Undergraduate FYP: How American Horror Story reinvents the female narrative using Gynaehorror

For my Final Year Project, I decided to investigate how American Horror Story uses gynaehorror to reinvent the female narrative in the genre. (The full report can be found here) Gynaehorror was a term coined by Erin Harrington and is described as a subsection of horror which is  “concerned with all aspects of female reproductive horror, from reproductive and sexual organs to virginity, pregnancy, birth, motherhood and finally to menopause” (Harrington 2018). In order to investigate this, I looked at the subject of narratology and it’s origins in literature. I then used Voyant Analysis software to analyze transcripts of seasons 1-6 of the anthology series in order to find common themes and issues that reappear throughout the seasons.

By doing this I was able to narrow down my focus to creating a series of timelines highlighting my findings and just some of the female-centric narratives that the show has.

The first of these timelines is about witches in the series which are heavily featured in Coven and Roanoke.


‘He [Ryan Murphy] creates an environment where my ideas are heard, and it’s a true collaborative experience. He relies on my attention to detail and my curiosity, and he nurtures that in me and in so many women’(‘Sarah Paulson on Why Women Work Better Together (Guest Column)’ n.d.).

One of the most well-known characters in the American Horror Story is Lana Winters, a character played by Sarah Paulson. Lana is one of the most well-beloved characters in the series and frequently has cameos in later seasons as the host of her own talk show. Lana’s storyline in Asylum is very similar to the story of real-life investigative journalist Nellie Bly who faked insanity so that she could be admitted into an asylum, in 1887, in order for her to report on the abuse the patients were shown.


All together we can see that by looking at just three out of the six seasons for the timelines, there is a heavy focus on the rise of women and their rise to more predominate roles in the American Horror Story Universe. Building on this, it would be interesting to look at other aspects of the show to see the connections and whether the results shown in these timelines repeat themselves. Another important addition to the research is of course the transcripts for series 6, Cult, and series 7. Apocalypse, which is the long awaited crossover series featuring Murder House and Coven.