Destructive Plasticity, “Surplus of Consciousness,” and the “Monster” in True Detective

Courtney Patrick-Weber
Bay Path University
Longmeadow, Massachusetts, USA



The first season of HBO’s cult hit True Detective introduced viewers to a southern gothic murder mystery that many will not easily forget.  Since many of us focused primarily on the whodunit narrative, we may have missed the narrative of trauma simmering under the surface of the story.  This narrative of trauma reveals a deeper layer to the story between Detective Rust Cohle and serial killer Errol Childress, one that also reveals our own fears regarding trauma in our lives.  By applying first the nihilist philosophies of Peter Zapffe with Cohle and Catherine Malabou’s concept on destructive plasticity in Childress, we can understand on a deeper level the motivations behind Childress’ murderous actions and Cohle’s frequent existential musings that are scattered throughout every episode.  By understanding these characters as trauma survivors and representations of what happens psychologically after a traumatic event, we can further learn how our inability to talk about trauma and have true empathy for survivors can ultimately harm a survivors’ ability to navigate their new post-trauma space and, perhaps, lead that survivor to become like Childress—a fate that could just as easily happen to us.


True Detective; Survivor; Zapffe; Malabou; Trauma


The first season of HBO’s cult hit True Detective caught the interest and imagination of viewers as we were taken on a violent journey into the heart of Louisiana and of madness. The first season was fascinating for several reasons, but perhaps the most powerful element of the show were the characters of Detective Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and serial killer Errol Childress (Glenn Fleschner). While some critics tend to focus primarily on the relationship between Cohle and his partner, Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson), I argue that we need to also focus on the connections between Cohle and Childress as these two characters are brought together not as foils to each other (like Cohle and Hart), but because they both represent the fluidity of identity that is sparked after a traumatic event. Both Cohle and Childress are survivors of traumas of a physical and of an emotional nature. Traumas do not just change us a little; traumas can make us an “other” to our old identity. By applying first the nihilist philosophies of Peter Zapffe with Cohle and Catherine Malabou’s concept on destructive plasticity in Childress, we can understand on a deeper level the motivations behind Childress’ murderous actions and Cohle’s frequent existential musings that are scattered throughout every episode. By understanding these characters as trauma survivors and representations of what happens psychologically after a traumatic event, we can further learn how our inability to talk about trauma and have true empathy for survivors can ultimately harm a survivor’s ability to navigate their new post-trauma space and, perhaps, lead that survivor to become like Childress—a fate that could just as easily happen to us.

Before delving into the philosophical elements of this analysis, it is necessary to first explain the complicated narrative of True Detective’s first season and how the structure of the episodes adds another level to how we understand Cohle and Childress. For the first half of the season, the narrative is set in the present day with Cohle and Hart summoned separately to a police station to help Detectives Maynard Gilbough (Michael Potts) and Thomas Papania (Tory Kittles) with a murder case that echoes elements of a case Cohle and Hart allegedly solved seventeen years before. While the viewers are not aware of the detectives’ motives at first, Cohle is smart and figures out rather quickly that he is considered a suspect. Even with his suspicions, he recalls to the detectives his memories of the old case involving the cult-laced death of prostitute Dora Lang and “The Yellow King.” Most of the past events are told through the point of view of Cohle as he weaves his memories with philosophical asides while he drinks Lone Star beer and chain-smokes in the interview room. Cohle is an enigma to viewers: extremely intelligent, a functioning alcoholic, obsessive, and nihilistic. And yet, in spite of his flaws, we trust his view of the events because he comes across as genuine—though a very depressed kind of genuine. We also learn that Cohle shared his philosophies in the past as well as in the present, so it is difficult not to take his existential musings seriously as he certainly has in his own life. The musings also make Cohle seem mysterious and “other” to us and we are drawn to him.

The use of time in the narrative also allows viewers to see how Cohle and Hart have changed in the past seventeen years. While Hart appears to be physically well, he is divorced and clearly misses his family life. He is no longer in the police force and instead runs his own private detective agency. Cohle, on the other hand, looks terrible. While he was very thin in the past, now he looks skeletal with his hair unkempt and thrown into a haphazard ponytail; he has dark bags under his eyes and drinks away his days when he is not working in a bar. His appearance makes us want to know more about him and his life choices in the past seventeen years. We are never told what happened and must piece together his life through what he allows us to see of him—which is not very much. Since most of what we do know about Cohle is through his philosophical tangents, we latch onto them as they are the only real clue into who he is, making them even more prominent and important than they would be otherwise. It is impossible to separate Cohle from his philosophies because they are so ingrained into his identity. As we learn about Cohle’s traumas, we are fascinated when he speaks as his system of belief is rooted in his traumas that simmer below the surface and threaten to bubble over at any moment.

