The Supernatural Sublime

The Supernatural Sublime

The Wondrous Ineffability of the Everyday in Films from Mexico and Spain

Raúl Rodríguez-Hernández and Claudia Schaefer

New Hispanisms Series

336 pages
15 illustrations, index


July 2019


$55.00 Pre-order

About the Book

The Supernatural Sublime explores the long-neglected element of the supernatural in films from Spain and Mexico by focusing on the social and cultural contexts of their production and reception, their adaptations of codes and conventions for characters and plot, and their use of cinematic techniques to create the experience of emotion without explanation. Deploying the overarching concepts of the supernatural and the sublime, Raúl Rodríguez-Hernández and Claudia Schaefer detail the dovetailing of the unnatural and the experience of limitlessness associated with the sublime.

The Supernatural Sublime embeds the films in the social histories of twentieth- and twenty-first-century Mexico and Spain, both of which made a forced leap into modernity after historical periods of official ideologies and circumscribed visions of the nation. Evoking Kant’s definition of the experience of the sublime, Rodríguez-Hernández and Schaefer concentrate on the unrepresentable and the contradictory that oppose purported universal truths and instead offer up illusion, deception, and imagination through cinema, itself a type of illusion: writing with light.

Author Bio

Raúl Rodríguez-Hernández is an associate professor of Spanish, comparative literature, and film and media studies at the University of Rochester. He is the author of Mexico’s Ruins: Juan Garcia Ponce and the Writing of Modernity. Claudia Schaefer is the Rush Rhees Chair and a professor of Spanish, comparative literature, and film and media studies at the University of Rochester. She is the author of several books, including Lens, Laboratory, Landscape: Observing Modern Spain and Bored to Distraction: Cinema of Excess in End-of-the-Century Mexico and Spain.


“The human psyche envisions the future in terms of hopes and fears. This volume skillfully explores the ghosts of those fears. A welcome work, indispensable for understanding the gothic supernatural in films from Spain and Mexico over six decades.”—Andrés Lema-Hincapié, coeditor of Despite All Adversities: Spanish-American Queer Cinema 

“Finally, a long-awaited comparative examination of the supernatural in Mexican and Spanish horror and hybrid films. These case studies illuminate historical and contemporary sociopolitical problems through highly readable yet philosophical close readings grounded in film analysis. An indispensable and exciting contribution to genre studies.”—Sergio de la Mora, author of Cinemachismo: Masculinities and Sexuality in Mexican Film

“The pairing of Mexican and Spanish films leads to innovative readings that move beyond the framework of the national to identify the potency of supernatural tropes and motifs in posing questions about the limits of science and reason in tackling the most important themes regarding the nature and meaning of human existence. The authors bring to bear an impressive grounding in psychoanalysis, Marxist theory and analysis, and other relevant thought from a variety of fields.”—Kathleen Vernon, coeditor of A Companion to Pedro Almodóvar

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Porous Landscapes of the Modern World: The Witch as Sublime Intruder
Chapter 2: Haunted Houses: Inheriting the Supernatural
Chapter 3: The Fascination and Danger of Schools for Girls
Chapter 4: A Desperate Longing for Order: The Masks of Innocence
Chapter 5: Patterns of Temporal Terror: A Repetition Compulsion?
Conclusion: Sublime Afterimages

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