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Traumatized subjects : horror film and the legacy of mass extermination in post-dictatorship Spain


"Traumatized Subjects" examines the legacy of the mass extermination carried out during the 1936 coup against the II Spanish Republic and under the Francoist dictatorship through the lens of contemporary Spanish horror film, which I take as an index of cultural anxieties. I claim that "the Transition" is the dominant cultural process of post-dictatorship Spain, rather than a discrete historical period, and show how it is predicated upon the disavowal of mass extermination, while arguing that the emergent cultural process of the recuperation of historical memory that began with the historic mass grave exhumation in Priaranza del Bierzo in 2000 poses the first significant threat to the hegemony of the Transition since its consolidation during the failed coup attempt of 1981. Adapting notions of allegory found in the work of Walter Benjamin, Idelber Avelar, Adam Lowenstein and Michael Denning, I perform allegorical readings of what I call "the new wave of Spanish horror film" that consider each film as a variation of a master plot that frequently revolves around the loss of a family member followed by a search for the truth about the circumstances of their death or disappearance. By way of Lacanian psychoanalysis, I interpret these films as the largely unconscious dramatization of cultural conflicts around issues of memory, justice and impunity that have become central concerns in post-dictatorship Spain over the past decade. I demonstrate how each film exemplifies a distinct cultural politics that reflect their various ways of dealing with the legacy of mass extermination encoded in their scripts, and suggest that horror is a privileged genre of cinema for observing cultural battles and shifts related to historical trauma

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