Body Gothic

Body Gothic: Corporeal Transgression in Contemporary Literature and Horror Film

Xavier Aldana Reyes
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
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  • Book Info
    Body Gothic
    Book Description:

    Body Gothic assesses the role and relevance of corporeal transgression in literature and film of the last three decades, from splatterpunk and body horror to torture porn and surgical horror.

    eISBN: 978-1-78316-093-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: From Gothic Bodies to Body Gothic
    (pp. 1-27)

    ‘Your flesh is his fantasy’ threatened an ominous tagline from the theatrical trailer ofThe Human Centipede(Tom Six, 2010), one of the most notorious and controversial films to join the gothic horror canon in the twenty-first century. Its villainous Dr Josef Heiter (Dieter Laser), an expert in separating Siamese twins, is a clear throwback to Victor Frankenstein, with his obsessive compulsion to create new creatures out of various independent bodies. His surgical dreams include the mouth-to-anus sewing of three human beings with matching bodily tissues in order to create a unique Siamese triplet. That Heiter is German is relevant...

  5. 1 Splatterpunk
    (pp. 28-51)

    Splatterpunk, although retrospectively seen as a relatively cogent literary movement, did not suddenly come into existence. This horror fiction sub genre gradually gathered momentum after David J. Schow christened it at the Twelfth World Fantasy Convention in 1986. 1 It roughly blossomed from 1985 to 1990 through the work of the self-professed Splat Pack, which included John Skipp and Craig Spector, Joe R. Lansdale, Richard Christian Matheson, Ray Garton, Robert R. McCammon and Schow himself amongst others, and the aggressively violent and extremely visceral novels of cult horror writers Edward Lee or Jack Ketchum, especially the latter’s Off Season (1981)...

  6. 2 Body Horror
    (pp. 52-74)

    Body horror is probably one of the loosest and most ill-defined terms in gothic and horror studies, covering anything from the weird fiction of Arthur Machen’sThe Great God Pan(1894) to post-millennial torture porn.¹ The general understanding seems to be that, if a text generates fear from abnormal states of corporeality, or from an attack upon the body, we might find ourselves in front of an instance of body horror.² Kevin J. Wetmore has been careful in explaining that the type of ‘body horror’ label that may be applied to a film likeHostelwould be a ‘new’ one...

  7. 3 The New Avant-pulp
    (pp. 75-96)

    Corporeal transgression may rely on hyperbole, particularly of a scatological or grotesque nature, as the previous chapter noted. The new avant-pulp, a short-lived literary movement that bloomed at the turn of the century, exploited corporeality and its most basic functions (eating, sex, defecation) with the purposes of providing excessive, sensationalist and satirical pieces.¹ The new avant-pulp, as a staple of body gothic, abused the body creatively and imaginatively through a line of enquiry that was a direct heir to the fantastic transformations of body horror. It was also self-professedly invested in the rhetoric of pulp fiction, both in terms of...

  8. 4 The Slaughterhouse Novel
    (pp. 97-121)

    Michel Faber’sUnder the Skin(2000), a literary novel about a female character who spends her time picking up muscly hitchhikers from random Scottish roads, gradually unfolds its horrific truth. The reason Isserley drives through desolate landscapes on the lookout for men is not sex, as may be anticipated, but something more sordid and unsettling. As she arrives in Ablach Farm after one of her deliveries, it is revealed that the individuals Isserley has been kidnapping are cut and prepared for Vess Incorporated, an extra-terrestrial company that caters for the expensive tastes of the elite class of the ‘vodsel’ race....

  9. 5 Torture Porn
    (pp. 122-143)

    Although still viable in 2014, as projected films such asThe Human Centipede III: Final Sequence(Tom Six, 2014) would seem to indicate, torture porn peaked in the mid-to-late 2000s and has since receded to the periphery of horror cinema. After the huge commercial success of its two flagship features,SawandHostel,its once mainstream theatrical appeal has started to flounder.¹ More recent examples such as the crime thrillerTortured(Nolan Lebovitz, 2008), or the more obvious genre piecesThe Collector(Marcus Dunstan, 2009) andThe Tortured(Robert Lieberman, 2010), have received either straight-to-DVD or limited theatrical releases.² The...

  10. 6 Surgical Horror
    (pp. 144-165)

    The bodily turn of post-millennial horror film has been the subject of a number of articles and publications over the last two decades.¹ However, until the mid-1980s, the subject of horror’s corporeal fixation had been consistently played down in favour of theories that centred on a holistic understanding of the genre as epitomised by Freud’s return of the repressed.² If psychoanalysis is still the genre’s most popular analytic tool, with some universities devoting whole parts of their syllabi to psychoanalytic readings of mainstream successes likeAlien(Ridley Scott, 1979), scholars such as Philip Brophy, Steven Shaviro, Carol J. Clover, Matt...

  11. Conclusion: Corporeal Readings
    (pp. 166-172)

    In an interview, Clive Barker once proclaimed that, for him, ‘horror fiction is over and over again about the body’.¹ In this book, I have shown how, by extension, the gothic is always corporeal. As a mode that seeks to involve readers or viewers viscerally, that actively endeavours to engage them in a self-aware game probing the limits of transgression, it relies on the embodied nature of the human and on our ability to experience fictional mutilation vicariously.Body Gothichas analysed the critical import of a number of con temporary gothic horror subgenres that have privileged the body as...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 173-202)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 203-218)
  14. Filmography
    (pp. 219-224)
  15. Index
    (pp. 225-229)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 230-230)