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Titles of Interest - Divine Horror: Essays on the Cinematic Battle Between the Sacred and the Diabolical

Divine Horror: Essays on the Cinematic Battle Between the Sacred and the Diabolical
Cynthia J. Miller and A. Bowdoin Van Riper, eds.
McFarland, 2017

From Rosemary's Baby (1968) to The Witch (2015), horror films use religious entities to both inspire and combat fear and to call into question or affirm the moral order. Churches provide sanctuary, clergy cast out evil, religious icons become weapons, holy ground becomes battleground--but all of these may be turned from their original purpose.

This collection of new essays explores fifty years of genre horror in which manifestations of the sacred or profane play a material role. The contributors explore portrayals of the war between good and evil and their archetypes in such classics as The Omen (1976), The Exorcist (1973) and Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), as well as in popular franchises like Hellraiser and Hellboy and cult films such as God Told Me To (1976), Thirst (2009) and Frailty (2001).

Titles of Interest - Monsters in the Classroom: Essays on Teaching What Scares Us

Monsters in the Classroom: Essays on Teaching What Scares Us
Edited by Adam Golub and Heather Richardson Hayton
Foreword by W. Scott Poole; Afterword by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen
McFarland, 2017

About the Book

Exploring the pedagogical power of the monstrous, this collection of new essays describes innovative teaching strategies that use our cultural fascination with monsters to enhance learning in high school and college courses. The contributors discuss the implications of inviting fearsome creatures into the classroom, showing how they work to create compelling narratives and provide students a framework for analyzing history, culture, and everyday life. Essays explore ways of using the monstrous to teach literature, film, philosophy, theater, art history, religion, foreign language, and other subjects. Some sample syllabi, assignments, and class materials are provided.

Table of Contents

Foreword (W. Scott Poole)
Introduction: Monstrous Pedagogies
Adam Golub and Heather Richardson Hayton
Part I--Teaching Difference: The Monster Appears
Teaching Monsters from Medieval to Modern: Embracing the Abnormal (Asa Simon Mittman)
Gender, Sexuality and Rhetorical Vulnerabilities in Monster Literature and Pedagogy (Pamela Bedore)
Creating Visual Rhetoric and the Monstrous (Nancy Hightower)
Monsters as Subversive Imagination: Inviting Monsters into the Philosophy Classroom (Jessica Elbert Decker)
Part II--Transforming Space: The Monster Roams
Locating Monsters: Space, Place and Monstrous Geographies (Adam Golub)
White Settlers and Wendigos: Teaching Monstrosity in American Gothic Narratives (Bernice M. Murphy)
Meeting the Monstrous Through Experiential ­Study-Abroad Pedagogy
(Kyle William Bishop)
Using Zombies to Teach Theatre Students (Phil Smith)
Part III--Disrupting Systems: The Monster Attacks Studying Gods and Monsters (Joshua Paddison)
Monsters in the Dark Forest of Japanese Grammar (Charlotte Eubanks)
High School Monsters: Designing Secondary English Courses (Brian Sweeney)
The Monster Waiting Within: Unleashing Agon in the Community
(Heather Richardson Hayton)
Afterword: Monster Classroom (Seven Theses)
(Jeffrey Jerome Cohen)

Titles of Interest: Strangers, Gods and Monsters

Strangers, Gods and Monsters: Interpreting Otherness
Richard Kearney
Routledge, 2002

Strangers, Gods and Monsters is a fascinating look at how human identity is shaped by three powerful but enigmatic forces. Often overlooked in accounts of how we think about ourselves and others, Richard Kearney skillfully shows, with the help of vivid examples and illustrations, how the human outlook on the world is formed by the mysterious triumvirate of strangers, gods and monsters.

Throughout, Richard Kearney shows how Strangers, Gods and Monsters do not merely reside in myths or fantasies but constitute a central part of our cultural unconscious. Above all, he argues that until we understand better that the Other resides deep within ourselves, we can have little hope of understanding how our most basic fears and desires manifest themselves in the external world and how we can learn to live with them.

