By SUSAN JONES
Horror in art, literature and film has attracted fans and scholars at every level of society, and now Pitt has given a home to those interested in studying the genre.
This fall, the University Honors College is partnering with Pitt’s Horror Studies Working Group, the University Library System’s George A. Romero Collection and Horror Studies Archive, and the George A. Romero Foundation to create a “Horror Genre as a Social Force” Scholar Community.
The first events are information sessions on Oct. 9 for students at 2 p.m. and faculty at 4 p.m. who are interested in the participating in research on the horror genre. Adam Lowenstein, professor of English and Film/Media Studies at Pitt and a board member of the George A. Romero Foundation, will lead the faculty session.
The University Library System acquired the Romero Collection last year from the family of the late director of “Night of the Living Dead,” who spent most of his career in Pittsburgh.
“It feels very gratifying to be able to highlight his incredible legacy and achievements as part of these horror studies initiatives that are going on right now,” Lowenstein said.
Several of the activities this month focus on women in horror, and Lowenstein said that shows “the goal of the Horror Genre as Social Force umbrella is to really focus a lot of attention on horrors connection to things like race and gender and sexuality and how horror can speak for minority and underprivileged groups, rather than being what many people assume, is a kind of force that might demonize groups like that.”
The events include a writers’ panel — Scream Queens: The History and Future of Women in Horror — on Oct. 20, and a screening of new female-directed short horror films from the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival and discussions with the directors and festival curators on Nov. 9 and 11.
The events at Pitt are conjoined with the Romero Foundation’s annual Romero Lives celebration. The celebration started in 2018 with the premiere of a remastered version of “Night of the Living Dead.”
This year, the Honors College and the foundation will co-host the 25th anniversary of Rusty Cundieff’s “Tales from the Hood” screening and discussion on Oct. 17. Attendees will watch the first “Tales from the Hood,” highlighted with stories and commentary from Cundieff, who is a Pittsburgh native, and discussion with Acting Dean Audrey Murrell, along with other special guests.
On Oct. 13, the University Library System will host a reading with Daniel Kraus, who co-authored the new novel, “The Living Dead,” which Romero left uncompleted when he died in 2017. Kraus also is co-writer (with Guillermo del Toro) of the novel, “The Shape of Water.” Ben Rubin, Horror Studies Collection coordinator, and Adam Hart, visiting librarian, will discuss Kraus’s posthumous collaboration with Romero and the zombie maestro’s archive.
A growing community
Pitt’s Horror Studies Working Group is made up of faculty, staff and students who are dedicated to the scholarly study of the horror genre in all of its social, historical, aesthetic and industrial contexts, Lowenstein said. “Pittsburgh and Pitt specifically are the perfect places to do this sort of work because George Romero was really seen as the father of the modern horror film, particularly the horror film as a socially conscious art form.”
Artifacts from Romero’s work are the founding collection for the world’s very first Horror Studies Archive, which Pitt now houses. It is managed, Lowenstein said, by “the world’s first and only appointed horror studies collection coordinator,” Ben Rubin.
The collection is “growing day by day, beyond George’s work and in ways that are true to George’s ambitious vision of the genre, but now includes artists and filmmakers and authors beyond George himself,” Lowenstein said.
The “Horror Genre as a Social Force” Scholar Community is the newest addition to this series of horror studies initiatives. The community “is really geared toward gathering people together who want to think and work harder on the idea of horror as a socially conscious and socially important art form,” Lowenstein said.
Lowenstein also recently received a Global Academic Partnership Grant from Pitt’s Global Studies Center to build the “Global Horror Studies Archival and Research Network.” He said they hope to find partners all over the work who can “help us do this work of studying the horror genre, both in terms of research and archival practice.”
In his work with the horror genre, Lowenstein said, “I’ve met all kinds of unexpected allies and fans — people who you would never guess from their line of work that horror is something they are acquainted with much less passionate about — but there’s a lot of horror fans out there, in all lines of work and walks of life.”
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-244-4042.
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