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Critical Perspectives Dissertation Proposal OGR

Deanna Crisbacher

20/2/2017

Dissertation Enquiry

Woman as The Witch in Horror

Dissertation Synopsis

For my dissertation, I wanted to discuss how women are represented as ‘The Witch’ in the horror genre in cinema. My dissertation will aim to discuss the horror genre and relevant sub-genres and how it is often a reaction to the female body. I will specifically focus on the sub-genre ‘supernatural horror’ because in this sub-genre the woman is often the monster/villain instead of the victim. I will discuss how they manifest as ghosts, witches, demonically possessed, or other supernatural creatures. This dissertation will also explain the theory of Abjection as described by Julia Kristeva. I explain how abjection and Feminism - how woman is considered abject or ‘other’ and why this is significant to feminist ideas. I will also discuss The Uncanny and other Psychoanalytic theories/ideas by Sigmund Freud and how this relates to the reaction towards women, especially seen in horror films. My essay will then link all of this back onto a specific film as an example - in this case the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Carrie (1976/2013). I will examine this artefact and use portions of the film as examples of ideas argued earlier in my dissertation. This will let me draw conclusions about women being represented as ‘The Witch’ in supernatural horror films and what this could mean both as a viewer and as a society overall.

Chapter 1 Synopsis

For the first chapter of my dissertation, I want to explain what ‘horror’ is as a genre in film. Then, I want to discuss the different sub-genres of horror such as the slasher, body horror, and supernatural horror. I want to examine how women are treated in these different sub-genres such as how often in slasher films, there seems to be a large amount of female victims which could be signs of misogyny. However, in supernatural horror films, the female is often the monster in the form of some supernatural being. I want to then suggest that these are both reactions to the female body, but just in different ways (slasher makes woman the victim, supernatural makes woman the witch). I then want to discuss what ‘the witch’ means or can be…which includes ghosts, demonically possessed, actual magic/witchcraft…all of them are unrelenting, irrational, emotional, primal and sometimes sexual/seductive (sometimes relating to religion as this stems back to sin, seduction, Devil worship). This is a result of the woman’s body being a source of fear, confusion and being considered ‘other’ by men. I want to suggest that this fear of the abject is where women gain their power when becoming the villains in supernatural horrors…causing some supernatural horrors to have Feminist undertones/themes.

Chapter 2 Synopsis

In Chapter 2 I want to define and explain the theory of Abjection as discussed in Julia Kristeva’s Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. I want to discuss how this relates to the female body being seen as ‘other’ due to the bodily functions that women experience that men do not such as menstruation, pregnancy, and childbirth. I want to suggest that this is what causes women to be seen as ‘other’. I want to then relate this to Sigmund Freud’s concept of The Uncanny - despite everyone having been born, even the discussion of women having periods is often met with disgust…it is something recognisable and/or attractive but also met with repulsion. I will also touch on Psychoanalysis as it relates to the unconscious mind and how women’s representation often says more about the person than those being represented. I then want to discuss how this all relates back to Feminism, what Feminism is, and how feminists are trying to use this abjection to their advantage/as a strength. I want to then discuss the ‘monstrous feminine’ by explaining what it is (Barbara Creed, “reasons why the monstrous-feminine horrifies her audience are quire different reasons why the male monster horrifies his audience…the phrase ‘monstrous-feminine’ emphasises the importance of gender in the construction of monstrosity).

Chapter 3 Synopsis

In my final chapter I want to use Stephen King’s novel Carrie and both the 1973 and 2013 film adaptations as examples of how ‘woman as the witch’ appears in supernatural horror films. I want to discuss how Carrie can be considered a feminist icon due to her story of using her abjection as her power. I will look at the multiple examples throughout the film that shows her gender as something ‘other’. She is laughed at for getting her period, even though it is something that all women experience in their lives. Her mother is extremely religious and fears Carrie will have sex, which she considers a sin even in marriage (which is hypocritical as Carrie’s mother would have had to have sex in order to give birth to Carrie - making Carrier herself a living ‘sin’). Carrie’s source of power - in this case telekinesis - stems from her lashing out and rejecting these ideas. She gets revenge for being taunted and shunned for her normal bodily functions and renounces her mother’s hypocritical beliefs of sex and sin. I want to discuss how it is interesting that Carrie’s powers only arise as a self defence mechanism, causing the audience to be sympathetic towards her. Despite the horrors that Carrie’s powers produce, the audience is happy those who wronged her get punished. I want to suggest that this film encompasses how it is absurd how women are considered ‘other’ or abject and how Feminism can use this as a reversal off power. I also want o discuss that women (at least in films) are sometimes forced to become the very evil that is feared due to the ideas projected onto them.

