These questions are intended to assist in guiding your reading and viewing. They do not need to be answered, but they may assist as you complete the required assignments for the course.
Hoffmann and Related Visuals
- What effect does the style of the story, beginning with Nathaniel’s letter, have on your experience of reading it?
- What makes the story of the “sandman” so horrible?
- What is the point of all the doubles, especially all the father figures, in the story and which ones do you find alarming?
- What do you think of the image of love in the story? Especially when Nathaniel falls in love with the mechanical Olympia and rejects the real Klara
- Why does Tarkovsky show the world as dissolving and replace logical cause and effect with a series of dream images?
- Is it important that he is drawing on childhood memories, as is Verbinski? What are they saying about childhood?
Freud and related visuals
- What does Freud say about Hoffmann’s story in his close reading of it and what is its connection to the concept of the “uncanny”?
- How does Freud define the “uncanny” exactly?
- Why, according to Freud, do people usually call an experience or event uncanny? What is their psychological motivation?Why does Freud emphasize that an uncanny effect is produced when the boundary between fantasy and reality is blurred, when what we thought was either imaginary or symbolic becomes actual?
- What are the rules that govern how the uncanny functions and how are they different in artistic as opposed to real-world contexts?
- Does Gaiman’s graphic novel capture the experience of dreaming and the threat of the Sandman/Morpheus?
- Why are mirrors the gateways to death for both Cocteau and the Wachowski Brothers?
- Why do we agree to step into mirrors and dreams, even though we have been warned of the risks?
- For both Hitchcock and Shimizu, why is the focus on the eyes, on staring and being blinded?
Baudelaire and related visuals
- What kind of place is Paris?
- Who is the narrator of the poems? And what kind of relationship does Baudelaire create with his reader? And did you want to keep reading?
- What effect does he create with his use of disturbing images and language?
- What world does he ask the reader to enter?
- Pick one of the poems and imagine how the poem would sound and feel if all the alarming material was removed. Does Baudelaire need to shock us in order to make his point?
- Why do both Lynch and Harron pick very ordinary, physical things for their art?
- What do you think about their emphasis on horror as being part of ordinary life?
Rimbaud and related visuals
- What sort of persona does Rimbaud create for his poetry? Who do you imagine the speaker to be?
- What effect is created by the energy and the hostility of the text? Did you simply want to put it down, or were you inspired?
- What is the most memorable image?
- Do you find the many references to intoxication alluring or repulsive? What attitude are we being asked to take towards our narrator?
- Do you have contempt or sympathy for our angry young addicts, either in Trainspotting or in Total Eclipse? And is there any place for an angry girl like Patti Smith?
Huysmans and related visuals
- What sort of person is Des Esseintes? And do you find him attractive or repellant?
- What do you make of Des Esseintes collection of art and the images with which he surrounds himself?
- Why does Des Esseintes want to keep redesigning his home? And which design would you copy for your dorm room?
- After which experiment do you decide that Des Esseintes has gone to far and why? The black dinner party? The tortoise? The little boy?
- Why is Des Esseintes unable and unwilling to live in the real world?
- Is this a handbook on how to be a Decadent or a cautionary tale on why you should hesitate to follow his example?
- Which if the images, from Doré’s visions of Dante’s Inferno, to Moreau’s severed head, to Rédon’s smiling spider would you hang on your bedroom wall?
- Why do both Neilson in What Dream May Come and the narrator in Fight Club reject their loves so as to create a double life/death for themselves?
- What do you make of the combination of beauty, excess, and horror in Singh’s dream sequences for The Cell? Are they seductive and/or just sick?
- Can art capture the intensity of experience without destroying that experience in any of the three Victorian London films, From Hell, Wilde, and Dorian Gray?
Wilde and related visuals
- Which is your favorite aphorism from the Preface and why?
- What kind of place is London? As seen through Wilde’s eyes and Sargent’s portraits?
- Why does Wilde offer such elaborate descriptions of the setting for each scene?
- What kind of relationship do the three friends, Basil, Lord Henry and Dorian have with each other?
- Who do you think is the main character of the novel? At the start, with whom do you think we are invited to sympathize?
- What do Basil and Henry consider to be the purpose of art? And do you agree?
- What purpose does Sybil Vane play in the novel? Why is she there? Is it appropriate that she is an actress? And what do you think of her fate?
- Why is Dorian attracted to doing things that he knows are destructive?
- Is being young and beautiful as important to you as it is to Wilde’s characters? Or do you value other things more?
- Does Basil deserve his fate?
- Do you have any sympathy with Dorian at the end?
- Which film version of Wilde’s London, Gilbert’s or Parker’s, seems to you more frightening? Do you see any trace of the horror of Wilde’s novel in his biography?
