"David Castillo takes us on a tour of some horrific materials that have rarely been considered together. He sheds a fantastical new light on the baroque."
---Anthony J. Cascardi, University of California Berkeley
"Baroque Horrors is a textual archeologist's dream, scavenged from obscure chronicles, manuals, minor histories, and lesser-known works of major artists. Castillo finds tales of mutilation, mutation, monstrosity, murder, and mayhem, and delivers them to us with an inimitable flair for the sensational that nonetheless rejects sensationalism because it remains so grounded in historical fact."
---William Egginton, Johns Hopkins University
"Baroque Horrors is a major contribution to baroque ideology, as well as an exploration of the grotesque, the horrible, the fantastic. Castillo organizes his monograph around the motif of curiosity, refuting the belief that Spain is a country incapable of organized scientific inquiry."
---David Foster, Arizona State University
Baroque Horrors turns the current cultural and political conversation from the familiar narrative patterns and self-justifying allegories of abjection to a dialogue on the history of our modern fears and their monstrous offspring. When life and death are severed from nature and history, "reality" and "authenticity" may be experienced as spectator sports and staged attractions, as in the "real lives" captured by reality TV and the "authentic cadavers" displayed around the world in the Body Worlds exhibitions. Rather than thinking of virtual reality and staged authenticity as recent developments of the postmodern age, Castillo looks back to the Spanish baroque period in search for the roots of the commodification of nature and the horror vacui that accompanies it. Aimed at specialists, students, and readers of early modern literature and culture in the Spanish and Anglophone traditions as well as anyone interested in horror fantasy, Baroque Horrors offers new ways to rethink broad questions of intellectual and political history and relate them to the modern age.
David Castillo is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University at Buffalo, SUNY.
Jacket art: Frederick Ruysch's anatomical diorama. Engraving reproduction "drawn from life" by Cornelius Huyberts. Image from the Zymoglyphic Museum.
When Lee Siegel went to India to do research for a book on Sanskrit horror literature, a friend in New Delhi told him about an itinerant teller of ghost and vampire tales, a man with clusters of amulets around his neck and a silk top hat with peacock plumes on his head. Siegel set out in search of the old man—called Brahm Kathuwala—to hear his stories and to learn about his uncommon life.
But what started out as a study of other people's stories became a compelling story itself. City of Dreadful Night is an astonishing work of fiction, a tangle of tales that transports the reader from the Medieval India of magicians, witches, and vampires, through the British India of Brahm Kathuwala's childhood, into the chaos and political terror of contemporary India. Vividly recreating Indian literary and oral traditions, Siegel weaves a web of possession, reincarnation, and magical transformation unlike any found in the Western tradition. Flesh-eating demons, Rajiv Gandhi's assassin, even Bram Stoker and Dracula populate the serpentine narrative, which intermingles stories about the characters with the terrifying tales they tell.
Siegel pursues Brahm Kathuwala from the ghastly lights of the cremation ground at Banaras through villages all over north India. Brahm's life story is revealed through countless tales along the way. We learn that he was raised, and abandoned, by two mothers—one the destitute floor sweeper who bore him; the other her employer, a wealthy Irish woman who read and reread to him the story of Dracula. We hear of his marriage to the daughter of a cremation ground attendant, his battles against her demonic possession, and their painful parting. We come to understand the daily life and motivations of this "horror professional," who uses terrifying tales to ward off the evil he himself fears.
This unorthodox book is more than a story; it blends scholarship, fantasy, travelogue, and autobiography—fusing and overlapping historical accounts and newscasts, literary texts and films, dreams and nocturnal tales. Siegel uses imagination to explore the relation of real terror to horror fiction and to contemplate the ways fear and disgust become thrilling elements in stories of the macabre.
This book is the product of Siegel's deep knowledge of both Indian and Western literary and philosophical traditions. It is also an attempt to come to grips with the omnipresence of political and religious terror in contemporary India. Shocking, original, beautifully written, City of Dreadful Night offers readers a captivating immersion in the wonder and terror of India, past and present.
In Life-Destroying Diagrams, Eugenie Brinkema brings the insights of her radical formalism to bear on supremely risky terrain: the ethical extremes of horror and love. Through close readings of works of film, literature, and philosophy, she explores how diagrams, grids, charts, lists, abecedaria, toroids, tempos, patterns, colors, negative space, lengths, increments, and thresholds attest to formal logics of torture and cruelty, violence and finitude, friendship and eros, debt and care. Beginning with a wholesale rethinking of the affect of horror, orienting it away from entrenched models of feeling toward impersonal schemes and structures, Brinkema moves outward to consider the relation between objects and affects, humiliation and metaphysics, genre and the general, bodily destruction and aesthetic generation, geometry and scenography, hatred and value, love and measurement, and, ultimately, the tensions, hazards, and speculative promise of formalism itself. Replete with etymological meditations, performative typography, and lyrical digressions, Life-Destroying Diagrams is at once a model of reading without guarantee and a series of generative experiments in the writing of aesthetic theory.
Searching for Sycorax highlights the unique position of Black women in horror as both characters and creators. Kinitra D. Brooks creates a racially gendered critical analysis of African diasporic women, challenging the horror genre’s historic themes and interrogating forms of literature that have often been ignored by Black feminist theory. Brooks examines the works of women across the African diaspora, from Haiti, Trinidad, and Jamaica, to England and the United States, looking at new and canonized horror texts by Nalo Hopkinson, NK Jemisin, Gloria Naylor, and Chesya Burke. These Black women fiction writers take advantage of horror’s ability to highlight U.S. white dominant cultural anxieties by using Africana folklore to revise horror’s semiotics within their own imaginary. Ultimately, Brooks compares the legacy of Shakespeare’s Sycorax (of The Tempest) to Black women writers themselves, who, deprived of mainstream access to self-articulation, nevertheless influence the trajectory of horror criticism by forcing the genre to de-centralize whiteness and maleness.