The Literacy(ies) of Monstrosity:
Reading the Monster across Multimodal, Multimedia Narratives
Any audience engaging with monster media (any mode of narration that includes a monstrous presence, force, threat, or entity) has a desire to witness the monster as the embodiment of the Other, the thing both like us and grotesquely unlike us; this witnessing necessitates close-reading of the texts to identify markers, signs, or evidence of something scary/foreboding/deadly. When audience members do this repeatedly, they develop patterns of searching for the monster, a literacy of monstrosity. The intense scrutiny of searching for evidence of the monster reflects more on the audience than it does on the monster media; this type of reading requires the reader/viewer to observe all signs for the monster.
In this project, I demonstrate the merging of these two theories—the psychological desire to witness monstrosity and the analysis of multimodal multiliteracies—to examine the phenomenon that occurs when audiences develop the tendency/skill to read for monsters. The following texts will be used to demonstrate the markers of monstrosity that appear in multiple modes: The Shining (novel)—monstrosity in written words, Sinister (film)—monstrosity in secondary film/drawings, The Twilight Zone (audio dramatization)—monstrosity in oral speech/narration, Tales from the Crypt (episodic TV)—monstrosity in images, and American Horror Story (climatic TV)—monstrosity in art and allusion. Regardless of the medium, audiences persist in creating literacies to read projections of fear and to satisfy the need to identify with the monster, but from a safe place.