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Monsters From The Id: The Rise Of Horror In Fiction And Film

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Jones uncovers the origins of horror in the suffering inflicted by political and sexual revolution. The avenging monster, a mainstay of horror, emerged from the sexual dissolution of the French Revolution (Frankenstein) and thrived in the syphilitic underworld of Victorian England (Dracula). From Nosferatu and Psycho to Alien and Interview with the Vampire, the twentieth c Jones uncovers the origins of horror in the suffering inflicted by political and sexual revolution. The avenging monster, a mainstay of horror, emerged from the sexual dissolution of the French Revolution (Frankenstein) and thrived in the syphilitic underworld of Victorian England (Dracula). From Nosferatu and Psycho to Alien and Interview with the Vampire, the twentieth century has spawned new monsters of unprecedented horror. -- What is the connection between sex and horror? -- Why are vampires and nameless or faceless monsters so common in horror? -- Why do we need horror -- yet fail to understand it?


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Jones uncovers the origins of horror in the suffering inflicted by political and sexual revolution. The avenging monster, a mainstay of horror, emerged from the sexual dissolution of the French Revolution (Frankenstein) and thrived in the syphilitic underworld of Victorian England (Dracula). From Nosferatu and Psycho to Alien and Interview with the Vampire, the twentieth c Jones uncovers the origins of horror in the suffering inflicted by political and sexual revolution. The avenging monster, a mainstay of horror, emerged from the sexual dissolution of the French Revolution (Frankenstein) and thrived in the syphilitic underworld of Victorian England (Dracula). From Nosferatu and Psycho to Alien and Interview with the Vampire, the twentieth century has spawned new monsters of unprecedented horror. -- What is the connection between sex and horror? -- Why are vampires and nameless or faceless monsters so common in horror? -- Why do we need horror -- yet fail to understand it?

30 review for Monsters From The Id: The Rise Of Horror In Fiction And Film

  1. 5 out of 5

    Suzannah

    In this philosophical examination of the modern horror genre, E Michael Jones argues that, from Frankenstein to Alien, the genre rests upon a three-way blend of lust, philosophy, and death. I'll try to give a brief description of the book's main points. First, Jones argues that much of modern philosophy, especially Enlightenment thought, is an attempt to rationalise lust. Before lust can be acted upon, the moral order must be rendered somehow irrelevant. Philosophy is thus used to repress (Jones' In this philosophical examination of the modern horror genre, E Michael Jones argues that, from Frankenstein to Alien, the genre rests upon a three-way blend of lust, philosophy, and death. I'll try to give a brief description of the book's main points. First, Jones argues that much of modern philosophy, especially Enlightenment thought, is an attempt to rationalise lust. Before lust can be acted upon, the moral order must be rendered somehow irrelevant. Philosophy is thus used to repress (Jones's term) the moral order. Sadeian materialism reduces bodies and what one does with them to a purely physical/technological act. The relationship between sexual liberation and horror, in Jones's terms, goes like this: sexual liberation divorces the body and sex from the moral order. Similarly, horror divorces the body and violence from the moral order (in a more clearly perverse, and therefore horrifying way). In addition, you cannot divorce the body from the moral order for the purposes of sex, without opening the door (as Sade argued) to violence. The reward for turning man into a machine has always been sexual, but it has always had horror as its immediate consequence. If man is simply the locus of local motions with no transcendent purpose, then he can do with his body what he wants. But if he can use other bodies in that fashion, then other bodies can also use him. And so the first thought which occurs following the transformation of man into a machine--ie, sexual liberation--is quickly followed by the second thought, namely, terror. If I can do that to them, the newly liberated human machine suddenly realises, then they can do that to me. With this, Jones makes the case that the horror genre is the re-emergence of this repressed moral order. The mass popularity of horror is the symptom of a culture which has been violently traumatised by the wages of sin. The trauma must be somehow expressed, but the culture is not ready to repent of the lusts and bad philosophy that got it into its fix in the first place. So catharsis is sought in the highly ambivalent horror genre, in which the monster is both identified with and fought by its victims. In Frankenstein, Frankenstein's creation is both sympathetic and terrifying because it is both the result and the punishment of the maker's pride. In horror, monsters are intolerable and must be resisted because they represent something the culture is unwilling to acknowledge about the moral order. At the same time, the monsters are next to impossible to destroy, maybe even perversely desirable, because ignorance of inconvenient moral realities must never be faced: it is better to be preyed upon by something you do not understand, than to neuter the monster by understanding what you do not wish to admit that deep down, you really do understand. This is complex, but I seem to understand what Jones is saying if I apply it to the Oedipus myth. In the backstory, Oedipus was exposed as a child. He then comes back and owing to no fault of their own (poor things) his parents suffer death and incest at his (equally innocent) hands. The horrible things that happen to Oedipus and his family are divorced from any moral order. There is no explanation for why the bad things happen; certainly not that infanticide is a ghastly crime worthy of punishment. A similar thing does appear to be going on in, for example, Alien, which Jones explains as a war against motherhood and fertility. The chest-bursting alien was designed to look vaguely fetal, and the liberated feminist heroine makes it her mission to destroy the mother-aliens and their children whose fecundity is depicted as a monstrous threat to the safety of the entire universe. So far so clear. I'm not so sure I buy Jones's use of psychological terminology ("repression", for instance). He made a lot of conclusions that I didn't see a logical progression to--but that may simply be because he is describing something that is fundamentally illogical: the guilty soul's response to the trauma inflicted by his own sins on those around him. That said, I'm fairly willing to call this book the most insightful thing I've ever read on the topic of horror fiction and film.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Adam Ross

