Speculative Horror I: Ontologies of the Real (Panel)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Bethany Doane (Pennsylvania State University)

The dominant methodologies for engaging with horror fiction and cinema are often limited by a reliance on interpretation and critique, and by a linguistic constructivist frame that has barred any serious discussion of “the real” within this genre as an ontological possibility. In other words, most current methods for reading horror reduce its elements to mere symbols or signifiers of broader, more abstract notions of the social, the political, the psychological, or the linguistic. This panel, therefore, seeks to explore the possibilities of theoretical engagement with horror fiction in this post-linguistic and post-critique era of realism, materialism, and the nonhuman. How do these new theoretical turns correspond with and complement renewed interest in neo-Lovecraftian and “weird” fiction, for example? What happens when we interpret the monstrous body not as a metaphor for social or cultural border anxieties, but as a marker for the real, the abject, the ineffable? How might we think about race, gender, and disability differently through these new theoretical modes in relation to horror and embodiment?

Several recent publications tap into the potential of “the flesh” as a neglected but valuable contribution to reconfiguring subjectivity (Trigg, Weheliye), while others open up the possibility for realist horror within philosophy itself (Thacker). This panel encourages interdisciplinary considerations of what contemporary, post-linguistic theory has to offer potential new readings of the various manifestations of the horror genre, from literature to philosophy to film and television to comics to interactive digital media.

Suggested topics may include

• horror and speculative realism
• horror and/as affect
• the (bio)politics of horror
• the materiality of horror, especially body horror
• gender and horror beyond psychoanalysis
• monstrosity beyond metaphor
• emergent modes of horror (found footage, horror in digital/web environments, experimental horror texts, etc.)
• horror and the nonhuman turn


This panel seeks to explore the possibilities of theoretical engagement with horror fiction in a post-linguistic and post-critique era of realism, materialism, and the nonhuman. It encourages interdisciplinary considerations of what these theoretical modes have to offer potential new readings of the various manifestations of the horror genre, from literature to philosophy to film and television to comics to interactive digital media.