Rethinking Film Bodies: Beyond Gender, Genre, and Excess

deadline for submissions:
August 10, 2017
full name / name of organization:
SCMS, Toronto–March 14-18, 2018
contact email:

Over a quarter of a century ago, Linda Williams’ groundbreaking “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess” was published in Film Quarterly. Her seminal article not only brought together distinct areas of film studies (genre criticism, spectatorial response, taste cultures, gender and sexuality, emotion and sensation in cinema) that are still highly relevant today, but also theoretical frameworks that have traditionally been kept separate. Although grounded in a psychoanalytic model for understanding structures of desire, fantasy, and identification, Williams’ essay at the same time marked a turning point towards a corpus of scholarship that is more attuned to and engaged with the embodied film-viewing experience.

We propose returning to “Film Bodies” in light of the exponentially growing scholarly thought on and through horror, pornography, and melodrama in the past twenty years, as well as a renewed interest in the problematics of materiality, perception, feeling and sensation in the wake of the affective turn. We want to explore the ways Williams’ essay still influences current theoretical debates while taking into account more recent perspectives on these—and other—body genres and advances in a number of approaches (cognitivist, phenomenological, affective, and psychoanalytic). As these schools of thought become increasingly polarized, if not antagonistic, we ask if there is a way to combine their insights into a more encompassing critical methodology to open up new avenues of inquiry for film theory.

Proposal topics could include but are not limited to:

Critical work in horror, porn, and melodrama in conversation with Williams
Or additional “body” genres that she doesn’t discuss
The problem of “grossness” or sensationalism and/as excess
In excess of what? Should we see emotion and sensation as gratuitous?
The materiality of the bodily reactions, secretions, and fluids as a basis for genre criticism
Affective and embodied viewing practices that highlight the role of our and the films’ “bodies”
Spectatorial identification and fantasy along/across/against (?) strictly gender lines
Masochistic or sadistic viewing pleasures
Moving beyond a psychoanalytic model for desire and fantasy
Feminist film theory in the wake of Williams’ insights
Should we also rethink her models of gender difference and desire as political acts?
Distinctions (or lack thereof) between high and low genres and their capacity for political action/criticism
Hybrid theoretical approaches—combining genre theory, psychoanalysis, affect studies or other methodologies

Please send abstract (ca. 300 words) plus bibliography (3–5 entries) and author bio (50–100 words) to Dewey Musante and Ella Tucan at Deadline is August 10, 2017; those chosen will hear back by August 14. Proposal forms due to panel organizers by August 21 if chosen.

Hyperreal Hillbillies and Geeks: Exploring Contemporary Cultural Identities (Roundtable)

deadline for submissions:
September 30, 2017
full name / name of organization:
Carter Soles, The College at Brockport (SUNY)
contact email:

Hyperreal Hillbillies and Geeks: Exploring Contemporary Cultural Identities (Roundtable) (ID # 16833)

The 49th Annual Northeast MLA (NeMLA) Convention, April 12-15, 2018 Pittsburgh, PA

As we argue in our essay, “Postmodern Geekdom as Simulated Ethnicity,” economically privileged geeks and their slacker foils have risen as protagonists in mainstream entertainment because they have authenticating features which mark them with ennobling melodramatic suffering while eschewing abject qualities that would alienate them from audiences. As this phenomenon has progressed, another type of protagonist, the hillbillly, has arisen alongside the geek and is often featured in media with geek and slacker foils. For example, the novel Ready Player One, the comic and television adaptation of The Walking Dead, and the recent memoir Hillbilly Elegy all feature geeks alongside rural poor characters.

Hillbilly protagonists are more complex to analyze because they have significant actual authentic suffering built into their identities based in real-world economic and cultural marginalization. However, these authenticating features, while they are based in true suffering, also serve to centralize the whiteness of hillbilly protagonists.

Jean Baudrillard defines the hyperreal as a “real” that lacks any relationship to the imaginary, a simulation that replaces and displaces the “real” thing (Simulacra and Simulation 2). For example, The Walking Dead’s Daryl Dixon functions as a “hyperreal hillbilly” whose brutal childhood implicitly enhances his survival skills while negative attributes stereotypically associated with such an upbringing (such as bigotry) are muted. The hillbillies of reality TV are also hyperreal in the sense that they are often simulations. The protagonists of Duck Dynasty were mostly beardless businessmen who wore mainstream clothing before they decided to market themselves as backwoods.

This roundtable welcomes brief, informal presentations on any aspect of media centering on geeks, slackers, and/or hillbillies–and the places and texts where they overlap. We welcome analyses that consider these hyperreal identities and their intersections with gender, sex, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, and disability.