Before delving into Cohle’s traumas, it is important to first establish the philosophical lens of Peter Zappfe used to analyze Cohle. Zapffe’s philosophy is nihilist in nature, and he warns us of the dangers of becoming “too” conscious of our respective positions in the world, “too” aware of our own capability to slip into an “otherness” that was always beneath the surface. This moment of existential awareness is what Zapffe calls the “damaging surplus of consciousness,” a realization that serves to essentially shake us out of our fog of living to reveal that life is too overwhelming for us (“The Last Messiah”). For Zapffe, humanity creates various anchors (religion, education, family) that serve to keep us from becoming “too” aware of our lives and hopelessness that goes along with this realization. Zapffe writes, “Anchoring might be characterized as a fixation of points within, or construction of walls around, the liquid fray of consciousness” (“The Last Messiah”). Yet, these anchors are artificial in nature and we need to release ourselves from them in order to truly know ourselves and realize our fate—that we should not exist.

Due to this haunting realization that we should not be alive, Zapffe also advocates that we should kill ourselves and deny procreating. In “The Last Messiah,” Zappfe’s eponymous character beseeches the human race to “know yourselves—be infertile and let the earth be silent after ye.” While many may find this philosophy of nihilism and antinatalism far too depressing to even think about, Cohle constantly does and says things brought upon his various traumas that tie him firmly to Zapffe.

Prior to the events of the show, Cohle was married and had a young child, Sophia. Sophia was killed by a car while she was riding her tricycle at the tender age of two; the shocking death ultimately split up Cohle’s marriage and wounded him psychologically. To help deal with the pain of being too aware of the flimsiness of human life in the world, he buried himself in his work as an undercover agent in the drug world and subsequently developed a drug addiction. As a result of the PTSD from his daughter’s death and the years of extensive drug use, Cohle admits to others that he sees visions, visions that he believes will never end. He feels these visions help him see “the secret truth of the universe” that haunts him even though he tries hard to bury it (“Seeing Things”). As a result of his traumas and visions, Cohle firmly believes that being “too” aware of our status in the world does far more harm than good. In “The Long, Bright Dark” he explains:

I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself; we are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self; an accretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody is nobody. Maybe the honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.

Cohle addresses the idea of an “illusion of the self” in another episode, “The Locked Room,” while he cuts up cans of Lone Star into little people:

To realize that all your life—you know, all your love, all your hate, all your memory, all your pain—it was all the same thing. It’s all the same dream; the dream that you had inside a locked room. That dream about being a person. And, like a lot of dreams, there’s a monster at the end of it.

Trauma forces us to have a “surplus of consciousness,” to realize we are just as flimsy as those cut-out people made from a can of beer, and we see the monster we are (or could become) as a result of those traumas. As a result of seeing a glimpse of this monster, through Zapffe’s “surplus of consciousness,” Cohle also advocates Zapffe’s antinatalism. In “Seeing Things,” he asks Detectives Gilbough and Papania if either of them are fathers. When they both answer in the affirmative, Cohle responds, “Think of the hubris it must take to yank a soul out of non-existence into this…meat, to force a life into this thresher. My daughter—she spared me the sin of being a father.” He continues: “I think about my daughter now, and what she was spared. Sometimes I feel grateful. The doctor said she didn’t feel a thing—went straight into a coma. Then, somewhere in that blackness, she slipped off into another deeper kind. Isn’t that a beautiful way to go out, painlessly as a happy child?” (“Seeing Things”). Cohle rationalizes the death of his young daughter by making her an innocent martyr for his sin of procreation. Her violent death is not so tragic if it were for a greater purpose: to make right Cohle’s decision to bring a new life “into this thresher.”

