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It Takes Many Forms: Horror as Resistance

  • Peabody Essex Museum 161 Essex Street Salem, MA, 01970 United States (map)

Throughout human existence we have sought to invent stories that provide order and value to what often appears to be a universe of chaos. Unfortunately, the validity of mythology has too often been exclusively claimed by institutional religion, and as such a separation between the sacred and the profane exists within the wider culture, traditionally imbuing religion with a sense of timelessness while popular culture is seen as ephemeral.

The repression of non-religious meaning-making narratives is evident in the evolution of the horror genre within popular culture. While western Christianity chose to emphasize and promote the more benevolent aspects of its canon while explaining away or outright disregarding the more horrific qualities of genocide, rape, filicide, racism, and divine monstrousness within its tradition, the contemporary horror genre emerged as a subversive canon of narratives conveying its own power, meaning, and religious experience. As such, horror is imbued with an aura of resistance to cultural normativity and possesses the metaphorical ability to represent marginalized groups that have been othered, demonized, and treated as cultural monsters to be feared and destroyed.

Using an array of contemporary and classic horror films, this presentation will explore how the horror genre has become a space where the beautiful and the grotesque comingle to create meaningful and unique cultural narratives of resistance and will discuss how the genre presents to us thematic models that embody the struggle against overwhelming forces of domination and oppression.

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Presented by Jess Peacock

Jess Peacock is the author of Such a Dark Thing: Theology of the Vampire Narrative in Popular Culture from Wipf and Stock Publishers. He has contributed to Religion Dispatches, Rue Morgue Magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland, and is the former editor-in-chief of Street Speech, a social justice publication produced by the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless in Ohio.

He currently writes the Hallowed Horrors column for Rue Morgue online, and can regularly be heard on the Legacy of the Marsten House podcast available on iTunes.

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Later Event: October 14
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