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Title: Monstruarium nowoczesne
Authors: Marcela, Mikołaj
Keywords: kino tematy, motywy; potwory w literaturze; kultura masowa
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego
Abstract: Tracing the etymology of the monster [le monstre], Jacques Derrida points to the verb ‘demonstrate’ [montrer]. In turn, in Latin monstrum derives from the verb monere, which means ‘warn’ and ‘remind’, wherein is also rooted a well known nowadays noun — monitor. Etymology tells us, therefore, that the monster is the same as ‘what reveals / unveils’, and the monster itself constitutes some construct, a projection of our imagination. Humanoid monsters are the characters of modern culture that are capable of lifting the veil and shedding light on what has been repressed and hidden - an uncomfortable truth about ourselves — people and our culture. The monster reveals what is ambivalent in a human, and what goes beyond the accepted social, political and cultural norms. Starting from the birth of modernity and the established wherein autocracy of reason that seeks to either subjugate or exclude anything that is Different, humanoid monsters, such as vampires, zombies, ghosts, aliens and cyborgs, represent the danger of the ‘return of the excluded’. The logic of separation and discipline, characteristic of the modern times, results in the exclusion of what is primordial, primitive, particularistic, irrational and ‘dirty’. Eventually, what is subject to exclusion is what is in conflict with the idea of universal humanity. However, due to a simple dialectic, what has been excluded becomes an inseparable ‘shadow’ of the affirmed values. Therefore modernity in an ideal (and desired) form, hence as a project, turns out to be continually under threat of the regressive come back to / of what is non-modern. The threat of such regress is posed (especially within popular culture) by various characters of monstrosities. Monsters remind us, at the same time, that man was, is and will be a defective creation, just like Frankenstein of Mary Shelley's novel — a degenerated creature, expelled beyond the limits of natural order, neither alive nor dead. However, unlike pre-modern monsters which were ‘the monsters of ban’ guarding the boundaries of the possible and preventing excessive exploration (of the world, of otherness, etc.), modern monstrosity is presented as something that has been already internalised - something that exists among us, as well as in the very core of modernity. The increased popularity of monsters results from the obliteration of the boundaries between man and the monster, who, contrary to pre-modern times, becomes part of the human community. In this respect, today's world resembles a (global) village in the style of Bon Temps from True Blood series, where a vampire, shapeshifter or a witch is more common than a ‘normal’ man - because nowadays real people no longer exist. The prospect we are confronted with through the world of True Blood series comprises all homophobic fears that have accumulated over the last century: the awareness that we remain people as long as we are able to hide our monstrosity from the eyes of others. Monstruarium of modernity is also the history of the revolution within our culture. Symbolically it would be illustrated by the way that monsters and people have moved from Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley, wherein a new creation is rejected and forced into exile outside the human community, to Prometheus by Ridley Scott, in which it is people who discover that they had been repelled by their ‘proto-human creators’ and thus reduced to the role of monsters who were to be destroyed. Entering the mainstream of cultural research, the book focuses on the political dimension of monstrosities by following historic transformations of monstrous characters as a response to threats in Western culture. The monster is interpreted by me in the view of homophobic fears, which express our apprehension for representatives of other social groups whom we are not able to regard as ‘ones of us’. And thus vampires are often queer characters expressing homosexual fears (The Vampyre by Polidori, Carmilla by Le Fanu, a series of Anne Rice) but also the apprehension for immigrants or the emancipation of women (Dracula). On the other hand, zombies reflect the fear of black people (White Zombie, Night of the Living Dead), immigrants (Dawn of the Dead), the inhabitants of the Middle East (Land of the Dead), as well as of the plagues of post-modern societies, such as aging and obesity (Death Becomes Her). Apparitions, ghosts and phantoms are characters (beginning with the Ghost of the Father in Hamlet by Shakespeare) which come to ‘get even with us’, therefore their appearance is often associated with the ongoing economic crisis (Amityville, POLTERGEIST, American Horror Story). The alien is most often the character expressing the fear of immigrants (the prose by HP Lovecraft, District 9), but also of the growing role of women in the modern world (Species), the AIDS epidemic (The Thing), or ‘alienated’ corporations (Alien). In contrast, androids and cyborgs are mainly characters of the fear of the growing impact of technology on human life (Blade Runner, The Terminator, I, Robot, Surrogates). The book explains cultural transformation of the most popular monsters of contemporary culture. It refers both to classical texts, reinterpreting them in an innovative way, and to the latest texts of popular culture (literature, film, TV series, comic book), tracing the current changes in the presentation of monstrosities. In addition, it provides a deep reflection upon the state of the entire modern culture and the role new media serve in it. The basic thesis advanced in the book is the statement that a change in the demonstration of monsters in the latest texts encourages attempts to resign oneself to the awareness of the historicity of the idea of man, humanism, but also of (post) modernity itself.
ISBN: 9788380126831
Appears in Collections:Książki/rozdziały (W.Hum.)

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