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Who's afraid of...? Facets of Fear in Anglophone Literature and Media

Bonn 24-25 September 2010


The study of human emotions proves to be enormously interesting for neurobiologists and psychologists as well as for scholars in the fields of literary studies and media studies. Fear is a state which seems to have fascinated countless novelists, poets, playwrights and screenwriters. From a clinical perspective, fear is rooted in a response to (potentially) dangerous situations. In a situation causing fear, the body and the mind react intensely. Edmund Burke famously remarked that "[n]o passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear", and Charles Darwin described the physical consequences of what would nowadays be called a panic attack as follows: "[T]he eyes and mouth are widely opened, and the eyebrows raised. The frightened man at first stands like a statue motionless and breathless, or crouches down as if instinctively to escape observation. The heart beats quickly and violently, so that it palpitates or knocks against the ribs." (Darwin, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals)

The many facets of fear, including phenomena like anxiety, phobia, terror and horror, as well as the manifold strategies employed to cope with fear (avoidance, escape, etc.), have been explored in a wide range of literary texts, movies and TV series, such as Poe's short stories, Stoker's Dracula, Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, McEwan's Saturday, films like A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Sixth Sense and Vertigo. Addressing phenomena including sublime terror, teenage anxieties and panic in the face of death, literary texts and audiovisual media have tried to portray and analyse the manifold physical and psychological expressions of fear. The conference seeks to encourage a dialogue between various disciplines that are interested in the study of fear, including psychology, literary studies, media, film and television studies, gender studies and horror studies.

A reading by British author Joe Dunthorne and a film screening will complete the conference programme.

Find out about Joe Dunthorne:

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us:
Prof. Dr. Marion Gymnich [Email protection active, please enable JavaScript.]
Anja Drautzburg, M.A. [Email protection active, please enable JavaScript.]
Miriam Halfmann, M.A. [Email protection active, please enable JavaScript.]