S/M, Splatter, and Body Modifications in the early Clive Barker
Birth of a Political Aesthetics
Keywords:Clive Barker, S/M, Horror, splatter, Hellraiser, Cenobites, literature and literary criticism
This paper deals with three components of the aesthetic framework elaborated by author, artist, and filmmaker Clive Barker in his first works during the first half of the 1980s, with a particular focus on the fictional creatures known as Cenobites featured in the novella The Hellbound Heart (1986): the references to S/M visuals and culture, the taste for gore/splatter and the aspect related to (self)induced body modifications. In the first part, these three elements will be discussed, and their origins tracked down in Barker’s biographical background and artistic career. In the final part I will try to contextualize this composite aesthetics in its historical setting to show how its elements combined to outline a coherent worldview, different and subversive with respect to the one imposed by the then hegemonic and heteronormative narrative, and how they became one of the main grounds for political criticism and contestation in the ultraconservative United Kingdom during the Thatcher era.
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