Horror Film

Cultural Studies

GENG-7820.3 Topics in Visual Cultures: Horror Film
Fall 2015
Thursday 2:30-5:15 p.m.

Professor A. Burke

The aims of this course on the horror film are threefold. First, it is designed to provide students with an accelerated introduction to the academic discipline of film studies and to investigate its connections with the history and methodologies of cultural studies. Second, it draws on a specific genre, the horror film, to focus this general study of cinema and culture. The history of the horror film provides a way to understand the larger history of cinema itself, but also invites the consideration of many of the central dilemmas of cinematic representation and cultural production: the representation of gender and sexuality, the tension between entertainment and experiment, and the visibility and invisibility of race and ethnicity onscreen. From within the study of horror cinema, the course will broach questions of ideology and the cinematic apparatus, the formation and development of national cinemas, the emergence of transnational cinemas, and the formation of cult audiences. Third, the course will consider the increasingly blurred relationship between academic film studies and popular cinephilia. Readings will be drawn from both scholarly sources and online resources in order to assess the porosity of the border between them.

The assignments for the course will explore and exploit the traffic between the academic, the journalistic, and the electronic. Students will submit several short, blog-entry responses to the films and readings, with the option to adapt, develop, and expand this material into longer scholarly research essays. Alongside this written work, students will do seminar presentations and in-class scene analyses.


“Horror” is a notoriously elastic category, in part because what scares people varies historically and culturally, but also because it is as much a way of seeing as a stable generic category. Screenings for the course will be drawn from the list below. Some of these films are readily recognizable as horror classics, while others invite us to think of how our understanding of films not commonly thought of as horror films might change if we see them as such.

Films will be selected from this list:

Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922, Germany)

The Seventh Victim (Mark Robson, 1943, USA)

I Walked With a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1943, USA)

Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968, USA)

Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960, USA)

Bay of Blood (Mario Bava, 1971, Italy)

Friday the 13th (Sean Cunningham, 1980, USA)

Profondo Rosso (Dario Argento, 1975, Italy)

Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983, Canada)

Ringu (Hideo Nakata, 1998, Japan)

24 Hour Psycho (Douglas Gordon, 1993, UK)

Outer Space (Peter Tscherkassky, 1999, Austria)

The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2012, USA)

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011, USA/UK)

Rhymes for Young Ghouls (Jeff Barnaby, 2013, Canada)

A Girl Walks Alone Home at Night (Ana Lily Amanpour, 2014, USA/Iran)

The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014, Australia)


Since many students may be entering the course without prior study of film, we will draw on Timothy Corrigan’s writing guide to think about the specific conventions that structure scholarly film analysis.

Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing About Film. Ninth Edition. Toronto: Pearson, 2014. Print.

I will confirm a course reading list in August. Among the possible readings are works by Carol J. Clover, Barbara Creed, Cheryl Freeland, Steve Shaviro, Robin Wood, Fredric Jameson, Slavoj Zizek, Christian Keathley, Adrian Martin, Kate Egan, and Ernst Mathijs.