Comparative Horror Analysis

Overview

One of your objectives in DIG 215 is to “apply specific discursive and theoretical concepts to the analysis of representations of death in 21st century popular culture.” To this end you’ll compare two cultural productions—novels, comics, games, movies, television shows, podcasts, and so on—that somehow exemplify what we might call late postmodern horror. Late postmodern horror in this context refers to contemporary narratives that do all the things Pinedo ascribes to postmodern horror plus reflects the ubiquity of media and technology in everyday life. Late postmodern horror is often self-reflexive, aware of genre codes to the point of manipulating them, and engages in what the critics Bolter and Grusin call hypermediation, or a “style of visual representation whose goal is to remind the viewer of the medium” (272).

Guidelines

This comparative analysis can take one of three forms:

  1. a videographic essay;
  2. a podcast-style report; or
  3. an essay that incorporates multimedia.

Whatever the form, the final version will be posted to our class blog under the category “Comparative Horror.” The crux of this analysis is your application of relevant theoretical concepts. We’ve encountered quite a few of these concepts in our readings and class discussions: Benjamin on experience, Pinedo on postmodern horror, Creed on monstrous women, Cohen on monsters, Gothic tropes, horror verité, etc. I expect you to dig around and find other appropriate concepts as well.

This is a comparative assignment. It asks you to place two works in conversation with each other, the idea being that this dialogue reveals something about both works that would have remained obscured if either work had been considered by itself. The two works should illuminate each other. One of the works may be the same material you considered for your Snapchat Horror Story.

The two works should be distinctively different from each other, either in form, aesthetics, narrative, or theme. For example, two episodes of Black Mirror are not distinctively different from each other for the purposes of this assignment. An episode of Black Mirror and a videogame would be though.

Criteria

For your Comparative Horror Analysis to count as Satisfactory, it must meet the following criteria:

      1. The analysis is 1,500-3,000 words.
      2. The analysis compares two late postmodern horror works that are distinctively different from each other.
      3. The analysis successfully integrates at least one theoretical text from our class readings and discussions.
      4. The analysis successfully integrates at least one scholarly secondary source beyond our class readings and discussions.
      5. The analysis offers some non-obvious insights about both works of horror.
      6. The analysis is coherent.
      7. The analysis is based on visual, textual, sonic, or procedural evidence drawn from the two works of horror.
      8. The analysis offers a synthesis that explains why your insights matter.
      9. The analysis makes effective use of your chosen form (video essay, podcast, or multimedia essay).
      10. The analysis follows scholarly standards for citation, using either MLA or Chicago style.
      11. The analysis contains no more than 3 grammatical, spelling, or other “mechanical” errors.
      12. The analysis contains no more than 2 minor factual inaccuracies and no major factual inaccuracies.
      13. The analysis is shared on the course blog under the category Comparative Horror by 11:59pm, Wednesday, March 1.

For your Comparative Horror Analysis to count as Sophisticated, it must meet this criteria (in addition to the Satisfactory criteria above):

      1. The analysis integrates at least two scholarly sources beyond what we’ve read for class.
      2. The analysis reaches higher levels of originality and synthesis.
      3. The analysis uses more effective rhetoric and style to advance its argument.

Suggestions

Comparative analyses can be difficult to manage in terms of organization. I recommend approaching each text separately and then providing a synthesis at the end. In other words, say almost everything you have to say about one work, then move to the second work, rather than bouncing back and forth between the two works. That’s not to say you can’t try the latter approach, but it does require a greater degree of care and control to pull off successfully.

Your job is not to judge the two works, or to rank one as better than the other. This is not a review. Rather, consider how each work approaches similar issues through different techniques, or conversely, uses similar techniques for different aims. Or, some other variation of the dynamic between form and content. In any case, consider each work on its own terms. Pay attention to media specificity, or, how the work takes advantage of the affordances of its particular medium.

When it comes to publishing your analysis, keep in mind best practices for your chosen medium. For videographic essays, I recommend uploading your video to YouTube or Vimeo and then embedding the video into a blog post. For podcasts, I recommend uploading your audio to SoundCloud and embedding the audio in a blog post. You should similarly embed images, audio, and video into your multimedia essay.

Further Reading

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. The MIT Press, 2000.

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Monster Theory: Reading Culture, edited by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, University of Minnesota Press, 1996.

Grant, Barry Keith. “Digital Anxiety and the New Verité Horror and SF Film.” Science Fiction Film and Television, vol. 6, no. 2, June 2013, pp. 153–175, muse-jhu-edu.ezproxy.lib.davidson.edu/article/510738

Liu, Linda. Mortal Cameras and Vulnerable Vision in Found Footage Horror. 2015, bcnm.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/LIU_precarious_aesthetics_conference_paper.pdf.