Making Sense of M. Night Shyamalan: Signs of a Popular Auteur in the “Field of Horror”

Matt Hills

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


My focus on one writer/director/producer/actor occurs here because the work of M. Night Shyamalan, as I will demonstrate, can be taken to exemplify a specific type of intertextual position-taking within “the field of horror” (Gelder, Horror 1 and 6, “Vampire” 30). In order to explore the “space of possibles” (Bourdieu, Field 30) that texts interact with and come culturally to occupy, I will argue that different types of horror films are intended to take up positions within this “space of possibles,” as authors, via their texts, aim to link themselves to preceding traditions in the cultural history of horror, distinguishing themselves and their texts relationally from other generic productions. The “field of horror” is thus a cultural space in which texts and authors seek distinction from their rivals at the same time as seeking recognition within horror’s generic “field of cultural production” (see Bourdieu, Field). Rather than considering intertextuality as an attribute of allegedly “postmodern” horror, this chapter will instead address distinctions in cultural value that can be constructed through horror texts’ intertextual strategies, developing a Bourdieu-derived theoretical approach to the films of M. Night Shyamalan. In the following section, I will explore some theoretical preliminaries before analyzing Shyamalan’s films extratextually and intertextually. I will then conclude with a brief audience study related to Shyamalan’s film Signs (2004).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical Approaches to the Films of M. Night Shyamalan
Subtitle of host publicationSpoiler Warnings
EditorsJeffrey Andrew Weinstock
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan US
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780230112094
ISBN (Print)9780230104082, 9781349288571
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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