Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Valerie McKenzie

Abstract

Several popular-science books explore how, even in the modern world, our bodies cling to our parasite-ridden evolutionary backgrounds. However, no academic or popular text has analyzed Western cultural attitudes towards parasites in terms of a larger aesthetic. To address this question, I wrote a nonfiction book that sought to accomplish the following: (1) Introduce the rhetorical aesthetics of the grotesque, the sublime, the uncanny, and the abject, with emphasis on the evolutionary grotesque, the usage of the latter three in speculative fiction, and my own personal connections to the same. (2) Articulate the current emotional relationship between people and parasites by examining the abjectified portrayal of parasitization in popular media. (3) Introduce the hygiene hypothesis and helminthic therapy in a manner accessible to the layman and explain the repercussions of the same. (4) Predict that future attitudes towards parasites will shift from the aesthetic of the abject to that of the grotesque, based on our more complex, emotionally ambiguous understanding of parasitic symbiosis.

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