language Notes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021


  • Horror
  • Mo Hayder
  • Nanking Massacre
  • Posttraumatic fiction
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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