    Reviev: http://atrossbooks.com/2011/12/26/boo... The rise of horror fiction in the Western world is a psychological expression of the angst and guilty conscience of Enlightenment man, who is pressed down by his conscience for the sexual revolution. That is the central thrust of Monsters From the Id, written by conservative Roman Catholic "culture warrior" E. Michael Jones, whose book has become rather popular among conservative Christians dealing with literature and cultural issues. Unfortunately, Reviev: http://atrossbooks.com/2011/12/26/boo... The rise of horror fiction in the Western world is a psychological expression of the angst and guilty conscience of Enlightenment man, who is pressed down by his conscience for the sexual revolution. That is the central thrust of Monsters From the Id, written by conservative Roman Catholic "culture warrior" E. Michael Jones, whose book has become rather popular among conservative Christians dealing with literature and cultural issues. Unfortunately, the book is awful. Now, don't get me wrong. The Enlightenment is a favorite whipping boy that richly deserves another elbow jammed in its ribs. But we ought not to go thrashing around without a focused reason, and it seems to me that Jones' fails (utterly) to provide a justification for the argument he makes. Part of this failure (the larger part) falls on a small group of basic assumptions that throw off his whole reading of history and his texts. He is focused almost entirely on Frankenstein and Dracula, and the history of the people who produced, or surrounded those who did produce, both works. Thus, the first hundred or so pages of the book is entirely focused on the history and background of Mary Shelly, including extensive excursus on Godwin, Byron, and others who made up Mary Shelley's social world. There is nothing particularly wrong with investigating the background and history of the author to give broad thematic insights into the work. However, this is not what Jones' attempts to do. Rather, he looks for specific connections between events in Shelly's life which he then attempts to correlate with specific lines or moments in Frankenstein. Essentially, he is operating from the fatal assumption that literature is biography; that authors cram all kinds of specific references to their external lives into their work. This is one of the greatest literary fallacies of our era, and it usually falls flat. In this case it falls especially flat because Jones' can't even get his connections to make obvious sense within his text. He builds his argument by fronting each argument with a bunch of unsupported text, then mentions a moment in Shelley's life, quotes from a single line of Frankenstein, and then must conclude with more unsupported supposition just to get the two things to jive. You can watch the progress unfold. When he is summarizing the historical events there are a number of footnotes. Then he interpreted the text in a string of unsupported readings (which skate on pretty thin ice as they stand), at which time the footnotes drop away. He does this over and over. I frequently found his connections a stretch at best, and a complete eisegesis at worst. In short, he is so sure that sexual liberation was the cause of Shelley's nightmare and inspiration for Frankenstein that he can see almost nothing else - which reveals more about himself than Shelley. It is the same with Bram Stoker and Dracula. He argues that the vampire is a metaphor for Victorian-era men who contract syphilis from brothel women, then return home to infect their virginal wives. Now, it is true that Stoker died of syphilis himself, but to claim this interpretation as the meaning of Dracula is a staggering claim, one that is, given what he can marshal in his support, very weak. The vampire concept had been around long before Stoker, long before any of the supposed "historical" Draculas' and has a much bigger, mythical meaning. It has also been demonstrated by a recent book that Stoker's central work in re-defining the vampire myth was to co-opt it for the Christian faith (Susannah Clements, The Vampire Defanged, ch. 1), to turn the vampire symbol into a picture of the Serpent who could only be defeated by faith and the cross - much as the transcriber of Beowulf turned a pagan myth into a Gentile version of the Old Testament, waiting and yearning for Christ to set them free from their endless cycles of violence. (I've written much more on Dracula and Beowulf in this context here.) The real problem with Jones' reading of these two texts, beyond his obvious mistake of literature-as-biography, is that he falls into precisely the same trap he attacks the Enlightenment and his radical progressives (like Byron and Shelley) in the book for. By offering us a reading of fiction that reduces the stories to biography, Jones' shows us a truncated, reductionistic version of the stories which turns myth into history, fiction into reality. He is participating in the same Modernist yearning to get rid of the story and just get to the "essence" of the stories. Just as we have films like King Arthur and Becoming Jane which offer viewers the "real story" on how Arthur became king (stripped of its mythical qualities) or on how Jane Austen's own life impacted her stories, so Jones has proclaimed that Dracula is nothing more than a Victorian prig with a bad case of the VD, and Frankenstein's Monster nothing more than Mary Shelley's disturbed and guilty conscience come to wreak vengeance upon her for her sexual infidelities. For all of his criticism of Enlightenment Modernism, Jones stands firmly entrenched in their camp. Correlatedwith this is Jones' argument that the horror genre has its origins in sexual sin. The monster, then, represents "strict justice," "an eye for an eye," or "the angel of Death," who comes to sinners and destroys them for their sins, according to Jones. While some ancillary evidence might match this idea (the fornicating couple always gets killed in the woods by the monster), this seems too simplistic an explanation which trends too far into the realm of Jungian psychology. It is not so obvious whether modern horror is a production of the Enlightenment radicalism at all; while as a genre, horror as distinguished from fantasy and paranormal fiction is new from the Enlightenment period, it is closely tied to the tragic romance. Romance was the original genre that included what we now call the "speculative fiction genres," like fantasy, science fiction, horror, and paranormal fiction. All these genres originally participated in one another very closely from ancient Greece up to the Reformation/Renaissance period, which makes pin-pointing the causes of the distinction between them difficult. What, after all, is the quantitative difference between Oedipus Rex and a film like Saw? There is brutal description of eye-gouging violence, fear, and catharsis in both. So it seems that modern horror is a subset of both tragedy and the classical romance - not Enlightenment radical progressivism and the guilt such people hold. Ancient mythology is full of creatures as evil and strange as any horror movie monster. The matter is sufficiently muddled that easy claims like Jones' mean almost nothing without more extensive research. The lack of real argumentation in the stead of simply assuming his reading is correct results in the book being almost a full failure, suffusing practically every page. This alone could have prevented my enjoyment of the book, but because the mistake is so vast, with so many implications coming along with it, I am unsure of what (if anything) can be gleaned that will be potentially helpful for the Christian who is interested in learning about the origins of horror fiction, or its purposes. Christians understand so little already about how literature works that such a book could only lead them further astray.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    Id imagine this might be the first controversial book I've read. I have no doubt that this author is someone that is not thought of in a good light by most people whose company one might prefer to be in, and thought well of by people one might not want to be associated with. This book being conflicting even in rating it and my hesitation of giving it five stars, thinking by giving it just four it would give off a great appreciation while showing that I had my reservations. I am shadowed by these Id imagine this might be the first controversial book I've read. I have no doubt that this author is someone that is not thought of in a good light by most people whose company one might prefer to be in, and thought well of by people one might not want to be associated with. This book being conflicting even in rating it and my hesitation of giving it five stars, thinking by giving it just four it would give off a great appreciation while showing that I had my reservations. I am shadowed by these thoughts and where my search has taken me, and where it will take me. I have shed myself of friendships so that I can move more freely through the pool of human thought, and perhaps this will be read by someone who will think less of me for having read this with such enthusiasm, so be it. It has been a conscious search as of late to look for the foundations of contemporary human thought, how we got to where we are at idea-wise and why? I felt that the author for this book has a firm grip on at least one of those foundations, and is the reason I had a hard time putting the book down. Jones has much to say on a topic that I find fascinating and gave a convincing back drop to how it is that the horror genre came about. My rating goes very much to his credit for that and also the amount of thought that poured out of me while reading this. Insights that I've longed to have, but more importantly this book gives me much to research, and because of it opens a whole new door of history for me to explore. Specifically the idea of the Enlightenment and what it proposed, the French Revolution, Mary Shelly, the Marquis de Sade, and some horror films. The conclusions of our forebears become our premises I found to be a most exciting thought, and one that I've looked to have articulated. This book was simply revolutionary to my thoughts, and I am grateful for it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    CJ Bowen

