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Bodily sensation in contemporary extreme horror film

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posted on 26.03.2015, 10:11 authored by Sarah Downes
Bodily Sensation in Contemporary Extreme Horror Film provides a theory of horror film spectatorship rooted in the physiology of the viewer. In a novel contribution to the field of film studies research, it seeks to integrate contemporary scientific theories of mind with psychological paradigms of film interpretation. Proceeding from a connectionist model of brain function that proposes psychological processes are underpinned by neurology, this thesis contends that whilst conscious engagement with film often appears to be driven by psychosocial conditions – including cultural influence, gender dynamics and social situation – it is physiology and bodily sensation that provide the infrastructure upon which this superstructure rests. Drawing upon the philosophical works of George Lakoff, Mark Johnson and Alain Berthoz, the argument concentrates upon explicating the specific bodily sensations and experiences that contribute to the creation of implicit structures of understanding, or embodied schemata, that we apply to the world round us. Integrating philosophy with contemporary neurological research in the spheres of cognition and neurocinematics, a number of correspondences are drawn between physiological states and the concomitant psychological states often perceived to arise simultaneously alongside them. The thesis offers detailed analysis of a selection of extreme horror films that, it is contended, conscientiously incorporate the body of the viewer in the process of spectatorship through manipulation of visual, auditory, vestibular, gustatory and nociceptive sensory stimulations, simulations and the embodied schemata that arise from everyday physiological experience. The phenomenological film criticism of Vivian Sobchack and Laura U. Marks is adopted and expanded upon in order to suggest that the organicity of the human body guides and structures the psychosocial engagement with, and interpretation of, contemporary extreme horror film. This project thus exposes the body as the architectural foundation upon which conscious interaction with film texts occurs.





  • The Arts, English and Drama


  • English and Drama


© Sarah Downes

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.