“Haunted” : Architectural Manifestations of Adult Phobias and Admonitions in the Haunted Houses of Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Duncan Olenick


Architectural metaphors abound in children’s and young adult literature, where haunted houses are employed by authors and illustrators to convey elaborate semiotics about anxieties, social dynamics, and domesticity. Grotesque and ghostly mansions can be found as subject matter in all age-level books and they commonly operate through the assumption that readers will accept them as legitimate and comprehensible settings. Such is the case with books featuring haunted houses, which generally portray a plethora of ambivalent characters set against an emotionally-complex domiciliary realm.

Despite growing discourse surrounding supernatural-themed literature for young readers, there has been less focus on the messages that are perpetuated by the architectural representations within these works. Questions arise about what adults are communicating to young people through this subject matter and how this metaphor is constituted in visual, psychological, and cultural terms.

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680