Uses of Disability in Horror Film and Fiction


I’m really looking forward to working on my summer project (funded by a Stetson grant), in which I will seek answers to the following questions: Why are disabled bodies so useful to the movements and patterns of horror film and fiction? Further, is it possible that there are alternatives embedded in horror for seeing disability differently, insofar as it is so often and provocatively on display in these fictions?

While I take cues from the path cut by scholars working on the philosophy of disability, I am concerned that common analyses in this literature do not capture the depth of horror’s peculiar intimacy with images of disability. In the work of Julia Kristeva on psychoanalysis and semiotics (e.g. 1982) and Noël Carroll on the philosophy of horror (e.g. 1981, 1987, 1999), I hope to find new ways to analyze the layered uses of disability in the horror genre. Second, I seek to bear out my intuition that some members of the horror genre provide alternative ways to view disability that need not be considered pernicious. Indeed, I hypothesize some horror fiction effectively familiarizes disability and relocates the horror response to a new monster: hierarchical normalization processes, functioning in the social world, that exclude those who are different.

My plan of activities includes: viewing as many films in the horror genre as my weak stomach can handle, exploring mass market horror fiction, and critically examining work in film studies for varied resources to understand the use of disability in horror fiction.

If you come across offbeat horror – movies or lit – that uses disability to create or augment horror (or, that has a disabled protagonist!) please contact me! I’d love to check it out and discuss it.

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