Congratulations are in order for Professor Jessica Williams, Visiting Instructor in the English Department. She presented a paper entitled “Horror Movies, Horror Bodies” at the New York College English Association (NYCEA) Annual Conference this November. Her paper won the NYCEA Award for Best Graduate Student Paper. Prof. Williams’s paper was excerpted from her dissertation, New Forms, Other Bodies: media, performative identity, and the reemergence of the American freak show, which she is completing at St. John’s University.
“Horror Movies, Horror Bodies” examines Tod Browning’s 1932 horror film Freaks as a site of conflict between normal and disabled bodies and argues that Freaks has become a reference point for subsequent horror. Williams contends that with the normalizing gaze, the fear of contact with the freak, the sexual narratives surrounding the freak body, and the sympathetic characterizations of the monstrous, horror defines the freak body in relation to normal activity while asserting that we still see and think about the disabled body as abnormal. Her discussion of Freaks helps underscore her larger argument about the American freak show institution and how, through its appropriation, changing media have worked to separate viewer and object both temporally and spatially while bringing conflicting bodies closer together on screens.