The Mummy

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Annotated Bibliography

1. Kawin, Bruce. “The Mummy’s Pool.” Planks of Reason: Essays on the Horror Film. Ed. Barry Keith Grant and Christopher Sharrett. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2004. 3-19.

This chapter purpose is to prove that films act as dreams. Kawin begins by comparing the experience of watching films to having dreams. He then goes on to compare horror films to science fiction films particularly with their shared themes. Kawin more persuasive argument is the similarity between horror films and nightmares. Both allow the viewer to experience their taboo desires from a safe position. The film The Mummy (1932) is used as evidence of the desire to become the first victim. He explains the myth of Osiris as the first undead and then focuses on the narrative and the function of the mummy in the horror film.  He later focuses on the white female that almost becomes the female mummy. In this way, these films allow the viewer to become the mummy Imhotep as they are able to safely confront the danger, take control of the situation and explore their desires. Kawin then gives a detailed analysis of the later sequels The Mummy’s Hand (1940) and The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), which provide evidence for his claim that the mummy is an unstoppable insatiable force that acts on his urges. However, the mummy has changed from a sexual desire to a destructive force of pure anger. He also concludes with the only film where the mummy is finally with his love before both die. In all cases, the mummy films allow viewers to project themselves as the monster in the same way as they can in a dream. Kawin characterizes the mummy film as a horror film and he labels horror films as always exploring the Land of the Undead. This chapter is particularly useful for understanding mummies and the prominence of the undead in horror films. However, by ignoring the variety of other horror films, Kawin may be limiting his argument as other monsters may prove to give further insight into the connection between horror films and nightmares.  In the body of scholarship, Kawin brings more insight to the female mummy or the reincarnation of the ancient Egyptian in the body of the beautiful white female. This analysis is fresh and also significant in understanding complex theories of wish fulfillment and projection of the self. It is not cited in other texts nor does it cite other texts. While it gives incredible insight into the mummy monster in horror films, it ignores the mummy monster in the adventure genre and thus is not expansive. Despite this, it is very valuable and knowledgeable on the horror films.

2. McGeough, Kevin. “Heroes, Mummies, and Treasure: Near Eastern    Archaeology in the Movies.” Near Eastern Archaeology 69.3 (2006): 174-85. JSTOR. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/25067670&gt;.

This article is a catalog of Near Eastern archaeology in films. McGeough begins by explaining that Near Eastern archaeology is romanticized as more adventurous than the reality due to Hollywood blockbusters. He explains that understanding these representations is crucial for the public to better understand the function, purpose and career of the archeologist. McGeough explains the reality of how certain situations work, such as museums, making money and artifacts, and both gives the filmic representations and explains the reality. He spends considerable time on the evolution of the archaeologist from nerdy victims to powerful, muscular heroes or sexy heroines. His most useful section of the article is where he discusses the figure of the mummy and how it has become a staple of the horror and action-adventure genre. He also explains that the mummy is a figure that is either disturbed or awoken by a priest, and thereby the mummy himself seems to have little agency. McGeough concludes the article by discussing the misrepresentations of the Middle East and the Near East in films, as they are either saved or bested by the white hero. In the body of scholarship, this source serves as an introduction to the concept of the mummy as a monster. Although it also gives some insight into how the role of the mummy has changed from a horror icon to an adventure villain, McGeough does not focus his argument on the monster. His argument is primarily about archaeology and archaeologists rather than mummies. It is not referenced by any other texts nor does it reference other texts.

3. Shaheen, Jack G. “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 588 (2003): 171-93. JSTOR. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1049860>.

This article is a comprehensive collection of examples of negative stereotypes of Arab people in mainstream cinema. The article is very well structured, as Shaheen begins by explaining his purpose of exposing the stereotypes in order to stop them from being spread. Shaheen then explains the true image of Arab people, taking considerable time in both defining the terms of the Arab and exploring the representation of Arab villains, Arab women, Egyptians and Palestinians and finally positing the reason for the stereotypes. He even notes and discusses the movies where Arabs are shown in a positive light. In each new section, Shaheen explains the terms, gives many examples and summaries of films and then explains the reality of the situation. For the section on Egyptians, Shaheen first discusses the negative portrayals of Egyptians as slave drivers in films of the Old Testament and then spends a considerable amount of time on mummies. He explains their inception in film and how they continue to be prevalent as monsters. He also explains the truth of the Egyptian people. His article argues that in Hollywood films, the sophisticated, impressive and beautiful culture of Ancient Egyptians is summarized by magical curses and dead bodies wrapped in bandages lusting for the white female body. This text is incredibly expansive, but it seems that he is too quick to judge mummy films and perhaps misses the complexity that is behind the portrayal of these monsters. It is not referenced by any other texts nor does it reference other texts.

4. Cowie, Susan D., and Tom Johnson.  Mummy in Fact, Fiction and Film. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2002.

