Taking Horror as You Find It: From Found Manuscripts to Found Footage Aesthetics

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-2931.10.14

Keywords:

found manuscript, found footage horror, Gothic fiction, intersemiotic translation

Abstract

An authenticator of the story and a well-tested enhancer of immersion, the trope of the found manuscript has been a persistent presence in Gothic writing since the birth of the genre. The narrative frame offered by purported textual artifacts has always aligned well with the genre’s preoccupation with questions of literary integrity, veracity, authorial originality, ontological anxiety and agency. However, for some time now the application of the found manuscript convention to Gothic fiction has been reduced to a mere token of the genre, failing to gain impact or credibility. A revival of the convention appears to have taken place with the remediation and appropriation of the principally literary trope by the language of film, more specifically, the found footage horror subgenre.

The article wishes to survey the common modes and purposes of the found manuscript device (by referring mostly to works of classical Gothic literature, such as The Castle of Otranto, Dracula and Frankenstein) to further utilize Dirk Delabastita’s theories on intersemiotic translation and investigate the gains and losses coming with transfiguring the device into the visual form. Found footage horrors have remained both exceptionally popular with audiences and successful at prolonging the convention by inventing a number of strategies related to performing authenticity. The three films considered for analysis, The Blair Witch Project (1999), Paranormal Activity (2007) and REC (2007), exhibit clear literary provenance, yet they also enhance purporting credibility respectively by rendering visual rawness, appealing to voyeuristic tastes, and exploiting susceptibility to conspiratorial thinking.

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Author Biography

Tomasz Sawczuk, University of Bialystok

Tomasz Sawczuk is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Philology, University of Bialystok, Poland. He has authored On the Road to Lost Fathers: Jack Kerouac in a Lacanian Perspective (Peter Lang, 2019), as well as a number of essays on American literature and Beat writers, including a chapter contribution to The Routledge Handbook of International Beat Literature, ed. A. Robert Lee (Routledge, 2018). His research interests include Beat studies, critical theory, experimental literature and concrete poetry.

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Published

2020-11-24

How to Cite

Sawczuk, T. (2020). Taking Horror as You Find It: From Found Manuscripts to Found Footage Aesthetics. Text Matters: A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture, (10), 223-235. https://doi.org/10.18778/2083-2931.10.14