- Do you feel any uneasiness admiring the beauty of a singer like Satine in Moulin Rouge who is fatally ill?
- Can a person become so emotionally obsessed as to be reduced to a single emotion like envy? Lynch thinks one can.
- Is Nine Inch Nails music video beautiful? And what role does memory play?
Stoker and related visuals
- What is the impact of the unusual style of the novel, diary entries, letters, newspaper clippings?
- Why pick Transylvania as the setting for part the novel and the medieval Dracula as a very specifically Rumanian antihero?
- What impression of London and of British society do you draw from Stoker’s novel?
- Why does Stoker select places such as the small town of Whitby and Carfax Abbey as locations for the novel?
- What attitudes towards social class, ethnicity, gender, etc. does Stoker offer to the reader, and are you comfortable with his views?
- Who is the hero(ine) of the novel?
- What kind of women appear in the novel? What is so innovative, if anything, about Mina and/or Lucy?
- What kind of men appear in the novel?
- Do you find Van Helsing to be a reassuring character?
- What are the implications of Seward, Renfield, and Jonathan being fascinated by Dracula?
- Why is Jonathan so weakened by the novel’s end?
- When you read the last page of the novel, do you think that the story is over? Why or why not?
- How do you evaluate Inspector Abbeline’s need/desire to escape from reality through dreams?
- What similarities do you see between Murnau’s silent vampire and Slade’s modern pack of vampires? Why are they both so scary?
- Compare the scene of shaving Jonathan in Coppola’s version of Dracula with his version of Dracula’s first meeting with Mina.
- Why are victims attracted to vampires? And vice versa? What do they want from each other, in addition to the obvious… ? Think about Bela Lugosi as Dracula and the Rice’s theatre audience, as well as Edward!
- What if vampires were not an invention? What if modernity itself were vampiric? These questions are what Murnau and Mehrige explore.
Poe and related visuals
- Is it important that the story is told in the first person and is based in part on Poe’s own life?
- How does Poe describe his narrator’s world? The apartment and its contents? Is the setting important?
- Why choose black cats? Or could both Plutos be any sort of house pet?
- Is there any reason for the narrator’s change in personality from mild-mannered, to someone who tortures animals, to someone who commits murder?
- Why choose blinding and hanging as the violence committed against the cat?
- Why does the narrator blame the cat for his wife’s death and lead the police to her body?
- Can animals be demons? In Poe’s story, Steinlen’s prints, and/or Bilibin’s illustrations?
- What makes humans different, if anything, from animals and /or demons for Vrubel and Repin?
Bulgakov and related visuals
- What is Moscow like as a city, for dogs and/or humans?
- Do you sympathize with Sharik at the start? Or with the doctor?
- What image does Bulgakov give of the early Soviet Union?
- What does the nature of the particular medical operation performed say about the modern world?
- Did you want Sharik to remain “human”?
- What effect does the combination of humor and horror in the story have on the reader?
- Do you prefer Azazel’s 9th c. Russian-roulette version of Moscow or Bortko’s snow storm? And why?
- What is gained and lost by creating a technologically enhanced world, and maybe even a man-machine? Or woman-machine?
- Why is metal on flesh such an effective horror technique for Tool and Huang?
Bréton and Éluard and related visuals
- Does this sort of experimental writing interest you?
- Can literary texts ever really convey the feeling of a dream?
- Write your own short “automatic writing” piece.
- What phobias do Buñuel and Dalì tap into?
- Do the images flow together or do they seem disconnected?
- What are the differences, if any, between the 1920s surrealist works and the modern works they inspire?
- Is Surrealism affected by medium? Is a particular medium more effective in capturing dreamlike experiences?
- What does Anderson take from Andalusian Dog? What is different about the opening credits for Dexterin terms of theme and of image? And what are the consequences of the changes?
- Hitchcock, Del Torro and related visuals
- Is it effective to make films based upon an academic essay such as Freud’s, or do they seem contrived and too intellectual?
- Although Hitchcock’s images are beautiful in the dream sequence, are they necessary to the “real” plot of the film?
- Is the potential for violence a necessary element for the experience of the uncanny, as both Hitchcock and Del Torro seem to imply?
- Does the uncanny need to blend animals and humans? What is the status of cannibalism if they are blended?
- Why do we, and Del Torro, continue to hate being watched? What exactly creates the intense sense of horror we feel when we see the Pale Man put in his eyes?
Alfredson and related visuals
- Which vampires are the scariest? Adult or children? And why?
- What effect does shooting a contemporary film almost as though it were in black and white have?
- Pick a single moment in the clip and explain how, with its slow pace and quiet feel, it achieves its effect on the audience.
- What did you expect to happen in the scene when Oskar lets Eli in? When did you decide that the ending might be surprising and why? Would you have let her in?