cover of book
 

A Place of Darkness: The Rhetoric of Horror in Early American Cinema
by Kendall R. Phillips
University of Texas Press, 2018
eISBN: 978-1-4773-1552-1 | Paper: 978-1-4773-1551-4 | Cloth: 978-1-4773-1550-7
Library of Congress Classification PN1995.9.H6P438 2018
Dewey Decimal Classification 791.436164

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Horror is one of the most enduringly popular genres in cinema. The term “horror film” was coined in 1931 between the premiere of Dracula and the release of Frankenstein, but monsters, ghosts, demons, and supernatural and horrific themes have been popular with American audiences since the emergence of novelty kinematographic attractions in the late 1890s. A Place of Darkness illuminates the prehistory of the horror genre by tracing the way horrific elements and stories were portrayed in films prior to the introduction of the term “horror film.” Using a rhetorical approach that examines not only early films but also the promotional materials for them and critical responses to them, Kendall R. Phillips argues that the portrayal of horrific elements was enmeshed in broader social tensions around the emergence of American identity and, in turn, American cinema. He shows how early cinema linked monsters, ghosts, witches, and magicians with Old World superstitions and beliefs, in contrast to an American way of thinking that was pragmatic, reasonable, scientific, and progressive. Throughout the teens and twenties, Phillips finds, supernatural elements were almost always explained away as some hysterical mistake, humorous prank, or nefarious plot. The Great Depression of the 1930s, however, constituted a substantial upheaval in the system of American certainty and opened a space for the reemergence of Old World gothic within American popular discourse in the form of the horror genre, which has terrified and thrilled fans ever since.

See other books on: Darkness | Genres | Horror | Horror films | Place
See other titles from University of Texas Press
Nearby on shelf for Literature (General) / Drama / Motion pictures: