The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is proud to present the Spring 2021 Semester of Lectures. As we enter the second (and hopefully final) year of the pandemic crisis, lectures for all our branches will be online for this semester.
While we miss the live events, we are happy to reach out to a wider audience. We’re thrilled at the number of attendees from around the world who have had the opportunity to experience our classes this past autumn, and despite the reason, we’re delighted to expand the Miskatonic family, both in audience and instructors.
The world’s longest-running educational organization devoted to the study of horror history, theory and production, is pleased to announce 15 new classes, led by critics, academics, and writers, with ideas that will delight, inspire, and expand our knowledge and understanding of horror in art and culture.
Miskatonic London opens our semester with a class on the newly rediscovered Shirley Jackson and her importance in horror texts. The branch will also host classes on representations of Haiti in American horror cinema, the great Hammer horror films that never were, the mashing of monsters in screen history, and the horror of British author Shaun Hutson.
Miskatonic New York begins with the amazing story of horror zines, then dives into an exploration of the franchise in Spanish horror cinema. We’ll be in urban territory exploring terror and the high-rise edifice, then the ‘rural’ in Antarctica, exploring the unknowable in abject horror. The branch will conclude with a look at the classic thriller The Vanishing, and existential dread in horror.
Miskatonic Los Angeles first takes us to early 20th century Japan and the writing of Edogawa Rampo, before whisking us back home for a masterclass with legendary effects artist Rick Baker. We’ll then head to Europe, with a look at Italian horror comics, then in Germany for the legend of Walpurgisnacht. We’ll finish the semester with an investigation into trans and gender-non-conforming bodies in horror cinema.
The Institute will once again be offering a Global Pass for US$90, which offers a discount to attend all 15 Miskatonic classes in the Spring 2021 semester, as well as the City Branch Pass (£30 for London, US$40 each for New York and Los Angeles), and individual tickets to each class (£8 for London, US$10 each for New York and Los Angeles). Please note that all classes will take place in the time zone of their Branch affiliation; be sure you can attend before booking (and watch out for daylight saving time changes!), as all sales are final.
Full details of classes and links to passes and tickets are available on our website, www.miskatonicinstitute.com.
SPRING 2021 CLASSES
Miskatonic London offers monthly classes and a discounted full semester pass. For our Spring 2021 Online semester, admission to individual classes is £8 GBP, and a full semester pass including all five classes curated by Miskatonic London, is £30 GBP. Please note students from anywhere in the world can register.
Tuesday January 12th 7:00pm GMT
THE WORLD IS FULL OF TERRIBLE PEOPLE: SHIRLEY JACKSON AND FEMALE VIOLENCE
Instructor: Bernice M. Murphy
Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) remains best known for her supernatural horror novel The Haunting of Hill House (1959). After several decades of critical and commercial neglect, her work now has a higher public profile than ever. A film adaptation of her 1962 novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle was released last year, and Mike Flanagan’s 2018 Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House brought a whole new generation of fans to her work. This class will discuss who Jackson was and the reasons why her work remains so important for horror fans and creators, and focus on one particularly timely (and influential) aspect of Jackson’s interest in domesticity and female interiority: her recurrent depiction of deeply troubled young women.
Tuesday February 9th 7:00pm GMT
AMERICAN VOODOO: FICTIONALIZING HAITI TO MEDITATE ON US POLICY
Instructor: Maisha Wester
Ever since the slaves rebelled in St. Domingue to end slavery and colonization in the territory now known as Haiti, America has consistently represented the location as the space of nightmares, even stressing a secretive, ritualistic ceremony as the start of the revolution. Thus America representations of Haitian culture reduce them to an island of aberrant sorcerers creating monsters to destroy the West. Yet a closer look at these representations and America’s concurrent sociopolitical behaviors reveals that such depictions actually say more about the US and its anxieties and missteps than it ever does about Haiti. This course examines a series of horror films and select texts, such as White Zombie and The Serpent and the Rainbow, to consider how these fictions erase Haiti to reveal the monster of American politics.
Tuesday March 9th 7:00pm GMT
HAMMER GOES TO HELL: THE HOUSE OF HORROR’S UNMADE FILMS
Instructor: Kieran Foster
The British Film Studio Hammer Films is perhaps one of the most iconic film studios of all time. Hammer’s production of gothic horror pictures began in 1957 and would go on to cement a lasting house style for the company and international success. Yet a crucial area of the company’s history remains largely unexplored. This talk will utilise never seen before archival materials to present a new perspective on Hammer Films. With primary materials such as screenplays, financial documentation and correspondence, the talk will examine the industrial and production contexts of an eclectic range of Hammer’s unmade films, ranging from Loch Ness Monster project Nessie to Dracula in India script Kali Devil Bride of Dracula.
