Monsters, Perversion, and Enjoyment: Toward a Psychoanalytic Theory of Postmodern Horror

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Abstract

This essay looks at ”horror” both as a narrative (literary and especially cinematic) genre and as a trans-genre, postmodern social and cultural milieu, one in which horror has become entangled with excessive, pathological fantasy and enjoyment. First, the traditional, 19th-century literary-Gothic motifs (excess, monstrosity, transgression, and uncanny doubling) will be explored in the light of such psychoanalytic concepts as the uncanny, extimacy, and the ”subject-beyond-subjectivization.” Then the reworking or transformation of these motifs, especially the monster motif, in contemporary ”postmodern” horror films like Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs (1991) will be discussed. This ”new Monster” will be described in terms of the superego, aggression, and perversion in our contemporary ”culture of enjoyment”; a key notion here is the move from Freudian superego as the collective moral voice of society (moral conscience) to Lacanian superego as perverse command to ”enjoy ourselves.” The essay's final section offers some psychoanalytical-ethical reflections on reading contemporary, horror-immersed culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-110
Number of pages24
JournalConcentric
Volume33
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Keywords

  • enjoyment
  • extimacy
  • fantasy
  • Gothic
  • horror
  • monster
  • Father-jouissance
  • perversion
  • postmodern
  • superego
  • uncanny

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