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The ornamental and the monstrous: Exploring feminine architecture in Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977)

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In the cinema of Dario Argento, the architecture frequently draws attention to itself and often cross-contaminates various eras and influences within a single film. However, in critical discussions of his 1977 film Suspiria, the interior styles deployed and their thematic and political relationship to the characters themselves have not been as arduously explored. This article will seek to argue that the architecture in Suspiria embodies a rhetoric in art criticism and the horror film that posits feminine styles as ornamental and somehow dangerous and deceptive, and the female body as unknowable and treacherous – ultimately perpetuating the idea that a woman’s sexual difference in all its manifestations is an unassailable threat to man and the progress of modernity. The first section will introduce the various theories and existing literature surrounding Argento, while the second engages with how the film uses ornament and the ‘pretty’ in relation to its female characters. The third section seeks to elucidate how the architectural recreation of maternal and anatomical imagery ties in with theories of ornament and modernity, while the fourth and final part will observe the role of waste in a building that is both decorative and antiquated in a modern context, where everything is measured by utility.
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Keywords: Argento; Art Deco; Art Nouveau; Italian; architecture; gender; horror; witches

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Warwick

Publication date: April 1, 2019

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  • Horror Studies intends to serve the international academic community in the humanities and specifically those scholars interested in horror. Exclusively examining horror, this journal will provide interested professionals with an opportunity to read outstanding scholarship from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including work conceived as interdisciplinary. By expanding the conversation to include specialists concerned with diverse historical periods, varied geography, and a wide variety of expressive media, this journal will inform and stimulate anyone interested in a wider and deeper understanding of horror
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