Current Research Pro-forma

Author: Carol J. Clover Critical Position: Film Studies Professor Title: Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in Modern Horror Film Publisher/Publication: Princeton University Press. Place of Publication: Princeton Date: 1993 Chapter: Introduction: Carrie and the Boys/Chapter 1: Her Body, Himself

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Discusses feminism and ‘The Final Girl’ in slasher films, interesting quote(s) from Stephen King. Introduction about Carrie, other interesting chapters about Freud, sex, violence against women including rape, revenge, women’s liberation.

Quotation:

“Carrie is, in its more adult implications, an uneasy masculine shrinking from a future of female equality…she’s also Woman, feeling her powers for the first time.”

Author: Barbara Creed Critical Position: Professor of Cinema Studies Title: The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, and Psychoanalysis Publisher/Publication: Routledge Place of Publication: London

Date:1993

Chapter: 1: Kristeva, Femininity, Abjection & 6: Woman as Witch: Carrie Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Discusses abjection and femininity, woman as possessed monster/ monstrous womb/witch and other discussions about psychoanalysis and more.

Quotation:

“Although a great deal has been written about the horror film, very little of that work has discussed the representation of woman-as-monster… Why has woman-as-monster been neglected in feminist theory and in virtually all significant theoretical analyses of the popular horror film?… All human societies have a conception of the monstrous-feminine, of what it is about woman that is shocking, terrifying, horrific, abject. Freud linked man’s fear of the woman to his infantile belief that the mother is castrated.”

Current Research Pro-forma

Author: Sigmund Freud Critical Position: Neurologist, Founder of Psychoanalysis Title: The Uncanny Publisher/Publication: Penguin Books Place of Publication: London Date: 2003 Chapter: The Uncanny (pg. 121)

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

This book is Freud’s view of the uncanny, what it is, and how it makes humans feel. It discusses how our childhood memories affects our mixed feelings towards what humans consider to be something uncanny. Also discusses psychoanalysis.

Quotation:

“One such is the ‘uncanny’. There is no doubt that this belongs to the realm of the frightening, of what evokes fear and dread. It is equally beyond doubt that the word is not always used in a clearly definable sense, and so it commonly merges with what arouses fear in general.”

Author: Barry Keith Grant Critical Position: Professor of Film Studies Title: The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film Publisher/Publication: University of Texas Press Place of Publication: USA Date: 1996 Chapter: 14: Horror, Femininity, and Carrie’s Monstrous Puberty Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Studies several different films and other texts to discuss women in horror films. Discusses issues of sex/gender in the horror genre and how women are represented in the genre including women in slasher films, monstrous-feminine, puberty, and woman as monster.

Quotation:

“Wood contends that the sexual repression demanded by patriarchal culture in order to generate neutered, nuclear families returns in horror films ‘as in our nightmares, as an object of horror, a matter for terror’ - at the repressed familiar returns as unfamiliar and monstrous. Usually situated among this body of contemporary films depicting the familiar and familial as horrific, Carrie (1976) engages the language of fantasy to represent the terrain of female adolescence…Conflating questions of femininity and the supernatural, the film renders Carrie’s puberty not simply in the hyperbolic language of melodrama, but in the violent terms of horror…”

Current Research Pro-forma

Author: June Pulliam Critical Position: Instructor of Horror Fiction, English Professor Title: Monstrous Bodies: Feminine Power in Young Adult Horror Fiction Publisher/Publication: McFarland & Company Place of Publication: North Carolina Date: 2014 Chapter: 1. Subversive Spirits: Resistance and the Uncanny in the Young Adult Ghost Story & 3. “An ye harm none, do as ye will”: Magic, Gender and Agency in Young Adult Narratives of Witchcraft

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Argues young adult horror isn’t as sexist as mainstream horror, discusses ‘types of monsters’ women can be and how that relates to femininity. Other chapters discuss women’s differing roles with ghosts in horror, and other chapters about sexual politics in horror and magic, gender, and witchcraft.

