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[ecrea] CFP reminder: Women in Gothic and Horror Cinema
Sat Jan 21 16:36:59 GMT 2017
Please note the extended deadline for abstracts 14^th February 2017 (for
a truly bloody Valentine’s…)
/Gothic Feminism presents:/
*Women-in-Peril or Final Girls? Representing Women in Gothic and Horror
25^th – 26^th May 2017
University of Kent
*Keynote speaker: Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes (Manchester Metropolitan
*_CALL FOR PAPERS_*
The representation of female protagonists has been a central tenant in
both Gothic and Horror cinema. In the Hollywood Gothic films of the
1940s, the heroine is the primary focus as she navigates key tropes of
the genre, including the exploration of the old dark house and the
investigating of sinister marital secrets. These melodramas and /noir
/films, as they have also been called, re-work the Bluebeard story and
establish a ‘woman-in-peril’ character archetype which features in films
such as /Rebecca /(1940), /Gaslight/ (1944) and /Secret Beyond the Door/
(1947) (Waldman, 1983; Doane, 1987; Tartar, 2004). These Gothic
conventions have been revived and reworked recently in contemporary
cinema with the release of /Crimson Peak/ (2015).
Horror cinema has also been characterised by the portrayal of its female
protagonists. The 1930s Universal horror films typically feature the
endangered woman who is terrorised by the monster or villain. Indeed, as
Rhona J. Berenstein notes, the image of a woman whose ‘mouth is open as
if in midscream’ with ‘fear chiselled into her features’ is so familiar
that one can argue it ‘succinctly signifies the American horror film’
(Berenstein, 1996, 1). Later permutations of the genre sustain this
focus on gender representations, as with the transgressive qualities of
‘postmodern horror’ (Pinedo, 1997) or, more specifically, the ‘slasher’
film which focuses on the brutal murder of several victims at the hands
of a serial killer, with particular attention paid to the killing and/or
survival of female character(s). /Black Christmas /(1974), /The Texas
Chainsaw Massacre /(1974) and /Halloween/ (1978) exemplify these
conventions and theorists have observed the centrality of the horror
heroine within this genre: Carol Clover’s seminal work on the topic
highlights the importance of the ‘female victim-hero’ and the complex
gender representations inherent in this figure when she becomes the
film’s sole survivor or ‘Final Girl’ (Clover, 1992).
When comparing these historic representations of female protagonists in
Gothic and horror cinema, one can identify many similarities between the
two genres or modes in respect to their portrayal of women. In the
examples above, Gothic and horror both privilege the depiction of the
woman’s experience within a narrative arc which exposes her to a danger
emanating from an initially unknown or misunderstood threat. This risk –
which is normally made against her life – comes from the villain or
antagonist conventionally gendered as male. This correlation between
Gothic and horror could be argued to stem from their shared heritage: it
has been noted how the horror genre ‘has its roots in the English gothic
novels of the 18^th and 19^th centuries’ (Penner and Schneider, 2012).
This lineage is further evident by the way the terms ‘Gothic’ and
‘horror’ have been applied interchangeably as delineating categories.
Horror has been labelled as Gothic: both David Pirie and Jonathan Rigby
write of the ‘English Gothic Cinema’ which includes Hammer’s films,
whilst Bernice M. Murphy studies US horror from the perspective of
‘Rural Gothic’ (Pirie, 2008; Murphy, 2013; Rigby, 2015). And Gothic has
been called horror: Mark Jancovich points out how the 1940s Hollywood
Gothics were also understood as horror films at their time of release
(Jancovich, 2013). Both Gothic and horror have also attracted
considerable attention concerning their depiction of women and whether
such texts are ‘feminist’ (see, for example, Pinedo, 1997; Freeland, 2000).
Yet there are also significant differences between Gothic and horror.
The two modes or genres can be distinguished by variations in how the
central female protagonist is depicted. The Gothics of the 1940s focus
on the representation of the heroine within the intimidating space of
the ancestral mansion, but the 1970’s slasher horrors emphasise the
‘Terrible Place’ (Clover, 1992) where extreme violence is executed.
Where the Gothic emphasises suspicion, suspense and mystery, the horror
film showcases blood, torture and gore. Berenstein notes how the
contrast between Gothic and horror is also present in ‘classic horror’ –
pre-dating the slasher – where ‘[unlike] the Gothic novel, however,
heroines are not confronted by the men closest to them … Instead, women
are attacked or seduced by foreign male (and, sometimes, female) fiends’
(Berenstein, 1996, 12). Gothic and horror also differ in their presumed
target audience. The Gothic – an integral part of melodrama and the
‘woman’s picture’ – has traditionally been analysed in terms of the
Female Gothic and its appeal to female audiences (Waldman, 1983; Doane,
1987; Modleski, 2008). Conversely, the spectatorship for horror has been
characterised as adolescent and male (Williams, 1984; Clover, 1992;
This conference seeks to re-engage with these discussions of gender
within Gothic and horror cinema by directly comparing the two. What
relationship does Gothic have to horror – or horror to the Gothic – in
respect to female representation? What makes a Gothic heroine different
from (or, indeed, similar to) female victims/protagonists in horror
films? What can we say about the centrality given to female performance
in both these genres/modes? Where does one draw the line between Gothic
and horror in film? 2017 will mark 30 years since Mary Ann Doane
published /The Desire to Desire/ and 25 years since Carol Clover
published /Men, Women and Chainsaws/. This conference will also reflect
upon the impact of seminal works on Gothic, horror and gender such as
these within film theory. What do these works tell us about the
relationship between Gothic and horror in respect to female
representation? How do theories of the ‘woman’s film’ and the ‘Final
Girl’ relate to contemporary film theory and feminist criticism? Are
these ideas still applicable to recent Gothic and horror films, and
In addressing these questions this conference will underline the
importance of female protagonists in Gothic and horror, within film
history and contemporary cinema, and ask: are these characters
women-in-peril or Final Girls, or both?
