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In this examination of the monster as cultural object, J. Jack Halberstam offers a rereading of the monstrous that revises our view of the Gothic. Moving from the nineteenth century and the works of Shelley, Stevenson, Stoker, and Wilde to contemporary horror film exemplified by such movies as Silence of the Lambs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Candyman, Skin Shows understa In this examination of the monster as cultural object, J. Jack Halberstam offers a rereading of the monstrous that revises our view of the Gothic. Moving from the nineteenth century and the works of Shelley, Stevenson, Stoker, and Wilde to contemporary horror film exemplified by such movies as Silence of the Lambs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Candyman, Skin Shows understands the Gothic as a versatile technology, a means of producing monsters that is constantly being rewritten by historically and culturally conditioned fears generated by a shared sense of otherness and difference. Deploying feminist and queer approaches to the monstrous body, Halberstam views the Gothic as a broad-based cultural phenomenon that supports and sustains the economic, social, and sexual hierarchies of the time. She resists familiar psychoanalytic critiques and cautions against any interpretive attempt to reduce the affective power of the monstrous to a single factor. The nineteenth-century monster is shown, for example, as configuring otherness as an amalgam of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Invoking Foucault, Halberstam describes the history of monsters in terms of its shifting relation to the body and its representations. As a result, her readings of familiar texts are radically new. She locates psychoanalysis itself within the gothic tradition and sees sexuality as a beast created in nineteenth century literature. Excessive interpretability, Halberstam argues, whether in film, literature, or in the culture at large, is the actual hallmark of monstrosity.


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In this examination of the monster as cultural object, J. Jack Halberstam offers a rereading of the monstrous that revises our view of the Gothic. Moving from the nineteenth century and the works of Shelley, Stevenson, Stoker, and Wilde to contemporary horror film exemplified by such movies as Silence of the Lambs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Candyman, Skin Shows understa In this examination of the monster as cultural object, J. Jack Halberstam offers a rereading of the monstrous that revises our view of the Gothic. Moving from the nineteenth century and the works of Shelley, Stevenson, Stoker, and Wilde to contemporary horror film exemplified by such movies as Silence of the Lambs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Candyman, Skin Shows understands the Gothic as a versatile technology, a means of producing monsters that is constantly being rewritten by historically and culturally conditioned fears generated by a shared sense of otherness and difference. Deploying feminist and queer approaches to the monstrous body, Halberstam views the Gothic as a broad-based cultural phenomenon that supports and sustains the economic, social, and sexual hierarchies of the time. She resists familiar psychoanalytic critiques and cautions against any interpretive attempt to reduce the affective power of the monstrous to a single factor. The nineteenth-century monster is shown, for example, as configuring otherness as an amalgam of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Invoking Foucault, Halberstam describes the history of monsters in terms of its shifting relation to the body and its representations. As a result, her readings of familiar texts are radically new. She locates psychoanalysis itself within the gothic tradition and sees sexuality as a beast created in nineteenth century literature. Excessive interpretability, Halberstam argues, whether in film, literature, or in the culture at large, is the actual hallmark of monstrosity.

30 review for Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters

  1. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    This is one of the few truly academic texts that I would recommend to laypeople. It does a excellent job laying out its theoretical framework and presenting a clear, even entertaining argument. Halberstam's connections between depictions of race, gender and sexuality are wonderfully done - they are useful for anyone trying to make similar connections in whatever genre they've chosen for their project. I especially liked how she extended the Gothic not to the overtly gothically-inspired materials This is one of the few truly academic texts that I would recommend to laypeople. It does a excellent job laying out its theoretical framework and presenting a clear, even entertaining argument. Halberstam's connections between depictions of race, gender and sexuality are wonderfully done - they are useful for anyone trying to make similar connections in whatever genre they've chosen for their project. I especially liked how she extended the Gothic not to the overtly gothically-inspired materials of the twentieth-century, instead moving onto to both high and low horror films. Given the role late eighteenth-century Gothic novels had in the literary hierarchy at the time, a connection to the Candyman films is a brilliant continuation.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Charles Michael Fischer