Since Cohle’s philosophy is rooted in Zapffe’s, it is not a surprise that he also despises the various anchors his fellow human beings cling to in order to avoid the “surplus of consciousness.” We especially see this disdain in Cohle’s view of the anchor of religion. From the very first episode of the season, religion plays a vital role in the show. The death of Dora Lang, the first victim shown, is reminiscent of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross when he died not for just the “sins of the father” but for the sins of all humankind. When Cohle and Hart find her body, she is wearing a crown of thorns and has shallow stab marks on her abdomen. In the third episode, “The Locked Room,” Cohle and Hart visit a revivalist tent for Friends of the Church. While they watch church-goers fling their arms in the air and chant scripture, Cohle asks Hart, “What do you think the average IQ of this group is, huh?” He adds that “certain linguistic anthropologists think that religion is a language virus that rewrites pathways in the brain…dulls critical thinking.” Cohle sees religion and God as “an authoritative vessel” that “absorbs their dread with his narrative.”

Cohle also blames preachers for their role in facilitating the anchor of religion: “The ontological fallacy of expecting a light at the end of the tunnel, well, that’s what the preacher sells, same as a shrink. See, the preacher, he encourages your capacity for illusion. Then he tells you it’s a fucking virtue. Always a buck to be had doing that, and it’s such a desperate sense of entitlement, isn’t it?” (“The Locked Room”). The symbols associated with the anchor of religion are also portrayed as weak and easily destroyed, in spite of the connotations of the word “anchor.” When Cohle asks a minister at a church about the “devil traps” found around the body of Dora Lang, the minister tells him that he used to make these traps as a kid by “just tying two sticks together” (“The Long, Bright Dark”). While he says this sentence, the camera pans and zooms in on an image of the crucifix on the wall, two flimsy sticks also tied together. Also, the church where the revivalists used to worship is literally and figuratively destroyed by a fire.

With Cohle and Zapffe firmly connected, it is important to turn towards Cohle’s foil of trauma, Errol Childress, and the philosophy rooted within him. In Ontology of the Accident, Catherine Malabou writes that “as a result of a serious trauma, or sometimes for no reason at all, the path splits and a new, unprecedented persona comes to live with the former person, and eventually takes up all the room” (1). Therefore, “we must all of us recognize that we might, one day, become someone else, an absolute other, someone who will never be reconciled with themselves again, someone who will be this form of us without redemption or atonement, without last wishes, this damned form, outside of time” (2-3). Malabou calls this phenomena “destructive plasticity,” which is the idea that destruction and trauma can reveal the human psyche as flexible and flimsy. For Malabou, “destructive plasticity enables the appearance or formation of alterity where the other is absolutely lacking. Plasticity is the form of alterity when no transcendence, flight or escape is left. The only other that exists in this circumstance is being other to the self” (11). Destructive plasticity “refers to the possibility of being transformed without being destroyed; it characterizes the entire strategy of modification that seeks to avoid the threat of destruction” (44-45). We may feel fear when we think about the plasticity of the self, and perhaps even disbelief that such a change can occur to us without even knowing it. But, due to Freud’s death drive, destruction of the self is not only possible but also probable. Destructive plasticity is “the power to form identity through destruction—thus making possible the emergence of a psyche that has vacated itself, its past, and its ‘precedents.’ In this sense, such plasticity has the power of creation ex nihilo, since it begins with the annihilation of an initial identity” (Malabou The New Wounded 68).

As Cohle represents Zapffe’s philosophy of “surplus of consciousness” and nihilism as a result of surviving trauma, Childress embodies Malabou’s theory of destructive plasticity. We learn early on in the show that the suspected killer has scars on his face from a vicious burn, and when we see Childress for the first time we see these marks clearly. We learn later that Childress’ father is the reason behind his terrible burns, but the exact incident that incited the violent act is unclear. Based on how Childress treats his father (tying him to a bedspring and sewing his mouth shut, leaving him to rot), we can speculate that his father burned him on purpose in an attempt to murder his son. The reason why his father tried to kill him is because the family he belongs to in the show, the Tuttles, is a powerful and deeply religious group—and Childress is an illegitimate child. Zapffe’s anchor of religion in the Tuttle family is what ultimately destroys Childress as the pressure to adhere to the rules of religion force his father to extreme measures in the name of “forgiveness.” It is also significant to remember the church, mentioned earlier, that was burned down as this important detail ties the anchor of religion intimately to Childress’ trauma and destructive plasticity. Like Childress, the church is now an “other” to what it once was since a mural on the side of one of the burnt walls depicts the Dora Lang crime scene. Just like Lang, the church’s trauma gave birth to an other, one that is painted over the self that used to be there. The destruction of the church, specifically by fire, reveals a literal example of Malabou’s destructive plasticity while also tying the anchor of religion directly to Childress. It is not surprising that in the following episode the viewer is introduced to Childress.