Topics can include but are not limited to:
- Comparisons between the genre conventions and tropes within Gothic and
horror films and their representation of female protagonists
- Close textual analysis of a single film or series of films which blur
the lines between Gothic and horror, or an analysis of film/s which
reinforce the differences between the Gothic and horror traditions
through the depiction of women characters
- The connection between the Gothic or horror heroine and other
characters within the narrative, such as the love interest, male
villain, other victims, etc.
- How the Gothic and horror heroine relate to archetypal roles, such as
the victim, the mother or the monstrous-feminine
- Representations of space and how this impacts upon the portrayal of
the Gothic or horror female characters
- Film theory and the distinction between Gothic and horror in cinema
- How Gothic and horror women characters engage with feminist discourse
and theories of gender representation
- Female spectators of Gothic and horror and fandom
Please submit proposals of 500 words, along with a short biographical
note (250 words) to (gothicfeminism2016 /at/ gmail.com) by *14^th February 2017
*(please note the extended deadline).
We welcome 20-minute conference papers as well as submissions for
creative work or practice-as-research including, but not limited to,
short films and video essays.
Conference organisers: Frances A. Kamm and Tamar Jeffers McDonald
The Representation of the Gothic Heroine in Cinema
The third film to be shown at Gothic Feminism will be Rites of Passage
by Catherine Grant, University of Sussex. Rites of Passage is a video
essay on the liminal ...
Gothic Feminism (@GothicFeminism) | Twitter
The latest Tweets from Gothic Feminism (@GothicFeminism). Conference
26th-27th May 2016 at the University of Kent exploring the
representation of the Gothic heroine ...
/This conference is the second annual event from the Gothic Feminism
project, within the Melodrama Research Group in the Centre of Film and
Media Research at the University of Kent. Gothic Feminism explores the
representation of the Gothic heroine on-screen in her various incarnations./
Berenstein, Rhona J. (1996). /Attack of the Leading Ladies: Gender,
Sexuality and Spectatorship in Classic Horror Cinema/. New York:
Columbia University Press. **
Clover, Carol J. (1992). /Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern
Horror Film/. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Creed, Barbara. (1993). /The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism,
Psychoanalysis/. Oxon: Routledge.
Doane, Mary Ann. (1987). /The Desire to Desire: The Woman’s Film of the
1940s/. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Freeland, Cynthia A. (2000). /The Naked and the Undead: Evil and the
Appeal of Horror/. Colorado: Westview Press.
Grant, Barry Keith. (2015). /The Dread of Difference: Gender and the
Horror Film/. Second edition. Texas: University of Texas Press.
Jancovich, Mark. (2013). ‘Bluebeard’s Wives: Horror, Quality and the
Paranoid Woman’s Film in the 1940s’, /The Irish Journal of Gothic and
Horror Studies /12: 20-43.
Modleski, Tania. (2008). /Loving with a Vengeance: Mass-Produced
Fantasies for Women/. Second edition. Oxon: Routledge.
Murphy, Bernice M. (2013). /The Rural Gothic in American Popular
Culture: Backwoods Horror and Terror in the Wilderness/. London:
Penner, Jonathan and Steven Jay Schneider. (2012). /Horror Cinema/. Los
Angeles and Cologne: Taschen.
Pinedo, Isabel Cristina. (1997). /Recreational Terror: Women and the
Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing/. New York: State University of New
Pirie, David. (2008). /A New Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic
Cinema/. London and New York: I. B. Tauris.
Rigby, Jonathan. (2015). /English Gothic: Classic Horror Cinema 1897 –
2015/. Cambridge: Signum Books.
Tartar, Maria. (2004). /Secrets Beyond the Door: The Story of Bluebeard
and His Wives/. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Waldman, Diane. (1983). ‘”At last I can tell it to someone!” Feminine
point of view and Subjectivity in the Gothic Romance Film of the 1940s’,
/Cinema Journal /23: 29-40.
Williams, Linda. (1984). ‘When the Woman Looks.’ In: Doane, Mary Ann,
Patricia Mellencamp and Linda Williams (eds.). /Re-vision: Essays in
Feminist Film Criticism/. Los Angeles: American Film Institute.
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