Talk: Hamlet, Horror, and Horripilation

The TCD School of English Staff–Postgraduate Seminar Series welcomes Dr Jesse Lander from the University of Notre Dame for a paper entitled ‘Hamlet, Horror and Horripilation’, on Wednesday 5 November at 5 15 pm in the Arts Block, room 3025.

Garrick wig

This paper argues that horripilation—having one’s hair stand on end—assumes a peculiar significance in Shakespeare’s drama as the bodily response to supernatural soliciting. Locating horripilation both theatrically and culturally, I consider the way in which this basic, biological response receives a particular post-Reformation inflection. Drawing on sermon material, I suggest that horripilation is part of a more general cultivation of anxiety encouraged by Calvinism. In the theater, horripilation is evidence that the staging of the supernatural served to elicit a range of particular affective responses. In contrast to approaches that focus on questions of belief (or unbelief) and confessional theology, attention to the connection between special affects and the supernatural presents the theater as a distinctive site that resists disenchantment through the cultivation of both horror and wonder.

For full abstract see here.


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