Horror (ACLA 2016 Seminar Proposal, March 17th-20th, Harvard University)

full name / name of organization: 
Jack Dudley, Mount Saint Mary's University; Chris McVey, Boston University


ACLA 2016 Seminar Proposal
March 17th-20th, Harvard University

What would it mean to think and read with horror? What would a turn to horror look like, and what might its implications be for critical practice? Building on recent work by Eugene Thacker, Dylan Trigg, Graham Harman, Ben Woodard, and Thomas Ligotti, among others, this seminar seeks to situate horror as a site for new critical inquiry. Like other genre categories (Western, Romance, Mystery), horror fiction and film have been traditionally denigrated as "popular," "low," and "underground," despite changing conceptions of canonicity and challenges to the "high/low" divide. As Harman suggests when he challenges Edmund Wilson's reductive reading of H.P. Lovecraft, mere content should not lead to critical dismissal. If, for instance, crime and detective fiction have recently been turned to as new sites for understanding global literature, what can horror now open to comparative literary studies and theory?

Given the broad and new nature of this topic, our seminar seeks a range of papers, from large-scale interventions that situate horror broadly, to new close readings of works of horror, to re-readings of canonical texts as horror. How should horror be understood? Or, is it something that simply cannot be understood, but is, as Thacker suggests, a way of exploring the unthinkable, and so of bringing alternative philosophies, like the negative and nihilism, into the centers of critical discourse? Is there a hermeneutics of horror, in the sense of both a specific set of approaches keyed to horror and in the sense of a larger reading practice thought from within horror itself? Can traditional literary categories and even periods be rethought as horror? For instance, can European modernism, an idiom and aesthetic usually left out of genealogies of horror fiction, itself be read as a kind of literature of horror? Is horror compatible with realism? Is it a space where religion and theology have persisted in a secular age? How can horror help rethink recent areas of critical inquiry, including the global, cosmopolitanism, object-oriented ontologies, and the Anthropocene?

Please contact both Jack Dudley (dudley@msmary.edu) and Chris McVey (cmcvey@bu.edu) with any questions.

Paper submissions for seminars will open Sept. 1 and close Sept. 23.

Further information about the conference is available at http://www.acla.org/annual-meeting