    "Vampirism and disease are ultimately metaphors for lust, which is a perversion of sexuality into something not life-giving but life-draining." p. 97 Jones identifies a pattern from the book of James that he calls the sex-horror trajectory, the movement from desire to death by way of guilt, metaphorically portrayed as a monster. He then applies this to cultural expressions of horror from Frankenstein and Dracula to Alien and Cronenberg. The enlightenment is Jones' chief monster, in which man seeks "Vampirism and disease are ultimately metaphors for lust, which is a perversion of sexuality into something not life-giving but life-draining." p. 97 Jones identifies a pattern from the book of James that he calls the sex-horror trajectory, the movement from desire to death by way of guilt, metaphorically portrayed as a monster. He then applies this to cultural expressions of horror from Frankenstein and Dracula to Alien and Cronenberg. The enlightenment is Jones' chief monster, in which man seeks to replace God through physics and electricity, and then Darwin and biology. When God is unnecessary, so is His sexual morality. The Enlightenment sought to remake morality in order to free mankind, but remains unable to escape guilt, which keeps reappearing in the form of monsters from the id. Marriage, fatherhood, monogamy, and heterosexuality must all be cleared away, and then the peace and light of man's newfound freedom will spread. Unfortunately, since God is real, and man is inescapably moral, the Enlightment vision ends up in terror. Jones' work is important and convincing, but not without flaws. He demonstrates clear links to horror's foundational myths, but surrounds them with amateur psychology and unsubstantiated assertions concerning motives and mindsets. His central insight, however, is extremely valuable, and powerfully explains the driving force behind the monsters of popular culture.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lucas

