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Six Feet Under: A Gothic Reading of Liminali ty, Death and Grief
Aeternum: The Journal of Contemporary Gothic Studies (2016)
  • Lynda Hawryluk
  • Jo Coghlan, Dr, Southern Cross University
  • Louise Whitaker, Southern Cross University
Death is no longer considered a social taboo. News coverage reports death on a daily basis. Literature, art, film, and television have a long history of portraying death. Disciplines ranging from anthropology, sociology, and social welfare conceptualise death at an individual and community level in terms of ritual and power. Yet, how death and grief are performed is still largely shaped by social conventions. The critically-acclaimed HBO series Six Feet Under (2001–2005) uses Gothic tropes to challenge many of the social conventions that shape how individuals perform death and grief. Set in a Los Angeles funeral home run by the Fisher family, death is voiced by the episodic dead, while the complexities of grief are voiced by the families who come to the funeral home to arrange burial services. The Fishers themselves experience death and grief in the pilot episode. At each turn, normative understandings of how death and grief are performed are challenged. While there are conventional Gothic tropes evident in Six Feet Under, notably the dead occupying liminal spaces, it is via a California Gothic trope that the fragility of the American middle class family and its precarious existence in the dystopian American suburb is explored, underpinning the discursive power of the series.
  • Six Feet Under,
  • Liminality,
  • California Gothic,
  • Death
Publication Date
Citation Information
Jo Coghlan, Lynda Hawryluk and Louise Whitaker. "Six Feet Under: A Gothic Reading of Liminality, Death and Grief" Aeternum: The Journal of Contemporary Gothic Studies Vol. 3 Iss. 1 (2016) p. 16 - 32