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Cinematic Body Horror

Class at Faculty of Arts |


The focus of the present course lies at the intersection of the body horror genre in film and its theoretical background(s). The structure of the course supposes division into several sections all of which concentrate on different aspects of corporal elements in the genre of horror. Following a general introduction, the first section deals with both traditional and broader understandings of the bodily aspect in horror cinema. The second section develops a frequent leitmotif of the body horror genre — the horror of the female body. The subsequent section deals with the cases of machinic bodies, i.e. both parasitic and symbiotic relations between human beings and machines. The penultimate section concentrates on the posthuman horror within the present discussion of the body, while the last section questions the boundaries of the genre. The list of films to be discussed within the frames of the course includes cultural pieces that constitute the foundation of the body horror genre (Possession(1981), The Human Centipede (2009), Titane (2021); simultaneously, the list is updated by extended body/horror cinematic works such as Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1976), Eraserhead (1977), and The Lobster (2015).


Week 1: Introduction a)Broader understanding of the concepts of body and horror b)Roots of the concept: German expressionism, Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), Stuart Gordon’s Reanimator (1985),

David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) c)Low brow and high brow cinema d)Cinematic spaces of body horror: artificiality and naturalism

Weeks 2-4: Body

Week 2. Tom Six, The Human Centipede (2009)

Week 3. György Pálfi, Taxidermia (2006)

Week 4. Pier Paolo Pazzolini, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

Weeks 5-7: Female Body

Week 5. David Lynch, Eraserhead (1977)

Week 6. Andrzej Żuławski, Possession (1981)

Week 7. Julia Ducournau, Raw (2017)

Weeks 8-9: Machinic Body

Week 8. David Cronenberg, Crimes of the Future (2022)

Week 9. Shinya Tsukamoto, Tetsuo: The Ironman (1989)

Week 10: Posthuman Body

Julia Ducournau, Titane (2021)

Week 11: The Body and its Beyonds

Yorgos Lanthimos, TheLobster (2015)

Week 12: Conclusion

●Final discussion of the issues posed by the genre

●The continuum: Female - Machinic - Posthuman

Sources:Badley, Linda. Film, Horror, and the Body

Fantastic. Praeger, 1995. Barber, Stephen. The Screaming Body. Creation, 1999.Baumbach, Nico.

Cinema/Politics/Philosophy. Columbia, 2019.Berlant, Lauren. Cruel Optimism. Durham, NC: Duke University

Press, 2011.Brophy, Philip. Horrality: The Textuality of the Contemporary Horror Film. 1983.Bori, Máté. “The

Sensuality of Presence in "Body Horrors." Rethinking Body Genres in Documentary and Experimental Film.”

Quarterly Review of Film and Video. Volume 39, 2022 (7).

Carroll, Noel. The Philosophy of Horror, Or, Paradoxes of the Heart. New York, NY: Routledge, 1990.Daniel,

Adam. Affective Intensities and Evolving Horror Forms : From Found Footage to Virtual Reality. 2020.Debrix,

François. Global Powers of Horror: Security, Politics, and the Body in Pieces. London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis

Group, 2017. Deleuze, Gilles: Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara

Habberjam. Minnesota, 1986._____ . Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert

Galeta. Minnesota, 1989.Dudenhoeffer, L. Embodiment and Horror Cinema (1st ed.). Palgrave MacMillan, 2014., Scott and Dilip Gaonkar, eds.: Distributions of the Sensible:

Rancière, between Aesthetics and Politics, With an afterword by Jacques Rancière. Northwestern, 2019.Foucault,

Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Allen Lane, London, 1977.Freud, Sigmund. Dora: An

Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. Simon and Schuster, 1997.Eisner, Lotte H.: The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt. California-Berkeley, 1969.Gleyzon, François-Xavier.

David Lynch in Theory. Praha: Univerzita Karlova v Praze, Filozofická fakulta, 2010.Haraway, Donna.

Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Routledge, 1991.Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror:

An Essay on Abjection. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982. Luhmann, Niklas: The Reality of the Mass

Media, trans. Kathleen Cross. Stanford, 2000.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (1999) Vis Other Pleasures. 1989. https

:// -9_3.Rancière, Jacques. Film Fables, trans. Emiliano Battista. Berg, 2006._____ . The Emancipated Spectator, trans. Gregory Elliott. Verso, 2011._____ . The Future of the Image, trans. Gregory Elliott. Verso, 2007._____ . The Intervals of Cinema, trans. John Howe. Verso, 2014.Rapoport,

Melanie. “Frankenstein’s Daughters: on the Rising Trend of Women’s Body Horror in Contemporary Fiction” in Publishing Research Quarterly (2020) 36: 619–633.,

Xavier Aldana. ‘Body Horror’ in Body Gothic: Corporeal Transgression in Contemporary Literature and

Horror Film. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2014.Shaviro, Steven: The Cinematic Body, Theory Out of Bounds,

Volume 2. Minnesota, 1993.Skal, David J. The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror, 1993. Spadoni, Robert.

Uncanny Bodies: The Coming of Sound Film and the Origins of the Horror Genre. Berkeley: University of

California Press, 2007.Stopenski, Carina. “Exploring Mutilation: Women, Affect, and the Body Horror Genre.”

SicVol.12 (2.12).Trigg, Dylan, The Thing: A Phenomenology of Horror. Zero Books, 2014. Žižek, Slavoj. ‘The

Pervert’s Guide to Cinema’ and ‘The Pervert’s Guide to


Course requirements:Students are expected to attend classes, read the materials assigned and to participate in discussions. Each student will give a 15-minute presentation.Participation: Participation extends beyond mere attendance (no more than 2 excused absences). Cover the assigned primary readings

(both plays and theoretical works) and secondary reading of your choice for each class.Mailing List Posting: A weekly email posting of a student’s individual critical response (around 200 words) regarding any issue emerging from the week’s film and any of the secondary sources is a mandatory part of the course.

Rather than describing the film, the posting should comment on the particular aspect of the film’s aesthetic and thematics and support it with the student’s own argument in response to one of the secondary sources. The posting should be sent to the instructors via email two days before the respective session. Every session (90 minutes) will include a student-led discussion of the course postings and materials. In other words, a student should attend the discussion having read the postings made by all course partcipants. Essays: All students should compose a paragraph length proposal outlining their topic and thesis statement/argument; length 150-200 words. A brief list of source materials in Chicago style should also be included. The proposal is to be submitted via e-mail. Deadline for proposals: TBC. Presentation topics may also be further pursued as the topics of the final essay.The final essay shall have the scope of 2,500 words. Deadline: January (TBC) 2024. Individual deadline extensions are possible, but need to be discussed with the lecturer in reasonable advance. The final paper should be submitted as formatted properly according to Chicago style. Papers not complying with the Chicago style, lacking proper academic writing style, relying overly on the direct quotation instead of the author’s own argument will have to be resubmitted.All papers should include:▪ A title page (with your email address and if you are a visiting student the date by which you must have the credit)▪ Numbered pages and double spacing▪ Clearly marked paragraphs (either indent or leave a line)▪ Properly formatted sources, referencing, and bibliography.

Guidelines for citation and bibliographic style are on the Departmental homepage. ESSAYS THAT HAVE NO

RESEARCH BASE OR FAIL TO CITE SOURCES TRANSPARENTLY AND APPROPRIATELY (i.e. are plagiarized) WILL NOT BE GRADED. ONE resubmission is possible should an essay be unsatisfactory for reasons other than plagiarism.Course grade: 20% active participation (no more than 2 absences), 20% mail postings (no more than 2 missed postings), 60% final essay.