First Advisor

Hildy Miller

Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in English and University Honors






Incest -- Southern States -- Fiction, American gothic fiction (Literary genre), Gothic literature, Stereotypes (Social psychology) in literature, Taboo in literature, Incest in popular culture




In this paper, I am exploring the topic of incest through the lens of the Southern Gothic literature genre. I am interested in why the American South has the stereotype of having more prevalence of individuals who engage in incest in mountain communities versus other parts of the communities in America. I explore the intersectionality of race, geographic isolation, religion, and the taboo of incest in a small community. I use the texts of William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, and Breece D'J Pancake to do in-depth analysis of Southern Gothic themes such as taboo, family secrets, Christianity, and the grotesque. By doing analysis of fiction the fictional works of these writers, I am able to gain a better understanding of why the south has a reputation for inbreeding. I also look at modern examples from a video project done by Mark Laita which shows the heavy inbreeding of a family in Odd, West Virginia. My reasons for writing this thesis is to shine light on the dark secret of incest and discover why certain parts of America may prone [sic] to engaging in acts over other parts.


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