Call for Papers: Monsters and Monstrosity A Special Issue of The Popular Culture Studies Journal

Thanks to Norma Jones for supporting special issue. Please consider submitting and share widely.

Call for Papers: Monsters and Monstrosity
A Special Issue of The Popular Culture Studies Journal
Guest Editor: Bernadette Marie Calafell, University of Denver

Scholars, such as W. Scott Poole and Kendall Phillips, have argued that monsters, particularly those in horror, reflect or correspond to the cultural anxieties of a society. These cultural anxieties are often connected to struggles for power around race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. Thus, historical context and power are central to studies of monstrosity. Given that we are immersed in what may be considered a horror renaissance, both in film and television, increasing violence against people of color in the U.S., and dangerous and toxic performances of white femininity and masculinity, this is a ripe moment to explore the relationship between monstrosity and popular culture, both literally and figuratively. Thus, this special issues solicits manuscripts that take interdisciplinary approaches to explore the theoretical and methodological possibilities of monstrosity. What can employing monstrosity as a theoretical framework or analytical tool contribute to the study of popular culture? Key questions driving this special issue include: What can monstrosity teach us about Otherness? How can it be used resistively? Conversely, how can monstrosity be used as a tool of oppression? In what ways we can be unpack figures, such as Donald Trump, through the lens of monstrosity? What constitutes monstrosity? How might we understand history differently through the construct of monstrosity? What are the necessary future directions for the study of monstrosity and popular culture? Critical rhetorical, critical qualitative (including critical auto-methodologies), and performative approaches to monstrosity are welcomed.

Potential areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

Twin Peaks and monstrosity
Monstrosity and comics
David Lynch’s uses of monstrosity
NBC’s Hannibal
Adult Swim
Monstrous remakes
History and monstrosity
Afrofuturism and monstrosity
Monstrosity and agency
Monstrous bodies
Monstrous consumption
Monstrosity and adolescence
Monstrosity, menstruation, or menopause
Fatness and monstrosity
Excess and monstrosity
Chicanxfuturism and monstrosity
Celebrity culture and monstrosity
Performance and monstrosity
Wrestling and monstrosity
Intersectional approaches to monstrosity
Feminist possibilities of monstrosity
American Horror Story
Queerness and monstrosity
Monstrosity and sports
Disability and monstrosity
Class and monstrosity
Game of Thrones
Monstrous politicians and politics
The 2016 U.S. Presidential election
Autobiography and monstrosity
Monstrous methodologies
Hybridity and monstrosity
White femininity and monstrosity
Monstrosity and military culture
Monstrosity and toxic masculinities
Monstrosity and white masculinity
Monstrosity and religion
Monstrosity and temporality
Chicana feminism and monstrosity
Monstrosity and Orientalism

Questions can be directed to Bernadette Calafell at Please electronically send submissions (three documents, MS WORD, MLA) to Bernadette Calafell via email at by December 1, 2017.

1) Title Page: A single title page must accompany the email, containing complete contact information (address, phone number, e-mail address).
2) Manuscript: On the first page of the manuscript, only include the article’s title, being sure not to include the author’s name. The journal employs a “blind review” process, meaning that a copy of the article will be sent to reviewers without revealing the author’s name. Please include the works cited with your manuscript.
3) Short Bio: On a separate document, please also include a short (100 words) bio. We will include this upon acceptance and publication.

Essays should range between 15-25 pages of double-spaced text in 12 pt. Times New Roman font, including all images, endnotes, and Works Cited pages. Please note that the 15-page minimum should be 15 pages of written article material. Less than 15 pages of written material will be rejected and the author asked to develop the article further. Essays should also be written in clear US English in the active voice and third person, in a style accessible to the broadest possible audience. Authors should be sensitive to the social implications of language and choose wording free of discriminatory overtones.

For documentation, The Popular Culture Studies Journal follows the Modern Language Association style, as articulated by Joseph Gibaldi and Walter S. Achtert in the paperback MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (New York: MLA), and in The MLA Style Manual (New York: MLA). The most current editions of both guides will be the requested editions for use. This style calls for a Works Cited list, with parenthetical author/page references in the text. This approach reduces the number of notes, which provide further references or explanation.