Silent Horror

deadline for submissions:
August 7, 2017
full name / name of organization:
Murray Leeder/University of Calgary
contact email:

This is a CFP for a panel at the 2018 meeting of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS), to be held March 14-18, 2018 at the Sheraton Centre, Toronto, ON, March  about which you may read here:


With the term “horror film” not entering widespread use until the early 1930s, “silent horror” is perhaps an inherently anachronistic concept. And yet few would deny that the fundamentals of the horror film were established in the silent era. We are accustomed to thinking of many of the important works of German Expressionism (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari/The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922), Orlacs Hände/The Hands of Orlac (1924), Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam/The Golem: How He Came Into The World (1920) and more) as horror films. From the United States, the cycles about deformity (many starring Lon Chaney and directed by Tod Browning) and the largely theatre-derived comic horror film, emblematized by The Bat (1926) and The Cat and the Canary (1927) became part of the emerging paradigm of the horror film. Other parts of the world saw other productions that would come to be claimed as horror, notably Häxan/Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922) and Kurutta Ippēji/A Page of Madness (1926).


This panel seeks a variety of papers on the history, aesthetics and themes of the silent horror film, exploring multiple facets of a fascinating, neglected topic.


— Definitional challenges – when did the horror film begin and how far can this generic label be usefully extended. (for example, can/should certain of early cinema’s trick films be include under the heading “horror film)?

— Different national traditions of silent horror

— The relationship of silent horror to other genres (comedy, melodrama, the Western, fantasy, science fiction, romance, etc.)

— The relationship of screen horror to theatre (especially in the U.S. in the 1920s).

— Griffith and horror (The Avenging Conscience (1914), One Exciting Night (1922))

— Adaptations and cultural respectability (Poe, Shelley, Stevenson, Hugo, etc.)

— Individual monsters and horror themes (vampires, lycanthropes, apes, the Devil, disfigured persons, ghosts, etc.)

— Horror and the avant-garde

— Post-silent era silent horror, and the role of silent era pastiche in later films (Guy Maddin, William Castle’s Shanks (1974), The Call of Cthulhu (2005))

— Key figures, both famous (Chaney, Browning, Paul Leni, F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, Karl Freund, etc.) and neglected


Please send 300-word abstract, 200-word biography, and 3-5 citations to Murray Leeder ( by August 7, 2017.

At home with horror? Terror on the small screen

deadline for submissions:
June 30, 2017
full name / name of organization:
The Melodrama Research Group/University of Kent
contact email:

The Melodrama Research Group presents:

At home with horror? Terror on the small screen

27th-28th October 2017

University of Kent

Keynote speaker: Dr Helen Wheatley (University of Warwick)


The recent horror output on TV and the small screen challenges what Matt Hills found to be the overriding assumption ‘that film is the [horror] genre’s ‘natural’ home’ (Hills 2005, 111). Programmes such as American Horror Story, Penny Dreadful and The Walking Dead are aligned to ‘‘quality TV’, yet use horror imagery and ideas to present a form and style of television that is ‘not ordinary’’ (Johnston 2016, 11). Developments in industrial practices and production technology have resulted in a more spectacular horror in the medium, which Hills argues is the ‘making cinematic’ of television drama (Hills 2010, 23). The generic hybridity of television programmes such as Whitechapel, and Ripper Street allow conventions of the horror genre to be employed within the narrative and aesthetics, creating new possibilities for the animation of horror on the small screen. Series such as Bates Motel and Scream adapt cinematic horror to a serial format, positioning the small screen (including terrestrial, satellite and online formats) as the new home for horror.

The history of television and horror has often displayed a problematic relationship. As a medium that operates within a domestic setting, television has previously been viewed as incompatible with ‘authentic’ horror. Television has been approached as incapable of mobilizing the intense audience reactions associated with the genre and seen as a medium ‘restricted’ in its ability to scare and horrify audiences partly due to censorship constraints (Waller 1987) and scheduling arrangements. Such industrial practices have been seen as tempering the genre’s aesthetic agency resulting in inferior cinematic imitations or, ‘degraded made-for-TV sequels’ (Waller 1987, 146). For Waller, the technology of television compounded the medium’s ability to animate horror and directed its initial move towards a more ‘restrained’ form of the genre such as adapting literary ghost stories and screening RKO productions of the 1940s (Ibid 1987). Inferior quality of colour and resolution provided the opportunity to suggest rather than show. Horror, then, has presented a challenge for television: how can the genre be positioned in such a family orientated and domesticated medium? As Hills explains, ‘In such a context, horror is conceptualised as a genre that calls for non- prime-time scheduling… and [thus] automatically excluded from attracting a mass audience despite the popularity of the genre in other media’ (Hills 2005, 118).

