Study of a Theme: From the Uncanny to Horror: Film and Psychoanalysis

ENGL 0021.401
crosslisted as: CIMS 0021, COML 0021
TR 10:15-11:44am
Fulfills Sector III: Arts & Letters of the College’s General Education Curriculum

This class will introduce students to the links between psychoanalysis and film by focusing on two themes, the Uncanny and Horror. Psychoanalysis and film were invented and developed at the same time and one can observe a reciprocal influence. Taking Sigmund Freud’s Unconscious as a point of departure, Julia Kristeva’s analysis of Horror and Slavoj Zizek’s post-Lacanian readings as theoretical tools, we will study a number of films displaying the features of Horror and the Uncanny. We will verify the points of insertion of psychoanalytical concepts such as hysteria, paranoia, abjection, castration, Oedipal desire, the Uncanny and the “Thing” in about twenty-one films. Why do we enjoy being afraid when we watch horror movies? What is fascinating in tales of madness and haunting? Why do we believe unconsciously that the dead can return? A psychoanalytic approach to our anxious enjoyment of terror in filmic works will provide original methods of interpretation. The films we will discuss include Doctor Caligari (Wiene), Vertigo, Psycho and The Birds (Hitchcock), Pet Sematary (Lambert & Kölsch and Wildmeyer), Dogtooth (Lanthimos), A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1 – 4 (Craven), The Babadook (Kent), Goodnight Mommy (Fiala and Franz), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Hooper), Deep Red and Opera (Argento), Cannibal Holocaust (Deodato), Insidious (Wan), It (Muschietti), Martyrs (Laugier), It Follows (Mitchell), Get Out (Jordan Peele), and Split (Night Shyamalan).

Bibliography: Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny (PEPweb), Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on abjection, (Columbia U.P., 1982, online) and Slavoj Zizek, Looking Awry (MIT, 1991).

Requirements: 7 short film journals (3 pages each, 70% of the final grade); one research
paper (10 pages, 30% of the final grade).