The mistreatment of Childress by his father also echoes the theme of children and sins of the father. The sin of Childress’ father, however, is one similar to Dr. Frankenstein’s sin—both men created a “monster” and then denied any relation to that monster. In addition to attempted murder, Childress’ father destroyed any pertinent paperwork tying him to his son. Both the fire and the destruction of identifying paperwork are traumatic to Childress’ identity, mostly because these traumas are “of human origin” and the source of the trauma “not only shatters one’s fundamental assumptions about the world and one’s safety in it, but also severs the sustaining connection between the self and the rest of humanity” (Brison 40). Therefore, Childress is much more likely than Cohle to experience Malabou’s destructive plasticity and become an other as Cohle’s trauma of his daughter’s death, while caused by another human being, was an accident.

The “other” for Childress is the entity of the Yellow King. The idea of the Yellow King comes to us from Robert Chamber’s eerie collection of short stories entitled The King in Yellow. Each of the stories in the collection connects in some way to the unknown play The Yellow King, a play that we only get snippets of throughout each story in the book. The back jacket of the book explains:

It is whispered that there is a play that leaves only insanity and sorrow in its wake. It tempts those who read it, bringing upon them a vision of madness that should be left unseen…the stories herein traverse the elements of the play, and the words, themes, and poetry, are permeated by the presence of the King in Yellow, weaving together to leave upon the reader the ruinous impression of the Yellow Sign.

The “ruinous impression of the Yellow Sign” can be seen as a nod to the “ruinous impression” left on a psyche by a trauma. There is some debate among viewers as to who the Yellow King is on the show, but I believe he is Childress’ other. Childress is a shadow for most of the series and we only know him primarily from the “ruinous impressions” he leaves on everyone who has been in contact with him. Just like those who’ve read the terrible play, anyone who saw the Yellow King/Childress was forever changed by the encounter, either haunted by the image of what they saw (former workers of the Tuttles and distant relatives of Childress) or literally driven to madness (like Kelly, who sits in a catatonic state until she remembers Childress’ face and starts to scream in the episode “Haunted Houses”).

Another way, besides using his physical appearance, that Childress attempts to mimic in his victims the madness of the other he experiences first-hand is by injecting them with drugs, particularly Meth and LSD. In Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, Huxley contemplates the ability of the drug mescaline to tap into the unconscious mind and expand our consciousness—to give the user a “surplus of consciousness.” After taking the drug, Huxley notes that “space was still there; but it had lost its predominance. The mind was primarily concerned, not with measures and locations, but with being and meaning” (20). Based on his experiences with mind-altering drug use, Huxley muses on what he calls the Mind at Large, a concept very similar to Zapffe’s “surplus of consciousness”:

…each one of us is potentially a Mind at Large. But in so far as we are animals, our business is at all costs to survive. To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us stay alive on the surface of this particular planet. (23)

Since Childress’ trauma made him an other through destructive plasticity, his mind is in a constant state of “surplus of consciousness.” In order to guide his victims into this same state, he injects them with a formidable cocktail. He wants his victims to experience madness from a “surplus of consciousness” before he rapes and murders them so they have some inkling of what it is like to be him. Perhaps drugging his victims makes his decision to violate and then murder them more acceptable to him, especially when we think about Zapffe’s Last Messiah’s final words, mentioned earlier. In their last moments alive, Childress forces his victims to “know themselves” through the use of drugs and then ultimately “guides” them to their fate of death.

We do not truly see Childress until the penultimate episode. While we are given a small moment with him and Cohle earlier in the season (when Childress is on a lawnmower and Cohle goes to speak to him about the school building near where he is cutting grass), that moment is brief and we are unable to really “see” Childress as he is covered in dirt and grass clippings. When we finally truly meet Childress, he is again on a lawnmower, but this time he is cutting grass at a cemetery and is approached by Gilbough and Papania. The sun shines brightly on Childress’ face and there is no dirt to cover the shine of scars on his lower jaw. When the detectives leave Childress, he watches them leave before uttering, “My family’s been here a long, long time” (“After You’ve Gone”). This phrase is haunting, not only in the way Childress says it, but also when we think of what he may mean. On one hand, Childress refers to his ancestry and familial ties with the Tuttles. But, on the other hand, “family” could refer to his relation to all of the “others” created by trauma who came before him (and all of the “others” who will be made well after he is gone).