Titles of Interest - At Stake: Monsters and the Rhetoric of Fear in Public Culture

The fine blog, Sects and Violence in the Ancient World, had an interesting post on a volume worthy of inclusion in the Titles of Interest recommendations. It's subject matter and approach are particularly relevant to our times.

At Stake: Monsters and the Rhetoric of Fear in Public Culture
Edward Ingebretsen
University of Chicago Press, 2003

Anyone who reads the papers or watches the evening news is all too familiar with how variations of the word monster are used to describe unthinkable acts of violence. Jeffrey Dahmer, Timothy McVeigh, and O. J. Simpson were all monsters if we are to believe the mass media. Even Bill Clinton was depicted with the term during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But why is so much energy devoted in our culture to the making of monsters? Why are Americans so transfixed by transgression? What is at stake when the exclamatory gestures of horror films pass for descriptive arguments in courtrooms, ethical speech in political commentary, or the bedrock of mainstream journalism?

In a study that is at once an analysis of popular culture, a polemic on religious and secular rhetoric, and an ethics of representation, Edward Ingebretsen searches for answers. At Stake explores the social construction of monstrousness in public discourse-tabloids, television, magazines, sermons, and popular fiction. Ingebretsen argues that the monster serves a moralizing function in our culture, demonstrating how not to be in order to enforce prevailing standards of behavior and personal conduct. The boys who shot up Columbine High School, for instance, personify teen rebellion taken perilously too far. Susan Smith, the South Carolinian who murdered her two children, embodies the hazards of maternal neglect. Andrew Cunanan, who killed Gianni Versace, among others, characterizes the menace of predatory sexuality. In a biblical sense, monsters are not unlike omens from the gods. The dreadful consequences of their actions inspire fear in our hearts, and warn us by example.

DON'T BREATHE, God, and Morality

I was finally able to watch Don't Breathe and it's a good horror or suspense film. I was surprised to find a line touching on religion in it: "There is nothing a man cannot do once he accepts the fact that there is no god." Whether God is needed as a transcendent ground for morality has been debated by philosophers and theologians for years. Interesting to see it pop up in a horror film. For an article by a Christian philosopher and apologist's view on this topic see this piece, and for a contrary view see this.

Titles of Interest: The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas

51kIoHv5YhL._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_The Krampus and the Old, Dark Christmas: Roots and the Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil by Al Ridenour (Feral House, 2016)

With the appearance of the demonic Christmas character Krampus in contemporary Hollywood movies, television shows, advertisements, and greeting cards, medieval folklore has now been revisited in American culture. Krampus-related events and parades occur both in North America and Europe, and they are an ever-growing phenomenon.

Though the Krampus figure has once again become iconic, not much can be found about its history and meaning, thus calling for a book like Al Ridenour's The Krampus: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil. With Krampus's wild, graphic history, Feral House has hired the awarded designer Sean Tejaratchi to take on Ridenour's book about this ever-so-curious figure.

The Krampus and the Old Dark Christmas_Video Book Trailer from Feral House on Vimeo.

Titles of Interest: The Psycho Records

9780231181136The Psycho Records by Laurence A. Rickels (Columbia University Press, 2016)

The Psycho Records follows the influence of the primal shower scene within subsequent slasher and splatter films. American soldiers returning from World War II were called "psychos" if they exhibited mental illness. Robert Bloch and Alfred Hitchcock turned the term into a catch-all phrase for a range of psychotic and psychopathic symptoms or dispositions. They transferred a war disorder to the American heartland. Drawing on his experience with German film, Hitchcock packed inside his shower stall the essence of schauer, the German cognate meaning "horror." Later serial horror film production has post-traumatically flashed back to Hitchcock's shower scene. In the end, though, this book argues the effect is therapeutically finite. This extensive case study summons the genealogical readings of philosopher and psychoanalyst Laurence Rickels. The book opens not with another reading of Hitchcock's 1960 film but with an evaluation of various updates to vampirism over the years. It concludes with a close look at the rise of demonic and infernal tendencies in horror movies since the 1990s and the problem of the psycho as our most uncanny double in close quarters.