Helen Wheatley’s monograph, Gothic Television (2006), challenges the approach of television as a limiting medium for horror, and instead focuses on how the domestic setting of the television set is key to its effectiveness.  Focusing on the female Gothic as a domestic genre, Wheatley draws a lineage from early literary works, to the 1940s cycle of Gothic women films and Gothic television of the 1950s onwards. Wheatley argues for the significance of the domestic setting in experiencing stories of domestic anxiety for, ‘the aims of the Gothic drama made for television [are] to suggest a congruence between the domestic spaces on the screen and the domestic reception context’ (Wheatley 2006, 191).

Developments in small screen horror are not restricted to contemporary output. In his work on the cultural history of horror, Mark Jancovich argues that it was on television in the 1990s where key developments in the genre were taking place (Jancovich 2002). Taking Jancovich’s work as a cue, Hills develops his own approach to the significance of horror television of the 1990s. Hills cites Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X Files as examples of programmes striving to mobilise the genre’s more graphic elements while existing as a ‘high-end’ cultural product: ‘authored’ TV that targeted a niche fan audience (Hills 2005, 126).

Taking these recent developments into account, the aim of this conference is to engage with such advances. Can we say that it is on the small screen where critical and creative innovations in horror are now being made? How has the expansion of satellite television and online sites impacted on the genre? How has the small screen format developed the possibilities of horror? Is the recent alignment with ‘quality TV’ evidence of horror’s new mainstream status? This conference will also reflect on seminal works on television horror and revisit the history of the genre. In addressing these questions the conference will underline the importance of the small screen for horror, within the study of the genre and of the medium, and ask: is the small screen now the home of horror?

Topics can include but are not limited to:

  • The seasons and horror on the small screen
  • Gothic television
  • Gender and horror
  • Historical figures and events in small screen horror
  • Small screen horror as an ‘event’
  • Adaptation from cinema to small screen ‘re-imaginings’
  • Production contexts
  • Censorship and the small screen
  • Serialisation and horror production
  • National television production of horror
  • The impact of Netflix and Amazon Prime
  • TV history and horror
  • Literary adaptations
  • Children’s TV and horror
  • Genre hybridity
  • Fandom
  • Teen horror
  • Stardom and horror


Please submit proposals of 400 words, along with a short biographical note (250 words) to by Friday 30th June 2017. We welcome 20 minute conference papers as well as submissions for creative work or practice-as-research including, but not limited to, short films and video essays.


Conference organisers: Katerina Flint-Nicol and Ann-Marie Fleming

Representing “Home:” The 2017 Film & History Conference

CFP: Melodrama: Home is Where the Heart Is

An area of multiple panels for the 2017 Film & History Conference
Representing “Home”: The Real and Imagined Spaces of Belonging
The Hilton Milwaukee City Center, Milwaukee, WI (USA)
November 1-November 5, 2017

DEADLINE for abstracts: Early acceptance: June 1, 2017; General acceptance: July 1, 2017

Melodrama, in the words of Ben Singer, is a topic that “[remains] close to the heart and hearth.” From the maternal melodramas of the 1930s and 1940s (Stella Dallas, Mildred Pierce) to the great family melodramas of the 1950s by filmmakers such as Nicholas Ray, Vincente Minnelli, and Douglas Sirk, the genre was known for stylistic excess, overwrought emotion, and tales of tears, maternal sacrifice, and desperate domesticity.

How have our understandings of these classic films so closely tied to “home” shifted over time? How has the melodrama come to be seen not as a single genre, but as the underlying mode of mainstream American cinema—encompassing practically every genre? What does it mean that the fundamental traits of melodrama—pathos, wronged victims, the loss of innocence, nostalgia for the past, and stark moral conflicts—have come to be understood as the bedrock not only of American cinema, but much of American culture and politics more generally?

This area invites 20-minute papers (inclusive of visual presentations) on melodrama. Topics include, but are not limited to:

• Family, or domestic, melodramas
• The idea of the melodramatic home as a “space of innocence.”
• New takes on classic family melodramas, such as Home from the Hill, Written on the Wind, Imitation of Life, Splendor in the Grass, Bigger than Life
• The maternal melodrama (from Stella Dallas to Thirteen)
• Melodrama and film style
• Melodramatic stars
• Soap operas (daytime or primetime, older or more recent)
• Melos (music) + drama
• Melodrama auteurs
• Melodrama and race
• The history of melodrama within film studies
• The melodramatic underpinnings of any genre
• Melodrama and global cinema

Proposals for complete panels (three related presentations) are also welcome, but they must include an abstract and contact information, including an e-mail address, for each presenter. For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website (

Please e-mail your 200-word proposal to the area chair:

Chad Newsom
Savannah College of Art and Design