At the Mercy of Gaia: Deep Ecologial Unrest and America’s fall as Nature’s Nation in Kingdom of the Spiders


  • Jacob Lillemose Copenhagen Center for Disaster Research, Denmark
  • Karsten Wind Meyhoff Institut for Kunst og Kulturvidenskab, Copenhagen, Denmark



Gaia, dark ecology, animal horror, Maurice Maeterlinck, natures nation


This paper looks as the animal horror genre as a way to discuss current notions of ecology in relation to a specific American idea of being “Nature’s Nation”. The central work for the discussion is the movie Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) by John Cardos, which depicts how a small Arizona town is taken over by a “swarm” of tarantulas. Without any obvious explanation the spiders slowly but steadily invade the town and start killing both other animals and humans until they have completely covered the town in their web. The paper connects the movie to a long tradition of fiction describing how nature turns on humans and reverses the power relation between man and nature that is fundamental to modernity. Moreover, the paper connects the movie to Maurice Maeterlincks ideas of swarm communities as mani-fested by ants and termites to argue that these communities are ecologically superior to the the communities of man-made civilisation. Finally, the paper discusses Kingdom of the Spiders and animal horror in general in relation to recent ideas of non-human ecologies and critiques of anthropocentrism and makes the point that these works of fiction serve as both dramatic and philosophical visions of a world without humans.


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Theme: Cultures of Disasters