112th Annual Conference - Riverside Convention Center, California
Friday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2, 2014

This page is about the 2014 conference. For 2015 conference info, go to PAMLA 2015.

Grotesque Sensory Fragments: A Metamodern Explication of Extreme Sensuality and Violent Aftermaths in Kubrick's The Shining

Angel Lua, California State University, San Bernardino

In this paper we will revisit The Shining and analyze the sensory fragments projected by the Torrance family’s visions for a meta-modern interpretation. I will use the documentary Room 237, in addition to past criticism, to explicate scenes of sensuality, violence, and grotesqueness that evoke the familiarity in the Overlook Hotel’s specters. I will also shift between Kubrick’s vision and the cultural expectations/audience reception of the late 20th century horror film genre to further empower the viewer’s interpretation of the film.


According to the early film criticism written about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, the movie has been regarded as anything but a successful horror movie. A moderately reviewed film upon its release in 1980, it also began as a commercial disappointment for the Warner Brothers studio. Though eventually grossing more than 40 million dollars domestically, it is the collection of criticism and scholarship academia reserved for Kubrick’s film that proved to be a much more potent area for intellectual study and insight. This scholarship, with help from critical lenses such psychoanalysis, Marxism, feminism, and more importantly, postmodernism, found its subject to be a richer, complex, and more nuanced space for exploration than initially thought. In addition, the 2012 documentary, Room 237, also generated more interest with newer audiences and broadened not only the appeal of the film to a wider academic base but also that of the filmmaker.

 Largely considered an example of a Gothic literary text (the screenplay happens to be co-written by Diane Johnson, an English Literature professor specializing in Gothicism, with Stanley Kubrick), The Shining also manages to be other things: critic Greg Smith claims the film is a satirically-minded “cultural mirror” that reflects back to the audience the “racist and sexist ideology of the Overlook’s vulgar fantasy world” as a stand-in for America. David A. Cook manages to add a Marxist perspective and posits that the film is “an allegory for American economic and racial politics” and “less about ghosts and demonic possession than it is about the murderous system of economic exploitation which has sustained America” like the Overlook hotel, built on the corpses of Native Americans. And Christopher Hoile has chosen to focus on how the film lends itself to Freudian undercurrents citing the repressive history of America’s westward expansion and its hegemonic authority.  Critic Robert Kilker also takes a psychoanalytic approach, suggesting that the film makes a monster out of the repressive patriarch, but also codes the feminine as monstrous, thus equally threatening as the patriarchal forces that would try to contain it. Flo Lebowitz and Lynn Jeffres also view Kubrick’s film as an allegory of the patriarchal world, emphasizing the struggle women often have to endure within, thus viewing it through the lens of feminism.

In this paper we will revisit The Shining, taking into consideration the elements of horror and disembodied flashes that either resonate with today’s audiences or cause them to groan with boredom. Though it has been more than 30 years, the spectacle still throbs with the repressed history of a young America, troubled with its violent past and identity. In addition to the Freudian aesthetics of Jack’s doubling, the uncanniness of the shining, the feminine’s monstrous, and the American Dream gone awry, the Native American genocide, and women’s allegorical battle with an eternally repressive patriarch, I hope this paper will add another perspective to The Shining – a more in-depth focus on the snapshots by Stanley Kubrick and editor Ray Lovejoy as they penetrate the viewer with the sensory fragments projected by Jack, Wendy and Danny’s visions and apparitions. These moments will be analyzed and explicated, and broken down, for the purpose of not only breaking out of these postmodern barriers, but also incorporating them to create what some call a meta-modern interpretation. I also will use the documentary Room 237 (which was largely informed by a demographically-diverse audience), in addition to past criticism, to explicate scenes of extreme sensuality, aftermaths of violence, and grotesqueness that evoke the familiarity of the Overlook Hotel’s specters.  The paper will also shift between Kubrick’s vision and the cultural expectations/audience reception of the horror film genre in the late 1970’s and early 80’s as a way to further empower the viewer in their interpretation of the film.