    One of the finest pieces of scholarship I've ever read. If you're interested in a complex study of the Gothic and Monstrosity written in clear, jargon-free prose, you must read this book. One of the finest pieces of scholarship I've ever read. If you're interested in a complex study of the Gothic and Monstrosity written in clear, jargon-free prose, you must read this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rambling Reader

    wonderful

  4. 5 out of 5

    Matt Sautman

    Halbertsam’s training as a literary shines through here via their study of gothic texts and horror film. While Halberstam’s claims about posthumanism here feel a bit underdeveloped or possibly just outdated in an era where posthumanism has a more explicit sci-fi bent, the focus on how Gothic and horror creates Others is fascinating, as are the sections dedicated to skin and the body.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michael Benavidez

    I'm gonna preface this whole review with the total fact that I am not a deep intellectual. I have not gone to college or studied or anything. I am dufus with delusions of grandeur and I'm okay with that. Most of what I know I've learned myself from reading essays like this book. And really, I did learn a lot. Granted, I've not yet read Frankenstein (though I've consumed so much media about it, adaptations, spoofs, etc.) or The Picture of Dorian Grey (in the process of correcting that now), which I'm gonna preface this whole review with the total fact that I am not a deep intellectual. I have not gone to college or studied or anything. I am dufus with delusions of grandeur and I'm okay with that. Most of what I know I've learned myself from reading essays like this book. And really, I did learn a lot. Granted, I've not yet read Frankenstein (though I've consumed so much media about it, adaptations, spoofs, etc.) or The Picture of Dorian Grey (in the process of correcting that now), which are two of the original basis for Gothic that the author uses to deconstruct the genre (the other two being Dracula and Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde. The essays create multiple ways of seeing the story and what lies beneath. It takes those four stories as the foundation for what we would come to know as Gothic horror, showcase what about them means gothic, as well as giving us the ideas of what the author's intentionally and most times unintentionally put between the lines. The author goes even further at times to display how certain themes can be taken for the world of today, in a world where sexuality and politics are somewhat kinda not really but yes really the same and different. One of the excellent things I found about this was the way the author really went about of connecting these stories into the modern horror of today. I really want to go a bit more into this, but this is a book I've got to revisit after having read the original Frankenstein and Picture of Dorian Gray (well in my case, listen to.) Still a valuable read, easy to understand, with ideas galore.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Collins

    Skin Shows is one of those books which landed on my shelves when I was in academia, but which I was so curious about that I kept it around to read (eventually) even after leaving that world behind me. And, truly, I'm glad I did. Although this book is undeniably academic in nature, it's also so accessible and readable that I found myself reading far more in one sitting than I ever would have expected. Halberstam's analysis and discussions of horror, as grouped around both classic literary texts ( Skin Shows is one of those books which landed on my shelves when I was in academia, but which I was so curious about that I kept it around to read (eventually) even after leaving that world behind me. And, truly, I'm glad I did. Although this book is undeniably academic in nature, it's also so accessible and readable that I found myself reading far more in one sitting than I ever would have expected. Halberstam's analysis and discussions of horror, as grouped around both classic literary texts (such as Frankenstein and Dracula) and more recent films (such as Silence of the Lambs and Texas Chainsaw Massacre), range from covering the ground of literary theory on to psychoanalysis, so that an incredible amount of thoughtful commentary is packed into the relatively short book. The ideas are offered with a depth and thoughtfulness that add weight to each discussion of the monstrous and what it entails. For anyone interested, I'd certainly recommend the book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    nad

    soooooo gooood! I felt stuck in the psychoanalysis angle for my thesis because all the material I’ve read thus far is very much anchored in that and Halberstam successfully outlines the possibilities but also limitations of these theories for anything gothic & horror related. very enlightening for me. 4/5

  8. 5 out of 5

    Henry

    3.5/5 very interesting analysis on gothic horror but leans a bit heavy on freud at times

