restricted access Introduction. Searching for Sycorax: Black Women and Horror
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

 Introduction Searching for Sycorax Black Women and Horror Hast thou forgot the foul witch Sycorax . . . hast thou forgot her? —The Tempest, Act I, Scene II Defining the genre of horror remains an ongoing challenge, for it is one of the few genres that depends upon the reaction of the viewer/reader.1 Like many questions of genre, particularly concerning genres not traditionally considered the High Arts, producing a definitive taxonomic definition of horror proves quite difficult. Contemporary horror fiction is a space in which deepseated human anxieties can be given free reign because we are often defined by that which terrifies us. Our cultures and our lives are founded upon preventing a confrontation with our terrors . We create governments and prisons to civilize ourselves and abate our fear of anarchy and mankind’s potential for savagery.We throw money at science to ameliorate our dis-ease, with the hegemony operating on the assumption that science can and will solve everything—disease, famine, war, and so forth.The Western hegemony loves binaries—the world is defined by what is good or evil, living or dead,black or white,male or female.Yet postmodern horror is a world in which there is an “absolute blurring of boundaries between good AND evil, real AND unreal. . . . Institutions are  Searching for Sycorax questioned and the master status of the universal (read male,white, moneyed, heterosexual) subject deteriorates.”2 Most contemporary horror critics—including this critic—center their studies on a differing amalgamation of the horror definitions found in leading genre theorists, such as Isabel Cristina Piñedo, Noël Carroll, and Robin Wood.It is necessary to note that Searching for Sycorax is not an attempt to redefine the definition of horror, but simply to refine the projects of these genre theorists in order to present a contemporary definition of horror that allows for an analysis of how black women “worry the lines” of the supposedly inclusive nature of horror theory.3 I also aim to propagate my insistence that horror must allow a space for black womanhood, even as it has casually overlooked black women in its past iterations. Contemporary horror theory and black feminist literary theory can and must continue to expand and adapt to their rapidly changing audiences for both continued survival and relevancy—for black women creators are actively revising and redefining the genre of horror. Isabel Cristina Piñedo makes an important contribution to horror studies by contemporizing the genre by offering a racially gendered critique. Piñedo outlines three characteristics of postmodern horror that I read through Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead (2008).The first characteristic presents a violent disruption with the everyday world; the second characteristic portrays a horror that transgresses and violates boundaries; and the final characteristic questions the validity of rationalism. Postmodern horror begins with a violent disruption with the everyday world.4 Early in the film, Ana, the lead character, rushes out of her house and stands in the driveway as the camera does a slow 180-degree pan to the right. We see the devastation and chaos: a woman in her nightgown is chased and bitten by a zombie ; another neighbor, this time in a priest’s collar, shoots a zombie on his lawn and demands that Ana stays back via gunpoint.Finally, as he crosses the street moving toward her—gun still aloft—to see if she is human, his body suddenly crumples and careens off screen as he is hit by an ambulance gone out of control. The viewer is drawn to conclude that this ambulance has an attacking zombie Introduction  inside. Ana has entered a world that privileges gore, “the explicit dismemberment, evisceration, putrefication and myriad other forms of boundary violations with copious amounts of blood.”5 In a previous scene, Ana watches her husband, Luis, become a zombie before our very eyes. Ana, a nurse, rescues her husband from the zombified little girl next door, Vivian, who has bitten him in the neck.In the bedroom,they both struggle to put pressure on the geyser of blood that is his neck wound. Blood spews everywhere, on Ana, Luis, and the bed, as Luis slowly succumbs to his wounds. In shock, Ana wanders to her bedroom window, distracted by sounds of distress. The screen shot shows Ana, clearly focused in the foreground as her husband slowly rises to join the wake of the undead in the blurry haze of the shot’s background.Suddenly, there is a...


pdf