Tuesday April 13th 7:00 BST
THE MONSTER MASH: REMIX HORROR FROM THE MAGIC LANTERN TO THE SMALL SCREEN
Instructor: Megen de Bruin-Molé
From magic lantern phantasmagoria to Universal Classic Monsters to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the monster mash has always been a popular subcategory within horror. But what makes a mash-up? In form, mash-ups are the Gothic ‘monsters’ of our age—hybrid creations that lurk at the limits of responsible consumption and acceptable appropriation. Like monsters, mashups offer audiences the thrill of transgression in a relatively safe and familiar format. This talk will focus on three key moments in the history of the monster mash. Monster mash-ups may not seem to offer any meaningful commentary on our socio-political reality, but as each of the examples in this talk will show, they can help us to reveal and remix the most fundamental structures of the status quo.
Tuesday May 11th 7:00pm BST
LESS PUNK, MORE SPLATTER: THE HARD ROCK HORROR FICTION OF SHAUN HUTSON
Instructor: Johnny Walker
In Britain, the books of horror novelist, Shaun Hutson, were at one time outsold only by those of Stephen King. Yet despite his success, Hutson’s work has never been subject to extensive scholarly appraisal. This is due, at least in part, to the literary value Hutson’s work is said to lack, and his own politically ambivalent and morally conservative writing. So what, then, is interesting about Shaun Hutson’s oeuvre, if, by the author’s own admission, “greed is [his] main motivator” and his books aren’t “about anything”? This illustrated lecture explores this question and others, offering an assessment of Hutson’s novels during his most prolific decade, the 1980s.
Instructor: Stephen BissetteDetails Coming Soon
Thursday February 18th 7:30pm EST
SPANISH HORROR TOWARDS THE 21ST CENTURY: FROM THE DIGITAL TO THE FRANCHISE
Instructor: Vicente Rodríguez Ortega
In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, new directors such as Jaume Balagueró, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Paco Plaza, J.A. Bayona and Alejandro Amenábar radically changed the contours of Spanish horror through a fundamental strategy: the internationalization of the national film output from an aesthetic and industrial viewpoint to appeal to both the domestic and foreign markets. This class will examine this period through a detailed analyzes of the four installments of the [Rec] franchise (Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza), films that use the imperfect aesthetics of video, and simultaneously epitomizes the configuration of Horror as the main exportable asset for the national film industry. It will also connect Spanish horror with other international films that deploy the imperfect aesthetic of video as a key stylistic feature, such as The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield.
Thursday March 18th 7:30pm EDT
CONCRETE MATERNALITY: LATE CAPITALISM AND HIGH-RISE HORROR
Instructor: Émilie von Garan
In her book on the role of gender in the modern horror film, Carol Clover discusses how the female body often translates as a metaphoric architecture for cinema, arguing that its penetrable yet opaque interiority becomes a perfect site for housing anxieties, fears, or what one would deem, following Freudian theory, the uncanny. This potentially disturbing correspondence between the uncanny feminine and architectural interiority finds its most overt articulation in horror films that take residential towers as their setting, with the precarity of female bodies highlighting the terrors that they give rise to. This lecture focuses on the coupling between residential towers and threatening and/or threatened female bodies in two films—David Cronenberg’s Shivers (1975), and Bernard Rose’s Candyman (1992)—locating in each productive engagements with different stages of neoliberalism and urban development.
Thursday April 22nd 7:30 EDT
THE HOLLOW THE IMAGE LEAVES EMPTY: ALTERITY, ABJECTION, AND THE THING
Instructor: Shelagh Rowan-Legg
In his treatise on psychoanalysis, Jacques Lacan makes reference to das ding, a thing-presentation that is the beyond of the signified. Das ding is the Other in absolute alterity, outside language and mainly characterized by the fact that, for Lacan, “it is impossible for us to imagine it”. In her essay “Powers of Horror”, Julie Kristeva, “The abject has only one quality of the object—that of being opposed to I”; the abject is exclusion, in a place without meaning, and from that place it cries out in revolt and brutish suffering. This is the essence of horror: that which can be neither known nor named. Through the lens The Thing, and texts such as Planet of the Vampires and It, this class will examine the horror where alterity and abjection meet.
Thursday May 20th 7:30 EDT
CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD: SPOORLOS
Instructor: Adam Nayman
George Sluizer’s 1988 thriller Spoorlos unfolds as a series of prophecies, including several of the self-fulfilling variety: its characters can envision the consequences of their actions but pursue them anyway. Where many genre films utilize the element of surprise, Spoorlos is constructed so that its characters — and the audience — can see everything coming. This creeping, inescapable dread makes Sluizer’s film a classic, and gives it a genuinely existential dimension. This class will analyze how Spoorlos plays with various literary and dramatic conventions from its shivery, premonitory prologue to its startling, retrospectively inevitable climax, while also examining its relationship to various cinematic influences (including Vampyr, Psycho and The Shining), and a comparison with its 1993 American remake The Vanishing—a curious and baffling case of a European filmmaker reworking and arguably disfiguring his own material in a Hollywood context.
