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The wounds of nations

The wounds of nations: Horror cinema, historical trauma and national identity

Linnie Blake
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    The wounds of nations
    Book Description:

    The wounds of nations explores the ways in which horror films allows international audiences to deal with the horrors of recent history – from genocide to terrorist outrage, nuclear war to radical political change. Far from being mere escapism or titillation, it shows how horror (whether it be from 1970s America, 1980s Germany, post-Thatcherite Britain or post-9/11 America) is in fact a highly political and potentially therapeutic film genre that enables us to explore, and potentially recover from, the terrors of life in the real world. Exploring a wide range of stylistically distinctive and generically diverse film texts, Blake proffers a radical critique of the nation-state and the ideologies of identity it promulgates, showing that horror cinema can offer us a disturbing, yet perversely life affirming, means of working through the traumatic legacy of recent times.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-162-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: traumatic events and international horror cinema
    (pp. 1-16)

    Since the late 1970s psychoanalytically informed and often Holocaust-focused academics have brought into being an interdisciplinary area within the Humanities known as Trauma Studies. Broadly speaking, this is a theoretical caucus that attempts to articulate and critique the diverse ways in which traumatic memories have been inscribed as wounds on the cultural, social, psychic and political life of those who have experienced them, and those cultural products that seek to represent such experiences to those who have not. Such articulation and critique is intimately concerned with the ways in which ideas of integrated and cohesive identity may be violently challenged...

  4. Part I German and Japanese horror:: the traumatic legacy of the Second World War

    • Introduction
      (pp. 19-25)

      On 15 August 1945, shortly after the cataclysmic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Emperor Hirohito took to the radio waves to acknowledge in highly circumspect courtly language that the ‘war situation’ had developed ‘not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.’ In order to avoid what he termed ‘the total extinction of human civilisation,’ Hirohito proclaimed to a weeping public that Japan would have to ‘endure the unendurable and suffer the un-sufferable’ by accepting the nation’s unconditional surrender to Allied, specifically American, forces.¹ In subsequent months, twenty-five of Japan’s military leaders were tried for war crimes by the Military Tribunal of the Far...

    • 1 The horror of the Nazi past in the reunification present: Jörg Buttgereit’s Nekromantiks
      (pp. 26-43)

      These two epigraphs, from the opening and closing titles ofYesterday Girl(1966), Alexander Kluge’s pioneering work of Young German Cinema, provide an entirely apposite introduction to the concerns of this book; for here I will explore two recent works of experimental, historically grounded and hence political German films that effectively encapsulate my conceptual and critical agenda. They are Jörg Buttgereit’sNekromantikandNekromantik 2.For although Buttergereit’s much-banned necro-porn horrors have been frequently dismissed as little more than ‘disappointingly witless’ and ‘morbidly titillating’ attempts to ‘disgust the most jaded conceivable audience,’¹ these films are not only more thematically complex...

    • 2 Nihonjinron, women, horror: post-war national identity and the spirit of subaltern vengeance in Ringu and The Ring
      (pp. 44-68)

      Over the past fifteen years, as a post-9/11 United States has sought to increase its international influence over the strategically significant nations of Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and North Korea, there has been an exponential increase in both the consumption of Japanese horror films and in American remakes of Japanese horror for an English-speaking international audience.¹ Most commercially successful and, it seems, culturally resonant, has beenThe Ring,Gore Verbinski’s 2002 remake of Nakata Hideo’sRinguof 1998 (itself an adaptation of a Suzuki Koji novel of 1991), a film that has earned gross international revenues of over $229 million and...

  5. Part II The traumatised 1970s and the threat of apocalypse now

    • Introduction
      (pp. 71-77)

      On 20 January 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as President of the United States. He had won the election with the narrowest of majorities but came to the White House as the nation’s youngest and first non-Protestant president, bringing with him the expectation of great change. Certainly Kennedy’s election signified a certain optimism regarding the character of the United States and its role in the world that was unprecedented since the glory days of victory in the Second World War. Such confidence would come to be summed up in Kennedy’sCivil Rights Messageof 11 June 1963 where, appealing...