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    3.5 stars. The author makes some interesting observations and arguments for theories about Gothic fiction and modern horror in general, as well as about some specific works. For example: "...while nineteenth-century Gothic monstrosity was a combination of the features of deviant race, class, and gender, within contemporary horror, the monster, for various reasons, tends to show clearly the markings of deviant sexualities and gendering but less clearly the signs of class or race." (p. 3-4) And th 3.5 stars. The author makes some interesting observations and arguments for theories about Gothic fiction and modern horror in general, as well as about some specific works. For example: "...while nineteenth-century Gothic monstrosity was a combination of the features of deviant race, class, and gender, within contemporary horror, the monster, for various reasons, tends to show clearly the markings of deviant sexualities and gendering but less clearly the signs of class or race." (p. 3-4) And then: "The fact that monstrosity within contemporary horror seems to have stabilized into an amalgam of sex and gender demonstrates the need to read a history of otherness into and out of the history of Gothic fiction." (p. 6) The author uses anti-Semitism as an example of inspiration for various Gothic monsters, such as Dracula (so Stoker was probably a massive anti-Semite - hate it, but good to know): "Gothic anti-Semitism makes the Jew a monster with bad blood and it defines monstrosity as a mixture of bad blood, unstable gender identity, sexual and economic parasitism, and degeneracy." (p. 91) However, the author did lose me a bit when citing a source that stated that Frankenstein is an allegory for Communism because the monster is literally a collective monster (a collection of parts).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michael Dipietro

    So I'm still working on this one and skipping around to different chapters. I was intrigued by reading an excerpt from this in The Gothic/Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art series. So far, Halberstam's analyses are extremely rich with possibility; and I like how she posits the monster as a sort of figure of deconstruction by defining monster-ness by its multiplicity of semiotic interpretations. The only drawback is that I think her writing gets annoyingly punny and indulges in word play So I'm still working on this one and skipping around to different chapters. I was intrigued by reading an excerpt from this in The Gothic/Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art series. So far, Halberstam's analyses are extremely rich with possibility; and I like how she posits the monster as a sort of figure of deconstruction by defining monster-ness by its multiplicity of semiotic interpretations. The only drawback is that I think her writing gets annoyingly punny and indulges in word play that at times dumbs down her arguments. You don't need to close every paragraph with a clever aphorism!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rhi

    Jack Halberstam's writing enters accessibly into complex academic discourse, and is a pure pleasure to read. /Skin Shows/ ties the 19th Century Gothic monster to its corollaries in 20th/21st C. horror and slasher films, illuminating the cheeky comedy of the former, and the philosophical depth of the latter. Halberstam's argumentation of the Gothic is based in an intersectional framework that challenges the readers of this book to avoid universalizing readings of Gothic texts from any period. Com Jack Halberstam's writing enters accessibly into complex academic discourse, and is a pure pleasure to read. /Skin Shows/ ties the 19th Century Gothic monster to its corollaries in 20th/21st C. horror and slasher films, illuminating the cheeky comedy of the former, and the philosophical depth of the latter. Halberstam's argumentation of the Gothic is based in an intersectional framework that challenges the readers of this book to avoid universalizing readings of Gothic texts from any period. Come for the chainsaws, stay for the impeccably crafted analysis of both literature and its critics.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    Ms. Halberstam provides a lucid consideration of the gothic as reflected in classic 19th century fiction and late 20th century horror films. Her theories on the gothic as an expression of community fears and viewership in the horror film are innovative. In addition, her careful research has led me to several other works in the field.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Steve Wiggins

    Monsters are always with us, and, as Halberstam shows, are part of us. Not always an easy book to read, this literary study does take the reader through many shadowy, Gothic hallways, and shows how much monsters reveal about us. More comments may be found at: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World. Monsters are always with us, and, as Halberstam shows, are part of us. Not always an easy book to read, this literary study does take the reader through many shadowy, Gothic hallways, and shows how much monsters reveal about us. More comments may be found at: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    Complex, well researched, thorough - an example of excellent scholarship. This author inspired my PhD, and this book will be a key source for my own study. A must for students of monstrosity, horror, and the cultural representation of embodied identity.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    So far a great history of the gothic starting with Mary Shelly and 19th c literature. Halberstam traces the gothic up through contemporary horror films and gives a refreshing and much more open feminist and queer theory reading of the "monster as other". So far a great history of the gothic starting with Mary Shelly and 19th c literature. Halberstam traces the gothic up through contemporary horror films and gives a refreshing and much more open feminist and queer theory reading of the "monster as other".

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    Really helpful cross-disciplinary reading for my project! Monsters! Transgressions! Hybrids!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vivian Wong

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lucas Chance

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ellison Skinner

  20. 4 out of 5

    Vero Mondragon

  21. 5 out of 5

    Drina

  22. 5 out of 5

    Nurse_clavell

  23. 4 out of 5

    Teri

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lauryl

  26. 5 out of 5

    gabrielle hawkins

  27. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

  28. 5 out of 5

    Saurabh

  29. 5 out of 5

    Greg

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paul

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