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Trauma and Horror from Alain Resnais to American Cinema
Instructor: Yonca Talu
“To write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric,” Theodor Adorno famously declared in 1949. The unspeakable atrocities of World War II compelled artists to search for new ways of engaging with history. Pioneering French director Alain Resnais (1922-2014) responded by breaking with linear storytelling in favor of a fragmented aesthetic that subverted structures of space and time. Resnais’ experiments with mise en scène, editing, and sound not only capture the fractured postwar reality but also mimic the internal workings of trauma itself to convey the experience of war victims, survivors, and witnesses.
This course brings Resnais’ filmography from 1950 to 1963 into conversation with post-1968 American horror cinema, itself inseparable from the theme of historical trauma. We will begin with an overview of psychological trauma, drawing on research and testimonies to establish the relationship between traumatic experience and cinematic horror. Each subsequent class will comparatively analyse Resnais’ films and key works of modern horror cinema, including Hiroshima mon amour (Resnais, 1959), Last Year at Marienbad (Resnais, 1961), Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968), and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974).
Taking psychological and historical trauma as a starting point, the course will chart a genealogy of motifs, such as zombies and possession, that weave through horror cinema and permeate popular culture today. While giving us the tools to spot the omnipresent links between cinema, history, and psychology, this genealogy will also help us appreciate the modern horror genre’s potential for allegorical depth and political subversion.
Maximum enrollment: 10
18 hours (6 weeks)
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