Titles of Interest: The Laughing Dead

9781442268326The Laughing Dead: The Horror-Comedy Film from Bride of Frankenstein to Zombieland, edited by Cynthia J. Miller and Bowdoin Van Riper (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016)

Hybrid films that straddle more than one genre are not unusual. But when seemingly incongruous genres are mashed together, such as horror and comedy, filmmakers often have to tread carefully to produce a cohesive, satisfying work. Though they date as far back as James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein (1935), horror-comedies have only recently become popular attractions for movie goers.

In The Laughing Dead: The Horror-Comedy Film from Bride of Frankenstein to Zombieland, editors Cynthia J. Miller and A. Bowdoin Van Riper have compiled essays on the comic undead that look at the subgenre from a variety of perspectives. Spanning virtually the entire sound era, this collection considers everything from classics like The Canterville Ghost to modern cult favorites like Shaun of the Dead. Other films discussed include Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters, House on Haunted Hill, ParaNorman, Scream, Vampire’s Kiss, and Zombieland.

Contributors in this volume consider a wide array of comedic monster films—from heartwarming (The Book of Life) to pitch dark (The Fearless Vampire Killers) and even grotesque (Frankenhooker). The Laughing Dead will be of interest to scholars and fans of both horror and comedy films, as well as those interested in film history and, of course, the proliferation of the undead in popular culture.

Titles of Interest: Irony in The Twilight Zone

9781442260313Irony in The Twilight Zone: How the Series Critiqued Postwar American Culture by David Melbye (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015)

Rod Serling’s pioneering series The Twilight Zone (1959 to 1964) is remembered for its surprise twist endings and pervading sense of irony. While other American television series of the time also experimented with ironic surprises, none depended on these as much as Serling’s. However, irony was not used merely as a structural device— Serling and his writers used it as a provocative means by which to comment on the cultural landscape of the time.

Irony in The Twilight Zone: How the Series Critiqued Postwar American Culture explores the multiple types of irony—such as technological, invasive, martial, sociopolitical, and domestic—that Serling, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and other contributors employed in the show. David Melbye explains how each kind of irony critiqued of a specific aspect of American culture and how all of them informed one another, creating a larger social commentary. This book also places the show’s use of irony in historical and philosophical contexts, connecting it to a rich cultural tradition reaching back to ancient Greece.

The Twilight Zone endures because it uses irony to negotiate its definitively modernist moment of “high” social consciousness and “low” cultural escapism. With its richly detailed, frequently unexpected readings of episodes, Irony in The Twilight Zone offers scholars and fans a fresh and unique lens through which to view the classic series.

Titleles of Interest: The Curse of Frankenstein

DA-The Curse of Frankenstein Cover v1.inddThe Curse of Frankenstein by Marcus K. Harmes (Columbia University Press, June 2015)

Critics abhorred it, audiences loved it, and Hammer executives where thrilled with the box office returns: The Curse of Frankenstein was big business. The 1957 film is the first to bring together in a horror movie the 'unholy two', Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, together with the Hammer company, and director Terence Fisher, combinations now legendary among horror fans. In his Devil's Advocate, Marcus Harmes goes back to where the Hammer horror production started, looking at the film from a variety of perspectives: as a loose literary adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel; as a film that had, for legal reasons, to avoid adapting from James Whale's 1931 film for Universal Pictures; and as one which found immediate sources of inspiration in the Gainsborough bodice rippers of the 1940s and the poverty row horrors of the 1950s. Later Hammer horrors may have consolidated the reputation of the company and the stars, but these works had their starting point in the creative and commercial choices made by the team behind The Curse of Frankenstein. In the film sparks fly, new life is created and horrors unleashed but the film itself was a jolt to 1950s cinema going that has never been entirely surpassed.

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