F07: Terror in Translation: International Perspectives on Fear

MWF1 2:30-3:50 pm

J. Alexandra McGhee

In his seminal essay on the horror film, Robin Wood examines the genre from a psychoanalytic perspective, arguing that horror reveals what society “represses or oppresses.” Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, defines horror as “the removal of masks.” Stephen King, on the other hand, posits that “we make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” Defining horror often has the paradoxical effect of raising further questions. What makes us afraid? Are our fears universal, or are they culturally determined? How does what᾿s “scary” depend on particular places and periods in time? How has horror evolved, and where will it go next? And, perhaps most importantly, why do people like being scared?

This course will raise these questions and others as we examine the rich and diverse horror tradition through the lens of critical analysis. Our engagement with various philosophies of horror, which may include Freud᾿s concept of the uncanny, Edgar Allan Poe's “Philosophy of Composition,” Carol Clover's analysis of the “Final Girl,” and Noel Carroll's four categories of the monstrous, will initiate our exploration, in discussion and writing, of the genre's cross-cultural appeal. In the early weeks of the course, we will read, critique, write about, and synthesize definitions of horror. We will then turn to texts like the Japanese ghost stories of Kwaidan, international vampire folktales, the Italian giallo genre, the Southern Gothic tradition, and post-9/11 horror to situate terror geographically and historically. Last, we will focus on the creation of a multi-part research project in which you will develop and answer your own exploratory question about horror's international appeal.

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