Shaping Fear: A Brief History of the Monstrous
The rise of horror literature, art, and even music in the late 18th century marks a deep reaction to the Enlightenment promise of the powers of reason and the revolutionary promise of a utopian future. Whatever the “modern” promised, it seemed to lack the emotional connection to the hidden fears of an audience fascinated with ghosts, demons, and later vampires and zombies. Even in religion, the rationalist argument from design of Clockmaker God was increasingly shunted aside in favor of more affective forms of spirituality. Developments in botany and agriculture may have undermined superstitious beliefs about the causes of crop failure, but fears of invisible powers remained.
Addressing those fears will be USC Professor Leo Braudy, who wrote the new book, Haunted: On Ghosts, Witches, Vampires, Zombies, and Other Monsters of the Natural and Supernatural Worlds, from which this talk is drawn. Braudy will talk about the four prime monsters who arose from the ferment of the Enlightenment period that have remained powerful over the centuries: The Monster from Nature, the Created Monster, the Monster from Within, and the Monster from the Past. Each corresponds to a cultural fear that the modern world in its rush forward has left something vital behind. They have remained a handy shorthand for all the anxieties about the future that, for example, science and technology especially have created. Mary Shelley knew nothing about cloning or genetic modifications or organ transplants, but the image of Frankenstein stands as metaphor for them all and more.
Braudy is University Professor and Bing Professor of English and American literature at USC. His other books include The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and Its History (1986) and From Chivalry to Terrorism: War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity (2003).
NOTE: The L.A. Marathon is running down Hollywood Blvd. that morning. Although most of them will have passed our building by lecture time, you may want to add a few minutes to your travel time.Note: This lecture will not be repeated in Costa Mesa.
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