Monsters and Monstrosities Keynote

In 2016, we were honoured to have by Dr. Xavier Aldana Reyes keynote Reimagining the Gothic: Monsters and Monstrosities. If you want a taste of what it was like, you can read Dr. Xavier Aldana Reyes’s abstract and bio below!

Rethinking the Monstrous-Feminine: The (Un)Gendered Body of Abjection

This talk takes issue with gendered approaches to abjection that have put the body of ‘woman’, especially that of the mother, at the heart of the moment of monstrous repulsion. Focusing on the work of Barbara Creed, who borrows from Kristeva, I make a distinction between representational monstrosity and its cinematographic presentation. Arguing for the need to separate thematic concerns (the teenage female body in Ginger Snaps) from affective and emotional dispositional states (the way the werewolf body actually scares), I also argue for the potential dangers of their conflation. Like well-known ‘repressive’ approaches to sexual identity (vampirism as metaphor for homosexual desire, for example), these models run the risk of misreading (un)gendered monstrosity as the perpetuation of repulsive models of femininity and female corporeality.

In order to make room for a destigmatising rethinking of the monstrous-feminine, then, I propose that we also rethink our position as regards abjection. Reading it less as an effect of deep psychology and more as a body-based form of fearful disgust, I argue that abjection is more readily connected to our corporeal vulnerability. Monstrous abjection indicates less the abstract contamination or cross-pollination of boundaries than it does the brutal reality of a direct object of threat.

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Dr. Xavier Aldana Reyes is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature and Film at Manchester Metropolitan University and a member of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies. His books on Gothic and Horror film and fiction include Body Gothic: Corporeal Transgression in Contemporary Literature and Horror Film (UWP, 2014), Digital Horror: Haunted Technologies, Network Panic and the Found Footage Phenomenon (co-edited with Linnie Blake; I.B. Tauris, 2015), Horror Film and Affect: Towards a Corporeal Model of Viewership (Routledge, 2016) and Horror: A Literary History (editor; British Library, 2016). Xavier is also the editor of UWP’s Horror Studies book series.