The Emotional Life of Horror Films (SCMS panel)

Elif Sendur Discussion

For all the research that has been conducted into the ideological underpinnings of horror, ideology is not ultimately constitutive of the genre. Emotions are, as producers and fans well know. Yet there has been scant scholarly attention given to emotions (or affects) as such in the genre. Whether the defining generic emotion is taken to be art-horror (Carroll), a feeling of threat (Aldana Reyes), or a looser family of reactions like fear and suspense and disgust (Schneider), there is no escaping emotions. Sometimes individual emotions are the beating heart in their films, like disgust in Cronenberg’s The Fly or dread in The Blair Witch Project, but even there the disgust is leavened with empathy for Brundlefly, and the dread is gnarled with anger and sadness at foolish decisions.


This panel seeks to collect innovative scholarship on the emotional life of horror films. Whether old or new, famous or obscure, American or international, horror films beg a thoroughgoing analysis into their emotional make-up. Panelists could address the emotional composition of individual scenes, single films, or larger generic divisions. Both characters’ and audiences’ emotions might be considered. Papers may wish to investigate:


—What do emotions look like in horror cinema, and how do scenes alter when filtered through characters’ emotion?

—How do emotions inflect scenes, films, subgenres, or national cinemas?

—What, if anything, is the difference between “emotion” and “affect” in horror?

—What is the current value in Noël Carroll’s foundational but much-criticized conception of “art-horror”?

—How can horror films help us disambiguate related and perhaps overlapping sensations like fear, dread, anxiety, and suspense?


Please send paper proposals featuring a title, abstracts of up to 2500 characters, a list of 3-5 likely sources, and author bios of up to 500 characters to Eliot Bessette (erbessette@berkeley.eduby Tuesday, August 7, 2018. Notifications will follow within a week. Feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns as well.