Literature and the Occult Essay

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Occult Representations in Film

The concept of the occult in literature and film shares similarities and parallels. The occult is often represented by activities and beliefs that, relative to the mainstream, are marginal and associated with magic and nefarious elements. The occult is often perceived by the average person, as represented in fictional literature and narrative cinema, as something to be avoided. Protagonists in occult films shown over the course of the semester demonstrate how they are often unwilling participants in occult plots, or that they have been duped or manipulated into a role in an occult plot. Some characters seem to have an unconscious desire and unexplained longing or attraction for the occult and as a result are drawn into an occult plot. The paper examines the occult as conceptualized in literature and as demonstrated in film, specifically selected films from over the course of the class. Occult films contend that the occult is power and has a pervasive presence in everyday reality. The occult, as illustrated in films such as the Ninth Gate, & Rosemary's Baby, shows the occult as being somewhat omnipresent and relatively easy for any person to get drawn into the occult. The occult is frightening not just because of rituals, fantastic beings, or unbelievable occurrences -- something fundamentally frightening about the occult as expressed in these films is how easy it is to be drawn to or overwhelmed by the occult.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Essay on Literature and the Occult Assignment

Roman's Polanski's 1968 movie…Although it contains no blood or gore, Rosemary's Baby is considered to be one of the scariest movies of all time. Why? The creepy nature of the film is not in its special effects, but in its realistic premise. The story takes place in a real apartment building (the Dakota) that has a real reputation of attracting eccentric elements of New York's high society. The evil coven is not composed of stereotypical, pointy-nose witches but of friendly neighbors, prestigious doctors and distinguished individuals. They are elegant, rational and intelligent and are connected to important people. The realism of the movie forces the viewers to ponder on the existence of such groups, to a point that some feared that the movie, after its release would cause an all-out witch hunt. Rosemary's manipulation is also extremely realistic, causing the viewers to think: "It could happen to me." (TVC, 2011)

The occult is intricately tied into everyday institutions such as religion, family, socialization, class, and there are thematic and visual parallels drawn between the occult and other groups that are more culturally accepted. Although not everyone is a young woman such as Rosemary, people get married and have children, just as Rosemary. She has friends and would like to feel a sense of belonging and a sense of community -- some things that are true universally for most people. Rosemary and the other protagonists in the films to be examined are to be protagonists that audiences can relate to as a way to engage and participate in the film. It could be you. It could be someone you know who gets accidently wrapped up in the occult by no particular fault of their own, and finds him/herself at the center of a clandestine plot. Filmic representations of the occult are at the center of the paper, as well as its connections to and reflections of literature.

The occult refers to forces that are clandestine and secret. The occult additionally includes people who have knowledge of these hidden forces and powers. It is often set in opposite to science -- science as the norm or standard of what is proven, measurable, real, and believed. The occult is a perspective, a belief system, specific practices and behaviors. Activities of the occult can be magic, alchemy, divination, physical transformation, and psychic practices. The occult is additionally often put in opposition to Christianity. Many films of the occult, including notable ones outside of the ones that will be mentioned in this paper quite often visually and thematically pit Christianity (and science) against the occult, such as in the Exorcist. The occult is not just what is hidden from sight in everyday life, it is also what is hidden from history.

The occult is quite often in films represented closely with literature. The key or the solution to the main problem or secondary problem often lies within a book. Corso, played by Johnny Depp in the Ninth Gate, is a book dealer. His zeal for capitalist gain could be described as religious. It is his religious fervor for capitalism that leads him on a powerful search for a book, which leads him into an occult plot. Rosemary's Baby & the Name of the Rose are occult films both based on books of the same name, immediately linking them to literature and the canon of occult literature, as well as clearly existing as films of the occult. While in the middle of her pregnancy, Rosemary comes across a small, simple book with golden pages called All of Them WITCHES. This a link to literature that sends chills down the spine in relation to the film and her character specifically. Furthermore, in the Name of the Rose, libraries, books, reading, literacy, and research are central to the plot of this film, yet another connection to literature. It is neither a coincidence that the film the Name of the Rose is a film with focus upon the occult specifically taking place in 14th century Europe. Tobienne notes that a powerful paradigm shift on the part of the church with respect to the occult and specifically the element of magic occurred during the 13th century.

Jolly terminates her study by alluding to a paradigm shift regarding magic in the thirteenth century. She claims, "The official Church stance regarding magic shifted from a demonic association with paganism to a demonic association with heresy." (3; 21) Arguably then, in the pre-thirteenth century when, the focus on the source of power, was seen to be demonic, "magic" was classified alongside of its Paganism because of its systematic threat to the Church. (Chapter 1, 12)

The occult is not what is antithetical to the Church fundamentally in principle or in ethics, for example. The occult is also what the Church, specifically Christianity, believes to pose a threat to its power, authority, influence, and resources. This is another connection between the occult and the Church. When the consensus or school of thought changes in the Church, the perceptions of the occult change and what associations are drawn to the occult change as well. The mystery of the Name of the Rose happens in the century directly following a large shift in the thinking toward and perceptions of magic and of the occult, which influence beliefs and actions, including the Inquisition, which is a pervasive presence in the film. Therefore, the occult is associated with magic, with literature, and in the 20th century, is associated with film, too. The presence of the occult in many media forms across many years is reflected in the plots of films centering on the occult, as they thematically, visually, and sometimes literally connect the occult with a pervasive, long-running presence in the world, in ways that are mostly hidden, but with luck or by chance/accident, could be revealed to anyone.

History and Christianity are additionally key elements of the context of Coppola's Dracula.

The first sequence of Bram Stoker's Dracula, even before its opening credits, is meant to set the historical background, which is highly religious. Christendom is under attack by the Ottomans, or Turks, who have been stopped by Count Dracula, a member of the Sacred Order of the Dragon at the end of the fifteenth century. The film opens in the year 1462, when the religious symbols of the cathedral in Constantinople are changed for those of a mosque. The first cross of the film, probably a Maltese cross, is hurled to the ground, shatters, and is then replaced by a crescent, the only crescent to be featured in the film, notwithstanding the crescent-shaped decoration adorning the helmet of a Turkish soldier. Though Coppola does not provide the historical details, we are to understand that the cathedral is Hagia Sophia (Saint Sophia's) in present-day Istanbul. (Bak, 2007, 123 -- 124)

The opening sequence of the film, which sets the tone, atmosphere, context within which we are to consider the events that happen in the future, immediately are linked to the battle between the occult, represented by Dracula et al., and Christianity. This battle takes place in the 15th century, two centuries following the paradigm shift in thinking and perceptions about the occult and magic and one century after the narrative of the Name of the Rose takes place. These directors, whether it is their direct, conscious intention to or not, are participating in a dialogue and constructing visual and media discourse regarding the very long connection between the occult and religion. Religion and the occult seem to at once desire to exist exclusive of one another, yet exist interdependent of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Literature and the Occult.  (2013, April 25).  Retrieved January 26, 2021, from

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"Literature and the Occult."  25 April 2013.  Web.  26 January 2021. <>.

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"Literature and the Occult."  April 25, 2013.  Accessed January 26, 2021.