English Department Hosts Event about Gone Girl and the Genre of Domestic Noir

Sedona Smith, Staff Writer 

Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel Gone Girl shocked readers with its dark themes and endless twists. Flynn’s novel continues to shine within the world of literature and general public alike, and it is now regarded as one of the best examples of domestic noir, an emerging genre of crime fiction. 

On March 10, GSU’s Rosemary Johnsen and Christopher White hosted a virtual discussion called “Gone Girl as Domestic Noir.”  Johnsen is an Assistant Provost and retired professor of English at GSU. White is a current professor in the department. Although the event was a part of White’s American Literature graduate seminar course, it was open to any campus member with interest in the topic. 

Johnsen began her discussion by providing her preferred working definition of domestic noir. The definition, written by Ian Sansom in 2016, described the genre as “exploring . . . a violent return to life with women as both victims and perpetrators.”  

Johnsen went on to explain that female characters in domestic noir novels are at the center of the story. “They are in danger, but they are also dangerous,” she said. Johnsen enjoys the genre because it has “ambition and reach in what it is able to achieve.” 

This subgenre is relatively new to the world of literature. The birth of the genre began with Tana French’s 2007 novel In the Woods. It continued to pick up steam with Julia Crouch’s Cuckoo (2011), Flynn’s Gone Girl (2012), and Paula Hawkins The Girl on the Train (2015).  

The developing genre continued to gain popularity as scholars began to take notice. According to Johnsen, author Tana French coined the term “domestic noir” in 2013, and academia officially recognized and began studying the genre in 2018.  

Domestic noir is an exclusively 21st century genre. Its themes of blurred truth, desired approval from others, and media influence are notable reflections of contemporary society. Because of these themes, Gone Girl triggers a reader to carry out a critical evaluation of the media-driven society in which they live, as well as their own personal motivations and desires.  

Johnsen notes that the framework employed while reading can completely change the reader’s perspective of the story. For example, she says that a reader who picks up Flynn’s novel because “everybody else loves it” will have a much different experience from the reader who seeks out the novel for the purpose of exploring domestic noir.  

This means that, whether you already have read Gone Girl or not, you should definitely pick it up. Reading the novel with an effort to notice themes associated with domestic noir will undoubtedly create a new perspective on the characters and the story itself.