SEEING AND FEELING JAPANESE HORROR: SCOPOPHILIA AND CLAUSTROPHILIA IN EDOGAWA RAMPO
Instructor: Seth JacobowitzEdogawa Rampo burst onto the literary scene in 1920s Japan with a rapid succession of short stories and novels that helped to articulate the cultural logic of “erotic, grotesque, nonsense” in the interwar period. He earned instant notoriety for his startling explorations of Japanese modernity: the lure of illicit or prohibited desires; a fascination with cinema and visual spectacles; the psychology of leisure, and thrill-seeking; and a seemingly inexhaustible wanderlust for the imperial metropolis Tokyo. This presentation will discuss scopophilia and claustrophilia as two predominant horror themes in Rampo’s fiction writing and their adaptation in the Japanese film and art worlds. We will explore his “Stalker in the Attic” (1926) and the film The Watcher in the Attic (1976) directed by Noboru Tanaka, the omnibus film Rampo Noir (2005), and Suehiro Maruo’s graphic novel The Strange Tale of Panorama Island (2010), among other works.
Thursday February 25th 7:30 PST
RICK BAKER: AN INTIMATE SELF-PORTRAIT
Instructors: Amy Voorhees Searles & Graham Skipper
Rick Baker is a world-renowned titan of the film industry whose curriculum vitae glitters with Oscar® gold. As a taciturn “monster kid” who whiled away youthful hours gleefully poring over love-worn copies of Famous Monsters of Filmland, reverently drawing images of his favorite horror stars, and customizing Aurora model kits, Baker found that his idiosyncratic affinities made him something of a misfit. Upon initial experimentation on himself. , the transformative qualities of makeup emboldened Baker to dabble in the performative and the outrageous. Though seemingly contradictory, donning these eerie exoskeletons of his own design are precisely what enabled Baker to come out of his metaphorical shell. Utilizing Baker’s self-portraits in the medium of monsters as our guide, we will track his personal and professional metamorphoses: from a boy to a man, and from a novice to a master.
Thursday March 25th 7:30pm PDT
AN ORGY OF TERROR: ITALIAN HORROR COMICS OF THE 1970S AND 80S
Instructor: Adam Twycross
At its height, Italian publishing house Edifumetto produced hundreds of individual titles and selling millions of copies every month, with their comics appearing across Europe, Central and South America, North Africa and French-speaking Canada. Typically appearing as small-format pocket digests, these comics were notable for their lushly painted cover art which featured work by some of Italy’s finest illustrators. Significant also were the explicitness of their themes and imagery, with storylines that blended nudity and sex with violence so gratuitous that it occasionally bordered on parody. This talk will discuss these extraordinary comics from a cultural and historical standpoint, examining both the transnational context within which they evolved, and the uniquely Italian environment that shaped their development.
Thursday April 29th 7:30 PDT
WALPURGISNACHT: FOLKLORE AND POPULAR CULTURE
Instructor: Mikel Koven
Walpurgisnacht, the evening of the 30th of April, is said to be one of the holiest days of witch’s calendar; the night before the feast of Saint Walpurga, who drove the witches out of Germany. Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, declared Walpurgisnacht one of the holiest days of the Satanic year. It was said that on this evening, covens of witches would gather on Brocken mountain in Northern Germany, to weave their nefarious evil. This class explores the folklore surrounding Walpurgisnacht and its representation in popular culture, including the poetry of Goethe, the music of Mendelssohn, the folk rock/folk metal sounds of Faun, and of course the films of Paul Naschy. How does all this fit together? Only the witches know and will reveal all on Walpurgisnacht 2021.
Thursday May 27th 7:30 PDT
PROJECTING HORRORS REAL, IMAGINARY AND METAPHORICAL: TRANS AND OTHER GENDER-NON-CONFORMING BODIES IN HORROR CINEMA
Instructor: Cerise Howard
Gender non-conformity has long been a marker in cinema for murderous villainy and psychosis or has been presented as reason enough for anyone thus marked to be dispatched from their narrative universes with excessive (and often casually misogynistic) force. For transgender and gender-diverse people, everyday life can be the stuff of horror, felt especially by trans people of color. Much of screen media production, has only served, through stereotyping and ignorance, to perpetuate the real traumas and horrors experienced routinely by trans people. This lecture will debunk no small number of harmful myths about transgender people, propagated by the screen media-industrial complex and in the horror movies historically produced within it. We’ll explore the ubiquity of trans narratives and imagery within horror cinema – even if they’ve most often been deployed at a metaphorical remove from being transgender narratives and imagery.