This seminar, designed for first-year students, examined the many ways Western horror media reflects human anxieties and desires. Analyzing a wide variety of works of horror in literature, radio, television, film, and digital spaces, we found that horror--a genre often dismissed as mindless entertainment--holds up a revealing mirror to cultural constructs of race, gender, class, nationality, religion, and sexuality. Horror shows us not only what we believe and what we value but what preoccupies and terrifies us: persons and circumstances we don't understand and can't control.

 

A few of the questions we considered: 

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  • How does horror depend on the subversion of epistemologies?

  • What role does literary form play in producing horror?

  • Why are "creepy kids" so common in all forms of horror?

  • What does radio, as a medium, have to offer the genre of horror that other forms of media can't provide?

  • Why were "big bug" films so popular in the 1950s?

  • ​How do cinematic shifts from classical to modern to postmodern horror reflect contemporary cultural attitudes?

  • How is the internet changing our perceptions of horror today?

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Representing Horror

Chiaroscuro lighting in George Romero's 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead.