"Hideous progeny": Representing the unconscious in English narrative before freud

Charles Campbell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Beginning with "Beowulf," the monsters in English fiction represent the uncontrollable forces of the unconscious operating in similar narrative landscapes and plots. An archetypal narrative dynamic occurs in "Beowulf," "Clarissa," "Frankenstein," "Wuthering Heights" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," a pattern of opposition between a house of order and a house of the outsider (the dwelling of the monster), with journeys, spying and existential conflict between the two. These shared elements of form reflect a common concern with the incursions of the unconscious into the structures of civilized social life. The monster is humanized in the novel, after his initial appearance as Grendel, but he retains his original character, setting, movements and aggressions. This study shows how this outsider figure is represented on a typical landscape and how he figures in various fictional worlds. The perspective thus opened provides new insights into narrative form and into consciousness of the unconscious in fiction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-23
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Literary Humanities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Archetype
  • Fictional landscape
  • Hero
  • Monster
  • Narrative
  • Outsider
  • Unconscious

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


Dive into the research topics of '"Hideous progeny": Representing the unconscious in English narrative before freud'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this