Editor’s note: Wondering what’s happening in the classroom at Colgate? Here’s a real-time glimpse into academic life on campus — a syllabus from a course underway this semester.
FMST 352 “Horror” and the American Horror Film
Kevin Wynter, visiting assistant professor of Film & Media Studies
TR 2:45–4:00, 105 Little Hall
This course examines some the key factors that have contributed to the horror genre’s capacity to maintain its continued viability in popular culture across a wide range of media including graphic novels, video art, and interactive gaming.
Beginning with the modern period of the American horror film and then expanding beyond its physical and ideological borders, this course is designed to encourage students to challenge the ideas that have become associated with the term “horror,” and to consider whether some other term or terms may be better suited to describe the types of feelings horror films and related forms of media actually inspire.
The following questions will be considered: What is horror? Do horror-genre films truly inspire horror or are we, as participants, moved by some other affect or response? Is it possible to locate cinematic representations of horror and its experience outside of the horror genre?
Course readings include Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, Mark Seltzer’s Serial Killers: Death and Life in America’s Wound Culture, and various articles.
Coursework includes keeping a nightmare journal, in which students are asked to describe an “especially potent nightmare” that they have had and to consider it in relation to horror films screened in class. The class also requires students to present on class readings and write a short essay about Watchmen. The final paper, meant to take into account all that was explored over the course of semester, has the option of taking the shape of a video essay.
In addition to weekly meetings, there is a film screening on Thursday nights, 7–10 p.m. Students are expected to complete all reading assignments and come to class prepared to raise points of interest or difficulty. Attendance and class participation are crucial and will be taken into consideration when calculating the final grade.
The professor says:
After taking this course, you will never look at horror movies the same way. One of the learning goals I propose is to try to distinguish feelings of terror from feelings of horror, and to interrogate how horror movies really make us feel. What students soon come to learn is that the feeling of horror is not confined to the genre conventions they have become familiar with, but can be found with more intensity in films outside of the horror genre.