Possessed Women, Haunted States: Cultural Tensions in Exorcism Cinema


I am proud to announce the impending release of my first monograph (co-authored with Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University), Possessed Women, Haunted States: Cultural Tensions in Exorcism Cinema. The book considers the various ways that the exorcism films produced since the release of The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) either reflect, reinforce, or challenge prevailing sociocultural and historical anxieties relating to women, people of color, and the nonheteronormative.


Written by myself and CarrieLynn, Lexington Books will release Possessed Women Women, Haunted States on November 23, 2016, and you can preorder a copy directly from the publisher or from your favorite online retailer (such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more).

Here is the description from the publisher’s website:

Since the release of The Exorcist in 1973, there has been a surge of movies depicting young women becoming possessed by a demonic force that only male religious figures can exorcise, thereby saving the women from eventual damnation. This book considers the history of exorcism cinema by analyzing how the traditional exorcism narrative established in The Exorcist recurs across the exorcism subgenre, with only the rare film deviating from this structure.

The analysis presented in this book uses various cultural and critical theories to examine how depictions of possession and exorcism reflect, reinforce or challenge prevailing social,cultural, and historical views of women, minorities, and homosexuals. In particular, exorcism films appear to explore tensions or fears regarding empowered and sexually active women, and frequently reinforce the belief that such individuals must be subjugated and disempowered so that they no longer pose a threat to themselves or those around them.Even more recent films produced after the emergence of third wave feminism typically reflect this concern about women. In fact, exorcism films very rarely present empowered women and feminine sexuality as nonthreatening.

In examining the exorcism subgenre, this book looks at films that have received little to no critical scrutiny regarding how they relate to and comment on the historical periods in which they were initially produced and received. Given the results of this analysis, this book reveals the necessity of examining how possession and exorcism are portrayed onscreen and elsewhere in popular culture.

Blair Davis, Professor in the College of Communication at DePaul University in Chicago, IL and author of The Battle for the Bs: 1950s Hollywood and the Rebirth of Low-Budget Cinema, says:

Olson and Reinhard offer a compelling look at the history and cultural politics of exorcism films in this well argued, adeptly researched study.

Meanwhile, Matt Hills, Professor of Media and Journalism at the University of Huddersfield and author of The Pleasures of Horror, writes:

Possessed Women, Haunted States skillfully studies the cultural politics of an under-explored strand of horror cinema. Ranging from The Exorcist through to recent ‘found footage’ movies, as well as taking a very welcome, inclusive approach to parody, Christopher Olson and CarrieLynn Reinhard exercise impeccable critical faculties throughout this impressive analysis.

CarrieLynn and I are incredibly proud of this book (not to mention humbled by these gushing reviews), and we believe it represents an important contribution to the areas of cultural studies, media studies, and gender studies. We hope you agree.

NOTE: We just got our print copies, and I discovered a mistake on p. 13; we used the wrong word when discussing queer theory. The sentence “Queer theorists challenge the idea of homosexuality as a biological necessity…” should read “Queer theorists challenge the idea of heterosexuality as a biological necessity…” Our apologies for the mistake; somehow during the revising process things got switched, and we wanted to make certain that we clearly stated the tenets of queer theory here.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Possessed Women, Haunted States by Christopher J. Olson and CarrieLynn D. Reinhard

Possessed Women, Haunted States


by Christopher J. Olson

and CarrieLynn D. Reinhard

Giveaway ends November 23, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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