CFP: Horror Studies: Proposed Special Issue on Folk Horror

Calls for Submissions

Guest editors Dawn Keetley, Professor of English and Film, Lehigh University, and Jeffrey A. Tolbert, Assistant Professor of American Studies and Folklore, Pennsylvania State University – Harrisburg, invite proposals for a special issue of the journal Horror Studies on the topic of folk horror. Essays of 6-7,000 words are due by October 3, 2022.

This special issue attempts to systematize and formalize the study of folk horror, a subgenre whose meteoric rise (or return?) to popularity in the past ten years or so raises critical questions relating to rurality, “traditional” cultures, nationalism, and place, among others. Folk horror posits a folk as the source of horror, and a body of related folklore as constituting a simultaneously picturesque and horrifying aesthetic/symbolic backdrop to its portrayals of atavistic danger and pre- or anti-modern “heathenism.” Sharing with the increasingly broad cross-media genre of the gothic an obsession with landscape, folk horror tends to abandon dark corridors and windswept mountain fastnesses in favor of agrarian and/or pastoral settings (though even this distinction is often elided in practice, with the genres often becoming entangled).

This issue aims to move beyond the description and cataloging of genre works to a more sustained theoretical engagement with the deep implications of a “horror” of the “folk.” In doing so, contributions will seek to address core questions:

  • What counts as folk horror and why? 
  • Why is folk culture imagined as frightening?
  • What are the meanings of the ways in which rural people and rural settings are positioned at the center of this type of horror?
  • What is the role of folklore and folkloristics in folk horror?
  • What are the political meanings of folk horror?
  • What are the effects of replicating nineteenth-century understandings of cultural evolution and center-periphery relationships in a twenty-first century already heavily marked by the reemergence of virulent, destructive nationalism?
  • Does folk horror’s focus on landscape speak to politics concerning the environment, the climate, and the Anthropocene?
  • Why the resurgence of folk horror criticism and cultural productions now? Why were the late 1960s and 1970s so critical in the folk horror tradition? What periodizations emerge for folk horror beyond Britain?
  • How do we understand fans of folk horror as they actively and collaboratively construct meanings of folk horror works, tying key films, books, and other media to an ineffable but deeply felt sense of “folkness” apparently felt to reside at the heart of all cultures?

There are many more potential questions, and the editors are interested in any and all approaches. They primarily seek essays that seek to offer a broad theoretical approach to genre from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives (as well as interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches) and from diverse parts of the globe.

Email Dawn Keetley at [email protected] and Jeff Tolbert at [email protected] with questions.

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