John Glover is the Humanities Research Librarian at Virginia Commonwealth University. He presents and publishes on academic librarianship, literary horror, and the research practices of creative writers. He publishes horror fiction and related work as J.T. Glover.
John and his work has been featured here on the blog previously.
This year, I asked him to share his academic perspective on the genre. Take it away John.
The Monster in the Ivory Tower
by John Glover
Once upon a time, horror wasn’t welcome on campus in America. Sure, you might be able to watch a classic film at the student union, or you could track down Dracula in the library, but sustained, meaningful study of our genre? There were precious few shudders to be found in seminar papers or Ph.D. dissertations, apart from chilling grades or screams of bloody murder when you screwed up a citation. Fortunately the situation has changed, whether you spend your days on campus or just want to read thoughtful takes on the films and books you love.
Want to dig deeper on “The Call of Cthulhu?” Looking for in-depth discussions of It Follows? Scholars and students have been writing about horror for decades now, and as prejudice against studying popular genres has faded, the essays and books have piled up. If you’re on campus, check out your library’s catalogue, or specialized electronic tools like MLA International Bibliography (stephen king—416 results) or JSTOR (“texas chainsaw massacre”—115 results in their “Film Studies” section). Nowhere near a campus? Check out Google Scholar ("it follows" film "david robert mitchell"—48 results).
Where do you start if you want to study more systematically? You could take a look at what people study in classes about horror, so check the syllabus. When you're ready to hit the books, you might find yourself reading a topical survey of the field, like Gina Wisker's Horror Fiction: An Introduction (2005) or Xavier Reyes' Horror: A Literary History, or more theoretical studies like Noël Carroll's The Philosophy of Horror: Or, Paradoxes of the Heart (1990) or Matt Hills' The Pleasures of Horror (2005).
Many websites include incisive writing on horror, from Postscripts to Darkness to the regular "The H Word" column in Nightmare Magazine. Academic journals cover horror as well, from Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts to the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies. Keep your eye out for collections of essays, too, as those sometimes provide a focused take that might be of interest, from topical collections like The Gothic in Children's Literature: Haunting the Borders (2008) to author-focused collections like The Fictions of Stephen Graham Jones: A Critical Companion (2016).
Wondering what academics, independent scholars, and students will be publishing in years to come? Major genre conventions like StokerCon and Necronomicon Providence often have an academic "track" of talks, sometimes referred to as a "symposium" or "conference," where these people present ideas they've been working on, some of which ultimately become articles or academic journals or chapters in books of literary criticism. Beyond those, academic gatherings like the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts or the Popular Culture Association National Conference feature extended programming on horror and related topics stretching over many days. Smaller conferences, either local events or focused on narrow themes, may also have something to offer horror fans.