    • 3 ‘Consumed out of the good land’: George A. Romero’s horror of the 1970s
      (pp. 78-100)

      In 1630 the religious radical John Winthrop, recently appointed Governor of New England, delivered a rousing sermon entitledA Model of Christian Charity.³ Here he outlined the hopes and fears of the community of men and women who had left Europe in search of religious freedom and warned of the dangers that imperiled the success of their mission to redeem the sins of the old world in the new. For not only were there the challenges of a harsh climate, unwelcoming landscape and hostile Native Americans to contend with, but in order to found a society whose express purpose was...

    • 4 All hail to the serial killer: America’s last frontier hero in the age of Reaganite eschatology and beyond
      (pp. 101-120)

      Reflecting the hunger of American audiences for further misadventures of the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter, Ridley Scott’s filmHannibaltook a record-breaking $58,000,000 on its opening weekend in the United States.² Despite the critics, who compared it unfavourably to The Silence of the Lambs its final domestic gross stood at an impressive $200,000,000, itself an American box-office record for any non-action movie.³ Such massive public interest in Lecter had of course begun with his appearance in Thomas Harris’s best-selling novelsRed Dragon(1981),The Silence of the Lambs(1988) andHannibal(1999). It had been consolidated by earlier filmic...

  6. Part III From Vietnam to 9/11:: the Orientalist other and the American poor white

    • Introduction
      (pp. 123-127)

      On 11 September 2001, two hijacked aircraft were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, a third into the US Department of Defence’s Pentagon building while a fourth, seemingly aiming for the Capitol in Washington, crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Self-evidently, as commentators such as Noam Chomsky have argued, this was a massive symbolic attack on the Western world – most specifically the military-industrial complex of American corporate capitalism.¹ But while the sheer ambition of Al-Qaeda’s assault was entirely without precedent, the seismic media event that was 9/11 was, in fact, the culmination of a number of attacks on...

    • 5 ‘Squealing like a pig’: the War on Terror and the resurgence of hillbilly horror after 9/11
      (pp. 128-152)

      In a manner intriguingly reminiscent of President Bush’s Orientalist vilification of the terrorist threat in the months following the horrific events of 9 September 2001, the United States has a very long history of representing the inhabitants of its own isolated rural places or backwoods communities as monstrous, grotesque, diseased and polluted. Emerging as it did from the trauma of the Revolutionary War the foundational study of Colonial period self-image that is Hector St John de Crèvecoeur’sLetters from an American Farmer(1782) can be seen to participate enthusiastically in this trend. Here Crèvecoeur stresses the enormous disjunction between the...

  7. Part IV New Labour new horrors:: the post- Thatcherite crisis of British masculinity

    • Introduction
      (pp. 155-160)

      In the United Kingdom the 1980s were characterised by the avaricious individualism of the Thatcherite agenda, which dismantled the industrial economy on which the nation’s class-based and regionally-distinctive culture had historically rested, promoted narcissistic consumerism as acme of human aspiration through wholesale valorisation of the cultural products of American capitalism and turned to military action in the Falklands and the Gulf as a means of ensuring electoral victory and cementing the much-vaunted ‘special relationship’ with the United States. As Jeffrey Richards has put it, the zeitgeist of the Thatcher years was that of ‘aggressive and uncompromising individualism which glories in...

    • 6 Zombies, dog men and dragons: generic hybridity and gender crisis in British horror of the new millennium
      (pp. 161-186)

      For over twenty years British horror cinema has been characterised by a will to generic hybridity, as earlier film texts and genres are endlessly worked and re-worked as a means of exploring the traumatic legacy that Thatcherite machismo bequeathed to those who grew either to hyper-masculine empowerment or economic and political emasculation in its shadow. Standing at the junction between cultural policy and mass-cultural articulation of the traumas wrought to models of manhood by the Thatcher years, the horror film was recognised from the early 1980s onwards as proffering a dangerous challenge to establishment ideology; leading initially to the Video...

  8. Conclusion: horror cinema and traumatic events
    (pp. 187-192)

    In exploring the response of genre films from Japan and Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom to the traumatic social, cultural and personal legacies of the Second World War, Vietnam and 9/11 and to the broader cultural changes engendered by transformations to traditional gender roles since the 1970s, this study has engaged with a number of debates drawn from horror film scholarship, trauma theory, post-colonial studies and cultural studies. Specifically though, it has been concerned with the ways in which the generic strategies of horror cinema allow for an exploration of those traumatic events and processes that in...

  9. Filmography
    (pp. 193-200)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-218)
  11. Index
    (pp. 219-226)