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Title: Horror on the Home Front : The Female Monster Cycle, World War Two and Historical Reception Studies
Author: Snelson, Tim
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2009
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This study examines a distinct Hollywood production cycle from 1942 to 1946 in which women, for a brief moment, supplanted men in horror cinema's key role of the monster. Adopting a historical reception studies approach, this study analyses this industry strategy in relation to its wartime contexts of production, mediation and consumption. It summarily challenges established historical and theoretical understandings of the horror genre. It demonstrates that the success of Cat People (1942) inspired a cycle of more than twenty female monster films - ones with distinctive tropes, themes and stylistic traits - that were understood in relation to each other by industry and critics. Furthermore, analysis of the narrative and promotional strategies of these films demonstrates that they were targeted predominantly at female audiences, addressing their contextually specific desires, experiences and fears. This challenges dominant psychological approaches to horror that suggest that the genre is addressed almost exclusively towards male spectators. Having situated these films within their specific historical conditions of production and circulation, this study ultimately returns to the texts themselves. It suggests that these representations of corporeal conflict and contestation provided sites of confluence for diverse cultural concerns relating to wartime shifts in gender roles. As the aforementioned archival research suggests, these wider social dialogues and discursive struggles - ones that situated the female body as a key `transfer point' for debates about wartime nationhood - provided important and attractive `interpretative strategies' for female audiences. Therefore, through analysis of this unique horror cycle, this study challenges dominant assumptions about women's relationship to horror texts; it provides a compelling model for analysis of media production cycles; it reorients the understanding of production, reception and exhibition practices within this oft misunderstood period of Hollywood history; and it enlivens wider social histories addressing women's experiences of American home front life.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available