KRISTOPHER WOOFTER DEFENDS HIS PHD THESIS ON GOTHIC REALISM
Updated: Oct 27, 2020
Woofter’s chapters focus on different time periods or modes of cinema to unfurl an argument about the usefulness of a Gothic frame of reference. His first chapter spotlights how Gothic realism helps hybridize 1940s Hollywood classics, which tend to get shoehorned into particular genres that lean on comprehension and closure. His second chapter examines films “as conceptual sites that bring Gothic strategies to the documentary” by defamiliarizing the everyday, including Capturing the Friedmans (2003) and The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971). His third chapter brings the Gothic to our keyboards by asserting that recent “found-footage” horror films about “the ubiquity of image-capture technology,” such as Unfriended (2014), make readable Gothic-infused “technological hauntings” of our web-based realities. Woofter’s concluding chapter raises the 2012 documentary Leviathan, about the North American fishing industry, as a film whose sensory overload produces an “affective resistance to closure” in keeping with the Gothic tradition towards ambiguity.
Two rounds of committee questioning followed Woofter’s presentation. While heaping general praise on the project for its imaginative reading of Gothic sensibilities among a range of texts, some members questioned the all-encompassing use of phrases such as “collective anxieties of wartime America,” which could have been nuanced more for sharper analysis. There also emerged the issue of whether Woofter’s study, which draws from nineteenth-century American Gothic literature as a touchstone, could have made room for more contemporary representations of the Gothic, such as the True Detective series or Stephen King’s writing, and whether later iterations of the thesis would expand from its U.S.-centered focus. But these were minor concerns set against large-scale praise for the thesis and its applicability to the field(s) it concerns.
A hearty congratulations to Kris!
Dr. Daniel Salée (School of Community and Public Affairs), Chair
Dr. Rosanna Maule (Cinema), Co-supervisor
Dr. Marc Steinberg (Cinema), Co-supervisor
Dr. Catherine Russell (Cinema)
Dr. Nicola Nixon (English)
Dr. Ned Schantz (English), McGill University