For punctuation, capitalization, hyphenation, and other matters of style, follow the MLA Handbook and the MLA Style Manual, supplemented as necessary by The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). The most current edition of the guide will be the requested edition for use.

It is essential for authors to check, correct, and bring manuscripts up to date before final submission. Authors should verify facts, names of people, places, and dates, and double-check all direct quotations and entries in the Works Cited list. Manuscripts not in MLA style will be returned without review.

We are happy to receive digital artwork. Please save line artwork (vector graphics) as Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) and bitmap files (halftones or photographic images) as Tagged Image Format (TIFF), with a resolution of at least 300 dpi at final size. Do not send native file formats. Please contact the editor for discussion of including artwork.

Upon acceptance of a manuscript, authors are required to sign a form transferring the copyright from the author to the publisher. A copy will be sent to authors at the time of acceptance.

Before final submission, the author will be responsible for obtaining letters of permission for illustrations and for quotations that go beyond “fair use,” as defined by current copyright law.

NCA Preconference Call

NCA Preconference Call

Our (Monstrous) Legacies, Our (Cultural) Relevancies: Exploring the Significance of Monstrosity, Horror, and Otherness for Communication Studies

Organizers: Bernadette Marie Calafell, University of Denver and Kendall Phillips, Syracuse University

Lead Scholars
Bernadette Marie Calafell, University of Denver
Benny LeMaster, California State University, Long Beach
Marina Levina, University of Memphis
Casey Ryan Kelly, University of Nebraska
Kendall Phillips, Syracuse University
Claire Sisco King, Vanderbilt University

Recent years have seen the steady growth of scholarship in Communication Studies centered on unpacking the cultural relevance and persuasive strategies of horror films and television shows (Phillips, 2005, 2012; Sisco King, 2007; 2010; Levina & Diem-my, 2013; LeMaster, 2011; Means Coleman, 2011; Greene & Meyer, 2014, Lacy, 2015; Cady & Oates, 2016; Kelly, 2016, 2017; Abdi & Calafell, 2017). Simultaneously, another body of scholarship that focuses on monstrosity as a key term has also emerged as a frame for understanding social anxieties around Otherness (Moreman & Calafell, 2008; Juarez, 2014; Al-Ghabra, 2015; Calafell, 2012, 2015; Levina & Diem-my Bui, 2013; Holman Jones & Harris, 2016). This scholarship has contributed to and extended the interdisciplinary study of monsters by scholars, such as Cohen (1996), Gelder (2000), Creed (2002); Williams (2002), Clover (2002), Carroll (2002), Tudor (2002), Wood (2002), Ramirez-Berg (2012), Poole (2011), and Benshoff (1997; 2017).

Taking a historical perspective, Poole (2011) argues that monsters emerge in relationship to key historical events or moments. For example, giant creatures of the 1950s and 1960s, such as Godzilla or Mothra correlated with rising cultural anxieties surrounding the atomic bomb. Furthermore, Phillips (2005) unpacks the rhetorical significance of horror films in the twentieth century to consider how they reflect controversies of the historical moment. He argues Dracula reflected concerns and struggles over sexual norms, immigrants, religion, science, and economic conditions. In a later project, Phillips (2012) critically examines, through an auteur perspective, the work of directors Wes Craven, John Carpenter, and George Romero to unpack central themes around race, consumption, security, and class in films of each director as they relate to different cultural moments.
Other scholars, like Clover (2002), Creed (2002), Sisco King (2007), Calafell (2015), Kelly (2016), and Al-Ghabra (2015), further intercede in this dialogue to unpack the role of gender in horror films and television shows. Traditionally, women have been the victims of violence in horror. Williams (2002) pushes scholars to the consider the relationship of the female spectator to horror. Briefel (2005) argues that male monsters are connected to masochism, while female monsters are linked to menstruation, which causes audience members to feel “an uncomfortable close relationship to the female monster” (p. 16). Clover (2002) developed the term final girl to describe the female who survives the horror film and defeats the monster. She exhibits masculine traits and is often asexual. These characteristics allow her to survive, while more stereotypically feminine or sexual women are killed by the monster, often in violent and gory fashions. More recently, Calafell (2015) charts the move toward a critique of post-feminism in the films American Mary and The Lords of Salem against rising turns to nostalgia for the gender and racial norms of the 1950s and 1960s.

