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Facing the Unknown? Representations of Sharks in 20th and Early 21st Century American Literature & Film

Steven Spielberg's film version of Jaws (1975) has led to dramatic effects in real-life perception, of not only Carcharodon carcharias (Wegner 28-33), but all sharks (Dickman 4, Ritter and Quester 164). An example is the large establishment of commercial shark hunting (Eilperin 58, 62). This project focuses on finding and categorizing patterns of fictional shark representation in 20th and early 21st century American fiction. It seems that sharks are often shown as implementations of the unknown or Other (Lacan). Reflecting the relevance of this specific and feared animal's representation is rooted not only in the ecological background of extinction discussions, but also in the context of human self-definition as opposed to animals. This dichotomy has always had a specific tradition within the, often ignored, genre of (Animal) Horror, which is overlapping with topoi of nature and adventure while also making use of traditions like classic American sea and hunting narratives. My research involves the investigation of aesthetic and semantic categories looking at different fictional shark narratives in order to prove the political and philosophical impact of these representations.