POS 301w: The Politics of HORROR

POS 301: The Politics of Horror

Course Description:

Horror, one of the most popular genre of films, has often been ignored by critics and theorists for being “low culture,” “shock films,” or “pornographic. That said, over the last few years—especially recently with the critical success of Get Out and the popularity of the Walking Dead, American Horror Story, etc.—horror, as a field of study has gained popularity and credence. Horror is an inherently political genre, and expressly explores a range of topics. The point of this course is to explore the depth of what the horror genre offers political theorists and political scientists. At the core of this course is the assumption that what we fear is due to deep seated anxieties, taboo desires, and unconscious traumas. These emotions, while often assumed to be apolitical, are anything but. The point of this course is to introduce you to the theories, approaches, and lessons of cultural studies in order to provide the skills needed to code and decode films and media.

Due to the nature of subject matter, nearly every film and most—if not all—readings will deal with sensitive topics, extreme violence, nudity and sex (including scenes of violent sexual assault). The films are intentionally hard to watch and some trigger fear, anxiety, and trauma. If you are not willing or able to engage with these topics (which is completely acceptable) it might be worth reconsidering this course. If you decide to commit to the course but find yourself especially triggered by one or two pieces, please make contact and we will make other arrangements.

Course Schedule and Readings:

Part 1: Introduction to Cultural Studies and Horror

Week 1:

Tuesday, January 16: Intro to the class

Reading:

  • Read the syllabus

Thursday, January 18: Why Horror?

Film:

  • Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922)

Reading:

  • Mathias Clasen, Why Horror Seduces, ch. 2 “How Horror Works: The Evolution and stimulation of negative emotions”

Week 2:

Tuesday, January 23rd: Criticism vs. review

Reading:

  • Iam Bogost, How to Talk about Videogames, Intro: “Nobody asked for a toaster critic: Doing Videogame Criticism.”
  • Ian Bogost, How to Talk about Videogames, ch 3 “The Blue Shell Is Everything That’s Wrong with America”

Thursday, January 25th: Coding and Decoding

Film:

  • Psycho (1960)

Reading:

  • Stuart Hall “Coding and Decoding

Week 3:

Tuesday January 30th: Horror and Liberalism?

Readings:

  • Elisabeth Anker “The Liberalism of Horror”, Social Research 81, no. 4 (2014)

Part 2: Zombies!

Thursday February 1st: Zombie, history and origin

Film:

  • I walked with a Zombie (1943)

Reading:

  • Ian Olney, Zombie Cinema, ch. 1 “Black Mask, White Zombies”

Week 4:

Tuesday February 6th: Zombies and Political Space

Readings:

  • Ian Olney, Zombie Cinema, 2 “Consumer Culture”

Thursday February 8th: Zombies and Capitalism

Film:

  • Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Reading:

  • Camilla Fojas, Zombies, Migrants and Queers: Race and Crisis Capitalism in Pop Culture 4 “Zombie Capitalism: Night of the Living Debt

Week 5:

Tuesday, February 13th: Zombies

Readings:

  • Camilla Fojas, Zombies, Migrants and Queers: Race and Crisis Capitalism in Pop Culture6 “Sinkholes and Seismic Shifts: Ecological and Other Disasters”

 

Part 3: The Legacy of Slavery and the horror of White Supremacy

Thursday, February 15th: The Horror of Slavery

Film:

  • The Girl With All the Gifts (2017)

Reading:

  • Frank B. Wilderson III, “Blacks and the Master/Slave Relationship” from Afro-Pessimism an Introduction

Week 6:

Tuesday, February 20th:

Reading:

  • Annalee Newitz, Pretend We are Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture, Ch. 3 “The Undead: A Haunted Whiteness”

Thursday, February 22nd:

Film:

  • Excerpts from Birth of a Nation (1915)
  • Birth of a Nation (2016)

Reading:

  • Nikhil Singh, “The Whiteness of Police” from American Quarterly Vol. 4 (2014)

Week 7:

Tuesday, February 27th: Race and Social Death

Reading:

Thursday:

Film:

  • Get Out

Readings:

 

Part 4: Gender, Misogyny and Agency in Horror

Week 8:

Tuesday, March 6th: Gendered and the Horror Film

Readings:

  • Cynthia Freeland, “Feminist Frameworks for Horror Films” from Film Theory and Criticism, (1996)

Thursday, March 8th: Gender and Agency

Film:

  • The Witch (2015)

Reading:

  • Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch, ch. 4 “The Great European Witch-hunt”

Week 9:

Tuesday March 13th: Gender Violence and Women’s Agency

Readings:

  • Carol Clover, Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, ch. 1 “Her Body, Himself”

Thursday, March 15th: Feminist Revenge Films

Film:

  • Teeth (2007)

Reading:

  • Carol Clover, Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, ch. 3 “Getting Even”

Week 10: SPRING BREAK

Week 11:

Tuesday March 27th: Catch-up day

Reading:

  • NO ADDITIONAL READING

Thursday March 29th: Male Anxiety, Misogyny, and Motherhood

Film:

  • Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Reading:

  • Lucy Fisher, “Birth Traumas: Parturition and Horror in Rosemary’s Baby” from The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film

Week 12

Tuesday, April 3rd: Queer Horror?

Reading:

  • Sam S. Miller, “Chapter 11. Assimilation and the Queer Monster” from Horror After 9/11

Thursday April 5th: Queer horror

Film:

  • The Babadook (2014)

Readings:

 

Part 4: Trauma, National Identity, and Horror 

Week 13

Tuesday, April 10th: Horror and National Trauma

Readings:

  • Adam Lowenstein, Shocking Representation: Historical Trauma, National Cinema, and the Horror Film, “Introduction: the Allegorical moment”

Thursday: April 12th: Hororrism and War

Film:

  • The Devils Backbone (2001)

Readings:

  • François Debrix, “Horror beyond death: Geopolitics and the Pulverization of the human”, New Formations: A journal of Culture/Theory/Politics, vol 89-90 (2017)

Week 14:

Tuesday April 17th: Horror, Gender, and Islam

Film:

  • A Girl Walks Home At Night

Reading:

  • TBA

Thursday, April 19th: Korean Conflict

Film:

  • Train to Busan

Readings:

  • TBA

 

Part 5: Capitalism, Anxiety, and Sacrifice

Week 15

Tuesday April 24th: Class, capitalism, and Inequality

Film:

  • Purge: Anarchy (2014)

Readings:

  • Ben Brucato, “An American Exception: The Counter-Insurrectionary Function of the Color Line” from Why Don’t the Poor Rise up?

Thursday April 26th: The end of the world

Film:

  • Cabin in the woods

Readings:

  • Sean Parson “Cthulhuscene: Ecological Catastrophe, Horror, and the Politics of Suvivalism” (DRAFT)

 

Part 7: Presentations

Week 16: Presentations all week no readings

 

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