Psychos’ Haunting Memories: A(n) (Un)common Literary Heritage

Maria Antónia Lima


In our times, one of the most prevailing forms of terror is certainly the psychological terror. In the history of literature and cinema, it’s impossible to forget some very widely known characters called psychos, especially those created by Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Bloch, Stephen King, Bret Easton Ellis, Sarah Kane and Patrick McGrath. Usually, they are haunted not only by their own private memories, but also by a literary memory that associates them to a common heritage, as if each psychotic character belonged to a very old gothic family, in which every member had been cursed to inherit the disease of his ancestors or the sins of his fathers. Haunted by images of their past, that recurrently return to the present, these psychos defy the barriers of time and all the traditional distinctions between reality and imagination, because one can never be sure if the stories are really about murders or about victims of their very diseased minds. Uncertainties and doubts disturb the reader as they also disturb the main character in search of a lost identity.

Keywords: Psychos, Terror, Haunting Memories, Literary Heritage, Poe.

Full Text:



Bloch, Robert. Psycho. New York: Tor, 1989. Print.

Bourgoin, Stéphane. Serial Killers - Enquête sur les tueurs en série. Paris : Éditions Grasset &

Fasquelle, 1993. Print.

Brennan, Teresa. “The Age of Paranoia.” Paragraph 14.1 (1991): 20-45. Print.

Chase, Richard. The American Novel and Its Tradition. New York: Anchor, 1957. Print.

Ellis, Bret Easton. American Psycho. New York: Vintage, 1991. Print.

Fiedler, Leslie. Love and Death in the American Novel. Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 1997. Print.

Kane, Sarah. Complete Plays. London: Methuen, 2001. Print.

Lane, Brian and Wilfred Gregg. The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. London: Headline, 1992. Print.

Lovecraft, Howard Philips. Supernatural Horror in Literature. New York: Dover, 1973. Print.

Malin, Irving. New American Gothic. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1962. Print.

Martin, Robert K. and Eric Savoy Eds. American Gothic - New Interventions in a National Narrative. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1968. Print.

McGrath, Patrick. Spider. London: Penguin, 2002. Print.

Moldenhauer, Joseph. “Murder as a Fine Art: Basic Connections Between Poe’s Aesthetics, Psychology and Moral Vision.” PMLA 83 (1968): 284-297. Print.

Lacan, Jacques. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Book III of The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Trans. Russell Grigg. New York: Routledge, 1993. Print.

Levin, Harry. The Power of Blackness - Hawthorne, Poe, Melville. New York: Random House, 1958. Print.

Poe, Edgar Allan. Poetry and Tales. New York: The Library of America, 1984. Print.

Punter, David. Gothic Pathologies – The Text, The Body and The Law. London: Macmillan, 1998. Print.

Shelden, Pamela J. “True Originality: Poe’s Manipulation of The Gothic Tradition.” American Transcendental Quarterly 29-31(1976): 75-80. Print.

Williams, Anne. Art of Darkness: A Poetics of Gothic. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995. Print.


  • There are currently no refbacks.