Trauma and the rhetoric of horror films : the rise of torture porn in a post Nine-Eleven world
Tiffee, Sean R.
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The events of September 11, 2001 fundamentally changed the world for many in the United States. It was shocking and horrifying -- it was, in a word, traumatic. This trauma took on a new dimension with the release of the horrifying Abu Ghraib "torture photographs" in 2004. Large-scale traumatic events such as September 11 and the Abu Ghraib revelations can impact not only the individual and his or her personal identity, but entire social bodies and its corresponding national identity as well. This study investigates how the American social body psychically dealt with the horror of these national traumas and socially negotiated what it means to "be an American." Specifically, it examines a disparate group of rhetorical artifacts, from articles in mainstream news reports to popular horror films, and looks for emergent patterns to provide insight into the larger whole. This study draws on a variety of theoretical perspectives and employs a method of close reading and frame genre analysis to organize and understand the complex interplay of forces tuned toward a deeper understanding of the rhetorical dimensions of horror in times of social upheaval. It focuses first on the mainstream news organizations reporting of both September 11 and Abu Ghraib to outline the master narrative and counter-narrative that emerged. It then analyzes three sets of films in the popular culture to better understand how the nation attempted to rhetorically constitute an "American Subject" in the wake of a horrifying trauma. The study concludes with an analysis of the different psychical subject positions that may be taken in the rhetorical negotiation of the American Subject and offers an explanation of the rhetorical function of the torture porn horror genre in this time of national trauma.