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Courses / Modules / FILM6058 The Supernatural in Audiovisual Culture

The Supernatural in Audiovisual Culture

When you'll study it
Semester 2
CATS points
ECTS points
Level 7
Module lead
Kevin Donnelly
Academic year

Module overview

The Supernatural has always had a privileged place in audiovisual culture. Earliest films manifested ghosts through double exposures and the ‘Pepper’s Ghost’ special effect, at the same time that the mediums of film and sound recording were thought to have the ability to capture aspects of the paranormal that were not immediately apparent (Ruffles, 2004). Although a product of developments in science and technology, writers and audiences alike have throughout its existence noted the eerie, spectral nature of a medium that brings physical beings to life in light and shadow. As noted by Sconce (2000), the close relationship between the Supernatural and electronic media has been intimate to the point where disintricating the two can be difficult. The two have also developed side by side: recording technologies are exploited by investigators of the Supernatural, while ideas and visions of the Supernatural have been both defined by and manifested in audiovisual culture. Horror films, in particular, have developed certain ways for depicting, and giving a direct feeling of, the Supernatural, which allows for a distinctive range of ideas about the subject to be presented. But the Supernatural also appears in films from animation to art cinema and films with religious themes. These depictions can be understood as displacements or metaphors for engaging with other ideas. For example, ghosts can often be construed as manifesting a return of unfinished business, as examples of hauntology or a Freudian ‘Return of the Repressed’. They can also embody taboo or unacceptable ideas, suggest political allegories, or function as a means for solving intractable situations.

The central concern of this module is with the Supernatural as a metaphor, as a theory, and as an unanswerable enigma. Rather than considering Supernatural beings in their more obvious form, such as vampires and werewolves, the module will be more interested in the ethereal and ephemeral (ghosts, demons and possession, and spiritualism). The module will address the Supernatural in terms of culture and history but focus particularly on film and related audiovisual culture. This will also include television, music and video games, all of which intersect significantly with film and all of which continue the Supernatural as both a representation and an embodiment.