Quotation:

“The ghost in the conventional ghost story represents the repressed, and is a double of the girl that it haunts. The ghost embodies those aspects of the haunted girl that are incompatible with her family’s or her culture’s ides of normative femininity. So when the repressed inevitably resurfaces, it emerges to the uncanny form of the ghost. The ghost gives to the girl it haunts knowledge about the patriarchal culture in which she lives.”

Author: Julia Kristen Critical Position: Philosopher, literary critic, psychoanalyst, feminist Title: Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection Publisher/Publication: Colombia University Press Place of Publication: New York Date: 1982 Chapter: 1: Approaching Abjection & 8. Those Females Who Can Wreck the Infinite Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Discusses the idea of abjection and the abject in depth. What makes something abject and why it may be considered abject. Includes abjection related to bodily functions, the human body, and sex. Also includes ideas of abjection related to sexuality and uses theories by Freud and other individuals to talk about what makes abject subjects horrific in relation to the conscious and subconscious.

Quotation:

“A wound with blood and pus, or the sickly, acrid smell of sweat, of decay, does not signify death. In the presence of signified death - a flat encephalograph, for instance - I would understand, react, or accept. No, as in true theatre, without makeup or masks, refuse and corpses show me what I permanently thrust aside in order to live. ”

Current Research Pro-forma

Author: Kier-La Janisse Title: House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films Publisher/Publication: FAB Press Place of Publication: England Date: 2012

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Discusses the “concept of female neurosis that proliferated in 19th century literature and extended into 20th century cinema”, the feminist movement, is an autobiography about horror films, different chapters separate into categories ex. ‘Secret Ceremonies’, ‘Heal Me with Hatred’ each discuss different films.

Author: Jack Sullivan Title: The Penguin Encyclopaedia of Horror and the Supernatural Publisher/Publication: Viking Press Place of Publication: USA Date: 1986 Subject/Key Points and potential use:

May have some useful definitions, terms or other references.

Author: Tracy Borman Title: Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal, and Seduction Publisher/Publication: Jonathan Cape Place of Publication: London Date: 2013 Subject/Key Points and potential use:

The Introduction may have some useful definitions, terms or other references.

Author: Richard Nowell Title: Where Nothing is Off Limits: Genre, Commercial Revitalisation, and the Teen Slasher Posters of 1982-1984 Date: 2011

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Discusses slasher films (including different types of slasher films), has a Violence-Against-Women Movies section that includes discussion of feminism, misogyny, and American film culture

Current Research Pro-forma

Author: Lawrence Raw Title: The Scarlet Letter: A Feminist Horror Movie Date: 2008

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Discusses The Scarlet Letter (Book & Film), has some information about witchcraft and how the 1972 adaptation reflected the time period in relation to Feminism.

Author: Valerie Wee Title: Patriarchy and the Horror of the Monstrous Feminine Date: 2008

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Compares gender politics between Japanese and American horror. Discusses ‘gender anxieties’, and feminism being aligned with monstrosity or evil. How characters in Ringu and The Ring are binary opposites and evil spirits are out for revenge.

Author: Various Title: Off|Screen: Gender & Horror - Part 1 & Part 2 Date: 2014

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Contains articles written by various authors about gender roles in horror films, discusses a range of topics such as how horror is so gendered, how it can be seen as misogynistic, and how it can also be empowering.

Author: Noah Berlatsky Title: Carrie at 40: Why the Horror Genre Remains Important for Women Date: 2016

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Argues women make up a large portion of horror fans. Carrie represents a witch and ‘menstrual monster’, there are no male saviour in carrie (main characters are all women).

Current Research Pro-forma

Author: Lawrence Raw Title: Horror: the film genre where men don’t have all the fun Date: 2014

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Discusses how often people consider women in horror as only being the victim, but also points out that Cat People, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Others, and The Woman in Black the women are in charge. Uses texts like Men, Women and Chainsaws in discussions and talks about how horror can be empowering for women.

Author: Britt Ashley Title: In Horror Film “The Witch,” Terror Stems From Puritanical Control Of Women Date: 2016

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Discusses the film ‘The Witch’ and about Puritans, fear of women’s bodies, girls becoming women, women being seduced by the Devil, “origin story of America…the female form as an embodiment of original sin: something to be feared, judged, and controlled…The real terror wasn’t a witch…but rather the men dutifully deciding the fate of the women around them.”

Current Research Pro-forma

Director: Andrew Monument Title: Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film Production Company: Lux Digital Pictures Place of Publication: USA Date: 2009

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Covers the evolution of the horror genre within the American Film Industry overall (not just about women).