Those traumatized before and after Childress represent not only destructive plasticity but also the cyclical nature of trauma and identity. In the final episode of the series, Childress switches back and forth between different accents, mimicking the fluidity of identity simply by speaking in a southern drawl one moment and an English accent another. But what he says is far more interesting. When his relative/lover prompts him for sex, Childress replies, “I’m busy. I have very important work to do. My ascension removes me from the disk and the loop. I am near the final stage. Some mornings, I can feel the infernal plane” (“Form and Void”). The “disk and the loop” most likely refers to something Cohle said earlier in the series when he described time as a “flat circle” (“The Secret Fate of All Life”). We are destined (or, perhaps, cursed) to repeat the same actions and repercussions over and over again. To ascend from this destructive pattern would be ideal—to finally die without any chance of reincarnation and finally break out of the painful patterns of life. The idea of time as repetition is also associated with trauma. Trauma survivors tend to deal with their traumas either through repression or repetition. For Childress, to ascend is not only to break out of the repetitious routine of life but to also finally cut ties with his own traumas and his otherness. But whether or not such an ascension is possible is not answered in the show—or in life.

Finally, Childress and destructive plasticity suggest the idea of creating a mask to hide the otherness from the outside world. Without some type of buffer, all trauma survivors become Yellow Kings to those who do not understand what it is like to live through a traumatic event—which explains why so many of us shy away from listening to trauma survivors out of fear that doing so will only remind us of our own frailty and trigger a “surplus of consciousness.” Susan Brison writes about this innate, uncomfortable feeling when those outside of a trauma try to speak to the survivor. After she survived a rape and attempted murder, her relatives reacted in various ways to her when they found out:

More to reassure themselves than to comfort the victim, some deny that such a thing could happen again. One friend, succumbing to the gambler’s fallacy, pointed out that my having had extraordinary bad luck meant that the odds of my being attacked again were now quite slim…Others thought it would be most comforting to act as if nothing had happened…Some devout relatives were quick to give God all the credit for my survival but none of the blame for what I had to endure. Others acknowledged the suffering that had been inflicted on me, but as no more than a blip on the graph of God’s benevolence—necessary, fleeting, evil, there to make possible an even greater show of good…But I learned that everyone needs to try to make sense, in however inadequate a way, of such senseless violence. (10-11)

Brison goes on to note that “we lack the vocabulary for expressing appropriate concern, and we have no social conventions to ease the awkwardness” (12). Perhaps one reason why we resist creating a vocabulary of trauma is our fear of a “surplus of consciousness” that will undoubtedly happen once we fully connect a survivor’s trauma with our own lives—and the possibility of us becoming a survivor one day. To help aid in this endeavor, trauma survivors may feel pressure to pretend that everything is fine and convince others that they are the same person they were before the trauma, even if both of those assertions are false masks.

Childress refuses to wear his mask, refuses to pretend his traumas have done nothing to his psyche, and this refusal causes others to fear him—and makes him feel powerful. Cohle, on the other hand, still fights to keep his other, born of trauma, hidden from view. But he does not hide it well enough. In “The Secret Fate of All Life,” a meth cook looks at Cohle and says, “You’ve got a demon, little man…there’s a shadow on your soul.” Childress also sees right though his façade when the two violently meet in the series finale. When Childress stabs Cohle, he growls, “Take off your mask,” hoping the mixture of physical trauma from the knife and emotional trauma from Cohle’s life will shake loose the “demon” hidden within Cohle’s bones (“Form and Void”). The traumas Cohle has survived have left their mark on him, but he has not become a complete other with no remorse like Childress. As with any person who suffers terrible traumas, the decision on who survives with only minor scars and who becomes a complete other is never quite understood. Perhaps not knowing our fate when trauma strikes is also a nod to the title of the final episode as not knowing is indeed the secret fate of all life. All of us will be touched by the shadow of the other created from our traumas at some point, and it is not up to us whether or not we become a monster like Childress or manage to keep some semblance of self while fighting off the “surplus of consciousness” like Cohle.

