Your God had his chance and he blew it: modernity, tradition and alternative religion in 1960s and 1970s horror

Mccarthy, Linda (2016) Your God had his chance and he blew it: modernity, tradition and alternative religion in 1960s and 1970s horror. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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The period of the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s, falling at a crux between the influences of modernity1 and postmodernity2, was an era undergoing vast paradigmatic shifts. Defined by cultural historians as The Final Phase of Modernism, A Rage against Order, The New Sensibility, an era of Getting Loose, or The Culture of Narcissism3, this decade was increasingly fracturing along conservative- liberal fault lines. Presumably, as a result of this socio-political dichotomisation, debates were being forwarded about the need for and efficacy of grand narratives including historical imperatives, familial connectivity, and traditional spiritual affiliation elicited across this cultural spectrum: from orthodox institutions, such as the Catholic Church to more left-wing establishments such as the Civil Rights and Counter Culture movements. Given prevalence of these conundrums, this thesis will explore how these concerns were discussed and disseminated within the United States through the popular media and, more specifically, works of horror. Indeed, at least since the Gothic literary period, and its qualified revival in the New Hollywood Alternative Religion Horror cinema this discursive thread has, arguably, articulated concerns surrounding the legacy and effects of modernity, traditionalism, the supernatural and affiliations of faith overall. In focusing upon American and British/American co-productions such as Rosemary’s Baby4, The Omen5, and The Wicker Man6, their shared concern in addressing spiritual questions will be taken seriously not merely as metaphors but instead as viable contemporaneous debates. This reading thus offers up an alternative to those currently presented by academia wherein religion is regarded as a mere metaphor for restrictive socio-political mechanisms, or as symbols of plenitude and power.

1 By modernity is meant a series of socio-political norms and mores coalescing around an increasing rejection of traditional systems of personal and cultural cohesion. These mechanisms relate to historical imperatives and include traditional religion, and familial or generational connectivity. The aforementioned ostensibly were rent asunder as a result of the concomitant legacies of the Enlightenment and the Reformation both of which upheld science and rationality over what was perceived to be the irrational: superstition, the supernatural and any adherence to a faith that supported them. This understanding is based upon the writings of historians and cultural critics including Daniel Bell, Christopher Lasch, Marshall Berman and their contemporaries all of which are herein referenced and problematized.
2 For an understanding of postmodernity, this work relies upon the work of Jean-Francois Lyotard who discusses this ethos as involving a loss of historic grand narratives and a resultant search for meaning in the wake of this cultural forfeiture.
3 This various phraseology representing definitions of the era by, respectively, Marshall Berman in All That Is Solid Melts into Air; Daniel Ball in The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism; Susan Sontag in an essay of the same title from Against Interpretation; Sam Binkley in his book of the same title, and finally Christopher Lasch.
4 Roman Polanski, Rosemary’s Baby, DVD. Directed by Roman Polanski (United States: Paramount Pictures, 1968).
5 David Seltzer, The Omen, DVD. Directed by Richard Donner (United Kingdom and United States: 20th Century Fox, 1976).
6 Anthony Shaffer, The Wicker Man, DVD. Directed by Robin Hardy (United Kingdom and United States: British Lion Pictures, 1973).

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Users 4971 not found.
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2017 10:27
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2017 10:27

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