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Narrating horror: the horror film as cultural construct

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This thesis examines horror films through an application of cultural analysis (primarily the work of Pierre Bourdieu) to selected texts in order to answer critics employing psychoanalytic perspectives to horror. It argues that psychoanalysis misses much of the heart of horror texts through its claims that textual 'meaning' lies within individuals rather than in the society in which horror texts were produced.
Bourdieu's hypotheses are applied to films, along with the work of more specific horror analysts such as Mark Jancovich, amending and fusing these approaches in order to question psychoanalytic criticism. The thesis argues that a limited academic canon of texts is employed in the (still relatively rare) analysis of horror, and that such a narrowing of the field is inappropriate and limiting. It argues that the study of extreme and banned material in analysis is constructive academically,accessing underground horror production through an extended focus on horror fan culture, following Robin Wood's assertion that horror aficionados form horror's main body of consumers. Through an examination of how fan culture perceives and defends itself, material previously neglected by academia, though potentially of great interest to cultural analysis (such as the underground and banned films) is analysed alongside canonical texts.
The thesis focuses mainly on post-1968 films, and so examines the influence of post-Fordist economics and ideals on the texts that it studies, arguing that at every level these structures construct the subtle fears of horror's audiences, delimited through what texts present as frightening. This is developed alongside a consideration of important historical events and cultural ideals surrounding the production of texts. It is argued that such events exert subtle influences during textual creation, and that they help to exacerbate the audience fears that horror films exploit. It is also argued that, with amendment, auteur theory may be applied to some horror directors, despite the majority of internal textual meanings being generated by a film's cultural frame rather than purely its director.
Though, through the horror underground and accepted academic canons many types of horror film are considered, especial attention is given to the Slasher and Possession genres, which, it is argued, oppose directly each other's subtextual, ideological agendas. Analysis of other genres and the texts (both canonical and underground/banned)t hat compose them is present throughout the thesis. Underlying all analysis is a consideration of how the mass (British and U. S) media seeks to demonise horror and its consumers, and how legislation against texts and individuals brings together fans in an alternative culture through the fanzines that they read.
It is hoped that through such an approach and emphasis on the non-canonical as well as the canonical, future academic analysis of horror will be more comprehensive in its choice of studied texts. This could occur, I suggest, through an acknowledgement that, following Wood, central to the analysis of horror is an understanding of its aficionados and the culture that they forge for themselves.


(1997). Narrating horror: the horror film as cultural construct


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