Susan Cowie and Tom Johnson’s book is a compelling and comprehensive inventory of Egyptian mummies throughout history, literature and cinema. These authors approach the topic by beginning with the reason and purpose for mummification and delving into the intricacies of Egyptian religion, ritual and ceremonies.  After covering mummification and mummies throughout history, the next chapter focuses on the mummy’s foray to the screen in the 1900s and travels all the way to present times. The authors do not draw comparisons or insight between these films and merely provide summaries and analysis of the cinematic works. The final chapter focuses on the mummy as a figure in literature from novellas to children’s stories. The descriptions range from an entire page summarizing the plot and the function of the mummy in the narrative to a short blurb of the story.  This book functions as an informative encyclopedia documenting every aspect of mummies in the past and present from the Ancient pyramids of Giza to the action adventure blockbuster starring Brendan Fraser. Although it does cover a large breadth, it does not provide very much analysis of the mummy and could benefit from drawing links between works.  However, the authors do discuss why the mummy has endured through these ages. They believe it has to do with humanity’s obsession with avoiding death or with the discovery of the actual mummies and the superstitious curse as a result.  The authors ignore that these stories and films may appeal to the viewer or reader on an emotional level as they often feature a love story.  Although it functions as a catalog of the appearances of mummies, it allows the reader to become knowledgeable enough to create important links between each source and to greater understand the complex monster of the mummy.  It is not referenced by any other texts nor does it reference other texts.

The mummy is truly one of the staples of the monster movie and each of these sources focused on a different aspect of this monster. The sources illustrate how pervasive the mummy monster is in Western culture and how it has become to be almost representative of Egyptian culture. McGeough’s article showed the mummy as both a prominent figure of the horror and adventure genre, whereas both Kawin and Shaheen focused on the mummy in horror films and disregarded the appearances of mummies in adventure films. McGeough and Shaheen focused on how mummies have come to represent Egypt while providing historical background and information on the true Egyptian people to demonstrate Egypt’s misrepresentation in film. Cowie and Johnson proved invaluable in providing information about mummies in great and elaborate detail and held the position that the mummy was rooted in a romantic story of lost love. Kawin, on the other hand saw the mummy as an unstoppable chaotic force of insatiable lust and vengeance. The most valuable source for the discourse of the mummy as the walking dead would be Kawin’s article, which describes the function of the mummy and the reason for its recurrence on screen. He explains this as the manifestation of the audience’s wish fulfillment and projection of the self, as well as giving a thoughtful and complex comparison between the horror genre and a nightmare, which proves significant in understanding the mummy monster as well as all monsters in the horror genre.

Unlike other undead monsters, the mummy began as a physical manifestation of a dead body. No one can see a vampire or zombie in a museum but they can see a mummy.  It becomes instantly clear upon seeing the decomposing body wrapped in linen that it is not hard to image the mummy reanimating as it “stands at the threshold of the becoming” Although Egyptians would simply call this the mummification of their dead, the representation of the mummy as a monster was completely a Western invention fueled fear, fantasy and curiosity of the East. This is the first mystery of why the mummy began and its appeal as the featured monster in stories and myths, including those of the Victorian era and writers such as Bram Stoker. In fact the monster of the mummy is quite similar to vampires as both undead creatures share a search for love. Even though, some would label it as insatiable lust or revenge, the mummy is generally attempting to come back to life to be with his lover once again. Thus it is this story of romance that appeals to an audience and keeps the monster timeless. The mummy thereby is only monstrous when it is placed in a certain context, which is best explained by Mary Douglas’ theory in Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. Douglas states that “dirt is matter out of place,” and this is the theory with monstrosity, that monsters are only monstrous when they are out of place. This is especially true with the mummy. The mummy itself is not a monster, which is seen clear when we see them in a museum or when they are embalmed in their sarcophagus. They are a link to an old, impressive society where no one would call them monstrous. However when they become out of place, walking among the tombs or journeying to other lands, is when the mummy becomes a terrifying monster. The mummy is an undead monster that continues to persist because it is a real entity that continues to remain a mystery and lives between the world of life and death with the possibility of remerging as the walking dead. This is why the mummy monster persists continues frightening and thrilling audience and readers alike.

Works Cited

  1. Kawin, Bruce. “The Mummy’s Pool.” Planks of Reason: Essays on the Horror Film. Ed. Barry Keith Grant and Christopher Sharrett. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2004. 3-19.
  2. McGeough, Kevin. “Heroes, Mummies, and Treasure: Near Eastern Archaeology in the Movies.” Near Eastern Archaeology 69.3 (2006): 174-85. JSTOR. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/25067670&gt;.
  3. Shaheen, Jack G. “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 588 (2003): 171-93. JSTOR. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1049860>.
  4. Cowie, Susan D., and Tom Johnson. The Mummy in Fact, Fiction and Film. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2002.
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One response to “The Mummy

  1. It is very interesting to me that you and another student in the race, exoticism, and ethnography section were both able to use the Mummy to fit into your themes, making various points about the Mummy living in the threshold between the dead and the living and about the Mummy’s “otherness.” Similarly, you both highlighted the Mummy’s role in love in romance, as well as it being an invention and construct of western culture.

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