Is immersion merely a subjective response to a work, or can it be an objective formal feature of the work itself? This article examines the unique situation of horror as a genre that demands a substantial level of immersion in order to be successful and will begin to answer this question through a close reading of Marisha Pessl's Night Film (2013). Through the novel's intricate staging of different forms of immersion that is made possible by its extended length, this article argues that Pessl and the horror genre more generally seek to establish a difference between something like literal immersion, which requires the engrossment of a reader or viewer in the world of the story, and immersion as a formal technique, which is for the most part indifferent to the actual engagement of the audience and instead produces a claim immanent to the work itself.
The Structure of Scares: Art, Horror, and Immersion in Marisha Pessl's Night Film
Melissa C. Macero is a PhD candidate in English literature at the University of Illinois at Chicago, specializing in twentieth- and twenty-first-century American literature and film with a concentration in popular culture, horror studies, and critical theory. Her dissertation explores the aesthetics of the horror genre and in particular the genre's imagined relationship to an audience, from Henry James to contemporary slashers.
Melissa C. Macero; The Structure of Scares: Art, Horror, and Immersion in Marisha Pessl's Night Film. Genre 1 July 2021; 54 (2): 245–264. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-9263091
Download citation file: