Body horror concerns narratives in which the corporeal uncanny is produced through the destruction or annihilation of the natural human body. The contemporary screen contains countless examples of horrified and terrified bodies; watched, tracked, analysed, transformed and degenerated, these ‘horrific’ bodies speak to the angst of the current social, cultural, political and technological world in which we reside. The practices of surveillance, both diegetic and non-diegetic, offer new versions of modern horror; while the horror genre itself has been generously theorized and analysed, its intersection with practices of surveillance opens up new avenues for discussion and the possibility for radical critique of representational systems. Surveillance, of and within horror narratives, offers a particular nuance to our readings of the genre, and the critique of surveillance itself may help us to excavate how we construct notions of gender, race and power, as well as the psychological terror and fear of surveillance itself. The focus of this special edition of Northern Lights, therefore, is the intersection between the horror genre and practices of surveillance, and this edition seeks to promote emergent approaches to screen analysis.
Notions of surveillance have long captivated the creative imagination and been envisioned at multiple sites, through narratives, images and performances. Whilst surveillance studies as a field of enquiry ostensibly concerns the production of new theoretical and empirical understandings of human behaviour vis-à-vis a burgeoning field of technological development, the project of this issue of Northern Lights is to employ cultural surveillance studies to better understand the human, psychic and bodily affects/effects and manifestations of the practices of surveillance. Operating within the paradigm of cultural studies, we seek to delve into the realm of surveillance as it is portrayed on screen so that we may explore the critical juncture at which surveillance renders bodies ‘horrified’.
The ubiquity of surveillance within horror narratives, one might argue, is perfectly placed to draw attention to cinematic processes, while at the same time, de- naturalizing the human body. The editors are particularly interested in transgressive visions of surveillance from within the horror genre that also consider the ways in which the surveillant field emerges from beyond the lens.
Areas of exploration may include architecture and horror (haunted houses for instance) as sites of surveillance; the body as a corporeal manifestation of visibility from within the discourse of slasher and gore narratives; the use of omnipotent watching as a dystopian motif in contemporary cinema (and its links to political and cultural change); and the manifestation of surveillant practices in horror that stem from geographical or topographical positions (prisons, schools, suburbia, cities, etc). Recognition of the prevalence of surveillance not only in our past but also in our future requires that we acknowledge the ubiquity of surveillance in our cultural products and psyche and attest to the manipulation of the gaze present in on-screen horror.
Potential topics may include, but are not limited to:
Radical readings of horror through surveillance
Feminist horror criticism for the digital age
The new horror of digital interference
The corporeal, biotechnology and the digital
Slasher films and surveillance
Contemporary psychological terror
The abject and the corporeal
Architectural constructions of the ‘horrific’
The watching of othered bodies from within a transgressive surveillant lens
Television series and use of the nostalgic as a lens by which to critique the contemporary
Postcolonial readings of film that speak of the viewing of racial bodies and their ‘use’ and ‘appropriation’ within the horror genre
Spoof horror and B-movies and their application of surveillant lenses from within the skewed and comedic
Transitional spaces and the borders and territories of the horrific (motels for instance)
Movement and the supernatural as a means by which to transgress the lens
Abstracts of 400–500 words, together with a brief biographical note, should be submitted by 10 February 2019. Complete papers of 6500–7000 words are due on 1 July 2019.
Call for essays