But Childress’ attempt to make Cohle an other by stabbing him with the knife fails. Cohle recalls what went through his mind as he felt himself slip away from the extent of his wounds in one of the final scenes of the show:

There was a moment, I know, when I was under in the dark, that something…whatever I’d been reduced to, not even consciousness, just a vague awareness in the dark. I could feel my definitions fading. And beneath that darkness there was another kind—it was deeper—warm, like a substance. I could feel man, I knew, I knew my daughter waited for me there. So clear I could feel her. I could feel…I could feel the peace of my Pop, too. It was like I was part of everything that I have ever loved, and we were all, the three of us, just fading out. And all I had to do was let go, man. And I did. I said, “Darkness, yeah.” And I disappeared. But I could still feel her love there. Even more than before. Nothing. Nothing but that love. And then I woke up. (“Form and Void”)

After this revelation, Cohle breaks down in tears, a rare moment of deep emotion from a traditionally stoic character. Shortly afterwards, he and Hart look to the night sky and Hart mentions how there is far more darkness than light. But Cohle disagrees: “Well, once there was only dark. You ask me, the light’s winning” (“Form and Void”). Did Cohle experience a new kind of “surplus of consciousness” and found only love in that release? Perhaps by embracing our traumas, and the traumas of others, the “surplus of consciousness” we will gain will not be a terrible thing, as Zapffe warns, but rather an enlightening moment—a chance for us to experience the elusive true empathy for others so many of us feel is impossible to find. We fear trauma and the destructive plasticity/“surplus of consciousness” that comes with it, but should we? Would there be less of a chance of us becoming like Childress as a result of our traumas if we did let go like Cohle? Would there be fewer Childress’ if we created a language of trauma and really listened to survivors?

In the film Session 9, we are introduced (via an old psychiatric recording of various therapy sessions) to a woman with multiple personality disorder, a disorder brought out by a traumatic moment in her childhood. One of her personalities is “Simon,” the most violent part of her psyche. When the psychiatrist asks “Simon” where he lives when he is not the dominant personality, he replies, “I live in the weak and the wounded.” What makes this confession haunting in this film is the same reason that makes Childress so terrifying in the first season of True Detective. Both of these violent identities are shadows within all of us. In a moment of severe trauma, this shadow finds strength in our weaknesses, pulling to the surface with violent repercussions.

There was a moment in the first episode of the season when Cohle and Hart are driving through a ghost-like town. Surveying the scene, Cohle muses, “This place is like somebody’s memory of a town, and the memory is fading. It’s like there was never anything here but jungle” (“The Long Bright Dark”). This statement is true for our own beings, often a flesh container for the wildness within us and at any moment our current self may become a memory in the face of some type of physical or emotional trauma. Hart replies, “Stop saying shit like that. It’s unprofessional” (“The Long Bright Dark”). But we need to hear Cohle’s existential thoughts, we need to be reminded how fragile the self is and how, one day, we could become an other and “no one wants to be other than they are, or think they are” because the fear of unleashing that other “is a fate worse than death: the transformation in which you stop being you” (Ligotti 91-2). We could become Childress. Right now, the light may be winning—but for how long?


Works Cited

“After You’ve Gone.” True Detective. HBO, 2 Mar. 2014.

Brison, Susan J. Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self. Princeton UP, 2002.

“Form and Void.” True Detective. HBO, 9 Mar. 2014.

“Haunted Houses.” True Detective. HBO, 23 Feb. 2014.

Huxley, Aldous. The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell. Harper & Row Pub., 1954.

Ligotti, Thomas. The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. Hippocampus Press, 2010.

Malabou, Catherine. The Ontology of the Accident: An Essay on Destructive Plasticity. Translated by Carolyn Shread. Polity, 2012.

—.The New Wounded: From Neurosis to Brain Damage. Translated by Steven Miller. Fordham UP, 2012.

Session 9. Directed by Brad Anderson, performances by David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas, USA Films, 2001.

“The Locked Room.” True Detective. HBO, 26 Jan. 2014.

“The Long Bright Dark.” True Detective. HBO, 12 Jan. 2014.

“The Secret Fate of All Life.” True Detective. HBO, 16 Feb. 2014.

“Seeing Things.” True Detective. HBO, 19 Jan. 2014.

Zapffe, Peter Wessel. “The Last Messiah.” 1933. Translated by Gisle Tangenes. Planet Accessed 29 July 2014.



Author Bio

Courtney Patrick-Weber has a PhD in Rhetoric and is an Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at Bay Path University.  Her current research is rooted in the rhetoric of trauma, culture, and cognitive theory.  She has published articles in Computers and Composition Online and Technoculture.

Reference Citation

Weber, Courtney. “Destructive Plasticity, ‘Surplus of Consciousness,’ and the ‘Monster’ in True Detective.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 3, no. 2, 2016,

Weber, C. (2016). Destructive plasticity, “Surplus of Consciousness,” and the “Monster” in True Detective. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 3(2).