NOTE: As has been noted in this syllabus all semester, the final exam for this course will be conducted on Blackboard on Thursday, July 30, beginning at 3:00 pm. You may begin the exam any time between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm on that day. You will have 45 minutes to complete the exam once you have begun. Questions will be similar in kind to those that were included in the mock quiz earlier in the semester. The exam is open book. You may consult your notes or the on-line readings, though you may not consult another person. You should know most of the answers. You should have time to search for the others.
NOTE: Your critical essay is due on Wednesday, July 29. It should be submitted to me as a Word-compatible e-mail attachment.
Prof. M. Keith Booker
On-line textbook, supplied free of charge, linked to the appropriate parts of the schedule below.
Purpose of course:
Horror film explores our deepest personal anxieties and our most profound social fears. As a result, horror film tells us more about ourselves and our society than perhaps any other film genre. This course is designed to provide an historical introduction to the horror film of the sound era, with an emphasis on American horror film. Lectures will cover the entire sound era, from its beginnings in the 1930s to the recent rise of “prestige” horror. In the course of this exploration, we will attempt not only to construct narratives of the development of American horror film but to connect those narratives to the larger story of the historical evolution of American society as a whole.
Course Resources for Remote Delivery
Online video lectures: Brief introductions to individual films, available on YouTube, linked to the schedule below. No spoilers.
Online textbook: Linked to the schedule below.
Facebook Group for Class Discussions: Click here.
Individual films: Available for inexpensive rental on Amazon Prime Video, as well as other platforms. Make sure you get the right version (check the year of release), as some of these have been remade one or more times.
Papers, reports, or other special assignments:
Undergraduate students will be required to write one brief critical essay on horror film, 4-6 pages in length, typed, double-spaced. Graduate students will be required to write one critical essay on horror film, 15–25 typewritten pages in length, typed, double-spaced. There will also be a class Facebook page where students may choose to participate in discussions, ask questions, post relevant information, and so on. Graduate students will be required to post on this page concerning the research project selected from the list below, which may or may not be related to their critical essays (student’s option).
All students should check this syllabus and the Group Facebook page daily for announcements and updates. All students will be responsible for being aware of any information or announcements presented on the Facebook page or in this syllabus.
Note on participation in discussions on Facebook: All comments on films scheduled for a Monday should be posted at any time during the following Tuesday and Wednesday. All comments on films scheduled for a Wednesday should be posted at any time during the following Thursday and Friday. This will help to avoid spoilers but will also enable you to participate fully without being here at any particular time.
NOTE ON GRADUATE STUDENT RESEARCH PROJECTS: In order to provide an opportunity for more in-depth learning in a focused area of our very broad course material, each graduate student will undertake research beyond the syllabus material into a specific sub-topic. This research should involve both viewing additional films and reading secondary sources. It will be helpful to relate this research to the material on the syllabus, but the research itself should go well beyond the syllabus. Students should post updates on their research findings regularly throughout the semester. These posts might include brief film reviews, discussion of important critical or theoretical readings, or links to relevant material on-line. Be creative. Think of it as teaching a mini-course within our larger course. That is, keep in mind that your posts are for the benefit of the other students in the class (both graduate and undergraduate). I assume that most students will want to write their critical essays on the same general topic as their research projects, though I do not require it. However, as always, your critical essays should focus on a very narrow argument (usually on only one or two films), while your research projects should cover a broader topical area, as would a course.
In general, it will be best to view the instructor’s introductory lecture on each film, then view the film, then read the online write-up for that film. It might also be helpful to view the film again after reading the write-up, though the second viewing is optional. Students will have some flexibility, as they will be viewing films on their own time. However, class discussions on the Facebook page will be conducted on the assumption that films will have been viewed by the date on the schedule below. To avoid spoilers, please view the films by the dates listed below.
All students will have an in-class final examination, delivered via Blackboard on Thursday, July 30.
Wednesday, July 29: Critical essays due for all students, to be submitted as Word attachments via e-mail to email@example.com.
Thursday, July 30: Final exam (on Blackboard) for all students.
Each assignment will be graded numerically on a 100-point scale. Letter grades will be determined on the basis of: A = 90-100; B = 80-89.9; C = 70-79.9; D = 60-69.9; F = below 60. Final grades will be determined according to the following schedule:
Discussion Participation (Facebook): 10%
Critical essay: 50%
Final Exam: 40%
Discussion participation (Facebook): 10%
Graduate Facebook Project: 20%
Critical Essay: 50%
Final Exam: 20%
Introduction to the class.
Monday, June 29
The Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935, 75 min.)
1. Watch the Lecture: “Brief Historical Survey of the Horror Film.”
2. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “The Horror Film: A Brief Introduction.”
3. Watch the Lecture: “The Bride of Frankenstein.”
4. VIEW THE FILM
5. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein.”
The Supernatural Horror Film
Wednesday, July 1
Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968, 136 min.)
1. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “The Supernatural Horror Film: An Introduction.”
2. Watch the Lecture: Rosemary’s Baby
3. VIEW THE FILM
4. Read the Online Textbook Segment: Rosemary’s Baby.
Monday, July 6
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980, 146 min.)
1. Watch the Lecture: The Shining.
2. VIEW THE FILM
3. Read the Online Textbook Segment: The Shining.
Wednesday, July 8
The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015, 92 min.)
The Love Witch (Anna Biller, 2016, 120 min.)
1. Watch the Lecture: The Witch
2. VIEW The Witch
3. Watch the Lecture: The Love Witch
4. VIEW The Love Witch
5. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “The Witch and The Love Witch“
The Zombie Film
Monday, July 13
Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968, 96 min.)
28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002, 113 min.)
Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Zombie Films: An Introduction”
1. Watch the Lecture: “Night of the Living Dead“
2. VIEW Night of the Living Dead.
3. Read the Online Textbook Segment: Night of the Living Dead.
4. Watch the Lecture: “28 Days Later“
5. VIEW 28 Days Later.
6. Read the Online Textbook Segment: 28 Days Later.
The Slasher Film
Wednesday, July 15
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974, 83 min.)
Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978, 91 min.)
1. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Introduction to the Slasher Film.”
2. Watch the Lecture: “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”
3. VIEW The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
4. Read the Online Textbook Segment The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
5. Watch the Lecture: “Halloween“
6. VIEW Halloween.
7. Read the Online Textbook Segment: Halloween
Monday, July 20
You’re Next (Adam Wingard, 2011, 95 min.)
Revenge (Coralie Fargeat, 2017, 108 min.)
1. Watch the Lecture: “You’re Next“
2. VIEW You’re Next.
3. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “You’re Next”
4. Watch the Lecture: “Revenge“
5. VIEW Revenge.
6. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Revenge“
The New Prestige Horror
Wednesday, July 22
Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018, 127 min.)
1. Watch the Lecture: “Hereditary.“
2. VIEW Hereditary.
3. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Hereditary.”
Monday, July 27
Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019, 148 min.)
1. Watch the Lecture: “Midsommar.”
2. VIEW Midsommar.
3. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Midsommar.”
Wednesday, July 29
Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017, 104 min.)
Us (Jordan Peele, 2019, 116 min.)
CRITICAL ESSAYS DUE FOR ALL STUDENTS. SUBMIT AS A WORD-COMPATIBLE E-MAIL ATTACHMENT TO YOUR INSTRUCTOR AT M.KEITH.BOOKER@GMAIL.COM. DO NOT SUBMIT VIA BLACKBOARD.
1. Watch the Lecture: “Get Out.”
2. VIEW Get Out.
3. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Get Out.”
4. Watch the Lecture: “Us.”
5. VIEW Us.
6. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Us.”
Thursday, July 30
Final exam, on Blackboard. Will be posted at 3:00 pm and available until 5:00 pm.
FINAL EXAMINATION FOR ALL STUDENTS ON BLACKBOARD.
TOPICS FOR GRADUATE STUDENT RESEARCH PROJECTS
Students may write their critical essays on a topic related to this project, though the essay will need to be much more focused on a specific thesis, while the research project is designed to cover a fairly broad field.
- Frankenstein films
- Dracula films
- Vampire films
- Science fiction and horror
- Horror comedy
- The films of Larry Cohen
- Zombie films
- Torture horror
- Found footage horror
- Student-proposed topic (requires prior instructor approval)
SAMPLE TOPICS FOR CRITICAL ESSAYS
Below are some suggested topics for your critical essays. You are not, however, limited to these topics. You may write on any topic that is relevant to the course. These sample topics should, however, give you an idea of the kinds of topics that I feel have a good chance of making a successful essay. Also, note that these are topics, not theses. For your essay you need to choose a more specific, focused thesis and then present an argument in favor of that thesis.
1. Choose any two films from our syllabus. Discuss the ways in which these films comment on the American society in which they were produced. (You might want to choose two films that are similar in this respect, or you might want to choose two films that are different in this respect.) Issues to consider might include such things as capitalism, routinization, alienation, individualism, class, race, and so on.
2. Choose any film from our syllabus and explain why you believe it was particularly important in the evolution of the horror film as a genre.
3. Compare and contrast the representation of women in any two films from our syllabus.
4. Choose any two films from our syllabus and discuss the ways in which those films make use of past horror films as a resource for their own construction.
5. Many of the horror films we have seen this semester treat the nuclear family as a locus, or even source, of horror. Discuss what you see as the significance of this phenomenon, supporting your answer with examples of films on the syllabus.
6. Choose any film from our syllabus. Then watch at least two other films in the same category (zombie films, slasher films, supernatural horror films, prestige horror films) that are not on the syllabus. Describe, based on these three films, what you see as the most important characteristics of films in this category.