Mastering Fear: Women, Emotions, and Contemporary Horror

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Mastering Fear analyzes horror as play and examines what functions horror has and why it is adaptive and beneficial for audiences, including women. It takes a biocultural approach, and focusing on emotions, gender, and play, it argues that the audience plays with fiction horror. In horror we engage not only with the negative emotions of fear and disgust, but with a wide range of emotions, both positive and negative, and the aim for us is to master these emotions. The book lays out a new theory of horror and analyzes female protagonists in contemporary horror from child to teen, adult, middle age, and old age.

Since the turn of the millennium, we have seen a new generation of female protagonists in horror. There are feisty teens in Ginger Snaps (Canada, 2000) and The Vampire Diaries (CW, 2009–), young women in Hostel: Part II (2007) and Bitten (Space, 2014–), troubled mothers in Grace (2009) and The Babadook (Australia, 2014), and struggling women in the New French extremity with Martyrs (France, 2008) and Inside (France, 2007) as examples. At the edges of the genre films like Pan's Labyrinth (Spain, 2006) and Let the Right One In (Sweden, 2008) experiment with the fairy tale and social realism. Also, middle-age women have conquered the small screen with Carol in The Walking Dead (AMC, 2010–) and Jessica Lange's characters in American Horror Story (FX, 2011–). The horror heroine thus shifts from child to mother, from single to wife, martyr to vengeful victor, and these many forms show that horror is not just for men, but also for women, and not just for the young, but for audiences of all ages.
Translated title of the contributionMastering Fear: Women, Emotions, and Contemporary Horror
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Number of pages384
ISBN (Print)1501336711
ISBN (Electronic)978-1501336713
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • horror
  • women
  • contemporary horror
  • emotions
  • play
  • gender
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • The Babadook
  • The Walking Dead
  • American Horror Story


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