Director: Reyna Young Title: Welcome to My Darkside: Women in Horror Production Company: Last Doorway Productions Place of Publication: USA Date: 2009

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Interviews women(actors, filmmakers, journalists) about what horror is, why they like it, and women’s roles in horror.

Producer: Maude Michaud Title: Bloody Breasts: Women, Feminism and Horror Films (web series) Production Company: Quirky Films Date: 2011

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

Web documentary series, looking at gender roles and stereotypes, interviews with women who enjoy horror films, overall discussions of feminism and horror in filmmaking.

Director: Donna Davies Title: Pretty Bloody: The Women of Horror (TV documentary) Production Company: Sorcery Films Place of Publication: Canada Date: 2009

Subject/Key Points and potential use:

TV documentary that looks at the women in horror and their experiences, how they impact the industry and the genre and why the actresses wish to be part of it.

Bibliography

Batti, B. (2015) Monstrous Menstruation: On Periods and Pop Culture At: http://www.nymgamer.com/?p=12044 Accessed on:

13/2/2017

Bloody Breasts: Women, Feminism and Horror Films [Documentary Web-Series] Prod. Michaud. Quirky Films (2011) At:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXNeNBMdzAL9R3SQMyYC-IZpEzA1-QzA0 Accessed on: 26/1/2017

Borman, T. (2013) Witches: A Tale of Sorcery, Scandal and Seduction London: Jonathan Cape.

Clover, C. (1992) Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender In The Modern Horror Film Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Creed, B. (1993) The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis London: Routledge.

Freud, S. (2003) The uncanny. London: Penguin.

Grant, B. (1996) The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film USA: University of Texas Press.

Janisse, K. (2012) House of Psychotic Women England: FAB Press Ltd.

Kristeva, J. (1982) Powers of horror: an essay on abjection New York: Columbia University Press.

Nowell, R. (2011) ‘Where nothing is off limits: genre, commercial revitalisation, and the teen slasher posters of 1982-1984’ In: Post Script 30 (2) [online] At: go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do? p=AONE&sw=w&u=ucca&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA264173332&it=r&asid=78dfd7e591e601af6b273f63b0058b24 Accessed on: 26/1/2017

Bibliography

Off Screen (2014) Issues of Gender in the Horror Genre, Part 1 At: http://offscreen.com/issues/view/volume-18-issues-6-7 Accessed on: 26/1/2017

Off Screen (2014) Gender and Horror Part 2 At: http://offscreen.com/issues/view/gender-horror-pt2 Accessed on: 26/1/2017

Pulliam, J. (2014) Monstrous Bodies: Feminine Power in Young Adult Horror Fiction North Carolina: McFarland & Company.

Pretty Bloody: The Women of Horror (2009) Directed by Donna Davies [Television Film] Canada: Sorcery Films

Raw, L. (2008) ‘The Scarlet Letter (1972): a feminist horror movie’ In: Interactions 17 (2) [online] At: go.galegroup.com/ps/

i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=ucca&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA192001272&it=r&asid=2c847bb660ff162070a4270c9bfb3de5

Accessed on: 26/1/2017

Sullivan, J. (1986) The Penguin Encyclopaedia of Horror and the Supernatural USA: Viking Press.

Wee, V. (2010) ‘Patriarchy and the Horror of the Monstrous Feminine’ In: Feminist Media Studies 11 (2) [online] At: http:// www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14680777.2010.521624 Accessed on: 26/1/2017

Welcome to My Darkside: Women in Horror (2009) Directed by Reyna Young [DVD] USA: Last Doorway Productions

Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (2009) Directed by Andrew Monument [DVD] USA: Lux Digital Pictures

Bibliography

Ashley, B. (2016) In Horror Film “The Witch,” Terror Stems From Puritanical Control Of Women At: https://bitchmedia.org/ article/horror-film-witch-terror-stems-puritanical-control-women Accessed on: 20/2/2017

Berlatsky, N. (2016) Carrie at 40: why the horror genre remains important for women At: https://www.theguardian.com/film/ 2016/nov/03/carrie-stephen-king-brian-de-palma-horror-films-feminism Accessed on: 20/2/2017

Billson, A. (2014) Horror: the film genre where man don’t have all the fun At: www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/halloween/ 11200852/Horror-the-film-genre-where-men-dont-have-all-the-fun.html Accessed on: 20/2/2017