Just as horror has centered a masculine persona, it has also privileged narratives that support whiteness both ideologically, and in terms of racialized bodies. This has occurred through consistently white hero figures, killing off characters of color early on, and showcasing monsters that reflect themes of Otherness. Against these traditions, Means Coleman (2011) offers a history of horror through the lens of Blackness, charting representations of Black characters and monsters in horror films. Similarly, Lacy (2015) considers the Frankenstein’s monster narrative through Blackness. Benshoff (1997) and Sisco King (2010) examine the relationship between sexuality and monstrosity in horror films, while Holman Jones and Harris (2016) explore the queer potential of the monstrous. Offering a perspective of the monstrous feminine that moves away from Creed (2002) and the dominant tradition of psychoanalysis, Abdi and Calafell (2017) critically examine the Iranian Spaghetti Western, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, made by Iranian American director Ana Lily Amirpour to demonstrate how the film employs the frames of monstrous feminists and queer utopias to imagine possibilities for transnational feminist agency.

Monster theory, which is closely related to horror, utilizes monstrosity as a frame to theorize Otherness. Cohen (1996) offers seven theories of monster culture, including that the monster’s body is a “cultural space,” the monster brings category crisis, the monster dwells within difference, and the fear of the monster is connected to desire. This work has been influential in recent work, including Calafell (2015), which uses the trope to examine both horror texts, as well as performances of monstrosity in everyday life through studies of women of color in the academy, Kanye West, and the Aurora shooter James Holmes. This work demonstrates how monstrosity can be a space of agency and resistance for historically marginalized communities, and can be used as a trope to name destructive and violent forms of whiteness. For example, Dubrofsky (2016) draws upon Calafell’s (2015) work to consider the role of the monstrosity of whiteness in performances and rhetoric by then presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Given the contributions of scholarship on horror and monstrosity historically, its importance at this cultural moment, as well as the shift in popular culture toward monsters (i.e. Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster, Kanye West’s uses of monstrosity, American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, Get Out, Black Mirror), it is a ripe time for us as Communication scholars to consider our legacy and our relevance in relationship to horror and monstrosity. As Communication scholars, we should ask: What unique contributions or theoretical frames can we offer to the study of horror and monstrosity? How do we constitute text in our study of horror and monstrosity? What unique methodologies might we employ to critically examine monstrosity (i.e. performative writing, autoethnograpy, archival research, intersectional critique)?

This day long preconference is organized around the following questions:

• What unique contributions or theoretical frames can we, as Communication scholars, offer to the study of horror and monstrosity?

• How do we constitute text in our study of horror and monstrosity? What unique methodologies might we employ to critically examine monstrosity (i.e. performative writing, autoethnograpy, archival research, intersectional critique)?

• What are the meanings around Otherness that emerged in representations of monstrosity in this contemporary political and cultural moment?

• How can we re-examine and re-visit historical moments through the lens of monstrosity to consider new ways of understanding? What new readings might be explored in the history of horror films?

• What are important future developments or directions that are emerging in the study of horror and monstrosity?

We would solicit short proposals (2-3 pages) from scholars interested in participating that speak to one of the questions listed above by August 15th, 2017. These proposals should be sent to Bernadette Calafell at We will organize the preconference thematically around these questions, allowing for scholars to present their work and receive feedback from other participants and the seminar leaders. Potential participants should indicate which question or theme they are interested in exploring. Rather than inviting lead scholars to present their scholarship while participants who sign up for the preconference serve as observers and questioners, as is often the tradition, we democratically would like to create an opportunity for both scholars new to the field, as well as those already immersed, to workshop their ideas. Ideally, participants would send a short paper (approximately 8-10 pages) to the seminar leaders before the convention. We encourage involvement from graduate students as well as scholars who would like to participate, but not present research.

It is our hope that this preconference will go beyond the conference through syllabus sharing, as well as the potential for collaboration through publication, such as an edited volume or special issue in a journal.