    E. Michael Jones claims that the monster in horror flicks is us, as a nation, working through our guilt over our sexual sin. Made a lot of sense to me. I appreciate his concluding chapter in particular, which explains why modern critics of horror never get it right. His point, in a nutshell, is that those who come at the horror genre with a commitment to enlightenment/progressive beliefs about sexuality simply can't see that the entire genre is an attack on those very beliefs. Some reviewers have E. Michael Jones claims that the monster in horror flicks is us, as a nation, working through our guilt over our sexual sin. Made a lot of sense to me. I appreciate his concluding chapter in particular, which explains why modern critics of horror never get it right. His point, in a nutshell, is that those who come at the horror genre with a commitment to enlightenment/progressive beliefs about sexuality simply can't see that the entire genre is an attack on those very beliefs. Some reviewers have criticized Jones for spending a lot of time on the lives of particular authors (Mary Shelley, etc), but I don't think that's a mistake. I think that background makes all the difference in the world. My one criticism of Jones is that he repeats himself quite a lot. Finally, I would also caution potential readers to show discernment regarding whether or not they read this book. Jones is not gratuitous or provocative in his descriptions, but there is some pretty evil stuff in this book. I don't think everyone should read it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

    I can't possibly summarize this book. You need to read it if you want to understand our culture's fixation on horror in film and fiction! I can't possibly summarize this book. You need to read it if you want to understand our culture's fixation on horror in film and fiction!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joseph R.

