Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: Projecting Our Fears: The Role of Horror Films and Novels in American Culture

Instructor: Steve Vernon

shower scene from psycho

A look at why we love to be scared (at least why we pay to be scared). This class would examine the archetypes of the horror genre as seen in film and literature and how they relate to archetypes in our society. Is The Amityville Horror an indictment of the assault on the nuclear family by the culture of the 60's and 70's? Could The Exorcist be an allegory for religion's attempt to stifle the primal and at times lustful nature of young women, the famous crucifix scene also representing men's discomfort with menstruation?

The horror films of the 50's were representative of our fear of communism, in the 60's we watched a slew of giant killer bugs/lizards/animals who were mutated versions of familiar creatures made monstrous as a result of our attempts to harness the power of the Atom. We have gone through our share of Jasons and Freddies and Pinheads, all of whom seem to particularly enjoy killing young people who engage in sex or drinking or drugging- perhaps acting as society's punitive and admittedly brutal id.

Films watched would include:

The Exorcist, Jaws, Nosferatu, The Blair Witch Project, Psycho, The Shining and Dawn of the Living Dead.

Texts would include:

The Amityville Horror - Jay Anson - ISBN# 1416507698

Danse Macabre - Stephen King - ISBN# 0425104338

The Exorcist - William Peter Blatty - ISBN# 0061007226

Frankenstein - Mary Shelly - ISBN# 0743487583

It - Stephen King - ISBN# 0451169514

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Last Update: October 4, 2006