Horror, Capitalism, and the Cinematic Representation of Class Structure (NeMLA 2023 Seminar)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Languages Association (NeMLA)
contact email: 

Following generative discussions unveiling the potentiality of reading the horror genre through the lens of class analysis, this seminar invites contributions that highlight the role of racial and heteropatriarchal capitalism in cinematic horror narratives. Together with seminar participants, we are interested in adding a novel line of inquiry, which perhaps has not been thoroughly explored, to the rich theoretical scholarship that has grown around the horror genre. Echoing Mark Steven (2017), we will ask: How are contemporary horror movies responding, absorbing, or resisting the dynamics of capitalism beyond a liberal understanding of identity politics? Moreover: Is horror complicating and challenging the institution of the nuclear, upper-middle class family (historically at the center of various hauntings and demonic tribulations), or is the genre merely elevating it as an inescapable, ultimate model to abide by? How are working class characters – together with their urban landscapes, struggles, and desires – depicted in these films? What do portrayals of material accumulation and lack of resources tell us about the ideological substratum of horror? We especially welcome submissions that focus upon the following topics/tropes:

  • Primitive accumulation, wealth, and the depiction of dominant values in the genre;
  • Cityscapes, class stratification, and folk horror;
  • The articulation of otherness in ableist, white heteropatriarchy – and its political consequences;
  • Architectonic crystallizations of capital: houses, hotels, cities and their haunted histories;
  • “Serving” the ruling class: domestic personnel and their status within the system;
  • The politics of elevated horror. 

Please submit an abstract of 200 to 250 words describing your proposed seminar paper by September 30th, 2022, to the submission page: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/20059.

Accepted participants must submit a complete draft paper no later than February 1st, 2023 to be shared with all seminar participants before the conference. Papers should be between 10-15 pages, typed (12p) and double spaced, and include a “Works Cited” section. All participants are expected to read each other’s papers prior to the session and provide a one-paragraph response to one person as assigned by the chairs.