    In Monsters from the Id, E. Michael Jones argues that the horror genre originated with Mary Shelly's Frankenstein as a reaction to the Enlightenment, and in particular, to the French Revolution and the sexual morality leading up to it. The revolutionaries began with high ideals (liberte, egalite, fraternite) but also embraced the sexual freedom that resulted from the rejection of Christianity. The revolution rather quickly devolved into the publicly sanctioned mass murder of the guillotine and t In Monsters from the Id, E. Michael Jones argues that the horror genre originated with Mary Shelly's Frankenstein as a reaction to the Enlightenment, and in particular, to the French Revolution and the sexual morality leading up to it. The revolutionaries began with high ideals (liberte, egalite, fraternite) but also embraced the sexual freedom that resulted from the rejection of Christianity. The revolution rather quickly devolved into the publicly sanctioned mass murder of the guillotine and the Reign of Terror. Shelly's mother had gone from London to Paris to experience the sexual part of the revolution though she had at best a mixed experience. Shelly herself lived a rather chaotic and ultimately unsatisfying life with her husband Percy Shelly, who was a deep devotee of Enlightenment thought and morals. Jones argues that Mary Shelly poured her guilt and unease into Frankenstein, making it a powerful indictment of the Enlightenment's adherence to loose morals and unfettered scientific exploration. For Jones, sexual liberation leads ultimately to violence and death. Jones traces this trajectory from Dracula (where sexual promiscuity leads to the poisoning of one's blood by vampirism) to Weimar Republic Germany (where sexual decadence, among other factors, led to the rise of Hitler and his racial (i.e. blood) purity obsession) to 1930s-1950s Hollywood (to which many German film artists fled) and up to the modern day (with discussions of the Alien franchise as a cultural revolt against fertility, i.e. sexual responsibility). His argument is thorough and well-documented. Unfortunately, his argument is also not convincing. He claims Frankenstein as the origin of horror, but what about the stories of the Golem or of Faust, which predate Shelly by centuries? Jones ties his theory of horror so closely to sexual liberation (which indeed is central to many horror tropes, themes, and stories) that the book reads more like searching for examples to validate his theory rather than discovering an insight that explains the history of horror. He delves too pruriently into his examples, often assuming details that can't be confirmed, for example what Mary Shelly thought about her husband or his first wife's suicide. His writing style is mostly scholarly but too often crosses a line into unnecessary details or speculative assumptions. The book winds up being unpersuasive. While I agree that sexual liberation brings a host of problems, I hardly agree that it is the cause and the core inspiration for the horror genre. The book has a lot of interesting little bits here and there, but taken as a whole, it is unsatisfying.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ned

    This book is nothing less than a work of genius that is enjoyable from start to finish. Horror is explained as the manifestation of several things: the return of the repressed moral order in the form of a nameless monster because we don't understand the nature and consequences of said repression; the thing that is too terrible to talk about, yet too terrible not to talk about; the concealing of that which we know in our hearts but cannot admit; that sex disconnected from the moral order always l This book is nothing less than a work of genius that is enjoyable from start to finish. Horror is explained as the manifestation of several things: the return of the repressed moral order in the form of a nameless monster because we don't understand the nature and consequences of said repression; the thing that is too terrible to talk about, yet too terrible not to talk about; the concealing of that which we know in our hearts but cannot admit; that sex disconnected from the moral order always leads to death; technology as substitute for morality; an indirect approach to subjects we are afraid to approach directly... Just brilliant analysis and insights throughout. Don't miss the wonderful explication of the Alien trilogy in the epilogue. Highly recommended! 

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    Quite good. Jones' explanations for horror in modern times are both plausible and insightful. Two faults of the book, however, are that the explanation for horror (suppression of the moral order, particularly sexual morals) is not logically or causally linked with the proposed consequences (horror as a genre), at least not very clearly, but are rather linked intuitively. The second problem is the book needed a rigorous editor (for such things as repeated passages and to improve general clarity) Quite good. Jones' explanations for horror in modern times are both plausible and insightful. Two faults of the book, however, are that the explanation for horror (suppression of the moral order, particularly sexual morals) is not logically or causally linked with the proposed consequences (horror as a genre), at least not very clearly, but are rather linked intuitively. The second problem is the book needed a rigorous editor (for such things as repeated passages and to improve general clarity) and a proofreader. That said, I'll never see horror in quite the same way.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    Great book about horror in its relation to religion, psychology, and philosophy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ray Stafford

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jake McAtee

  13. 5 out of 5

    David

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sean

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Garner

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Wight

  17. 4 out of 5

    Beth K. Brown

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eric Sauder

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nick

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  21. 5 out of 5

    Darren Holland

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hythlodaeus

  23. 4 out of 5

    Natthakorn Khampuan

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jean Luc Picard

  25. 5 out of 5

    OTIS

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  27. 5 out of 5

    Robert Terry

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Estabrook

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nate Miller

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kodai Okuda

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