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‘Tell me, what are you becoming?’ Hannibal and the inescapable presence of the grotesque



Aesthetics philosopher Noël Carroll affirms that grotesque forms ‘are all violations of our standing categories or concepts; they are subversions of our common expectations of the natural and ontological order’. In breaking structural boundaries, consequently, the grotesque appears as deformations, aberrations, exaggerations, metamorphosis or startling portmanteaus. Given both its nightmarish texture and the evil ingenuity of Dr Lecter’s murders, Hannibal (NBC, 2013‐15) ploughs fertile ground in putting together conceptually distant and even contradictory elements. Hence, this article explores how the aesthetic and philosophical principles of the grotesque are a pervasive presence throughout the entire Hannibal TV series, defining its style, characters’ personality and metaphorical themes. Putting art theory in dialogue with the Hannibal televised text, this article demonstrates how the grotesque ‐ one of the key concepts in Gothic horror ‐ permeates every level of the show, from the opening credits to the protagonist’s inner transformation, converting the narrative into a comprehensive and cohesive liminal artistic ecosystem.
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‘Tell me, what are you becoming?’ Hannibal and the inescapable presence of the grotesque
Alberto N. García
Horror Studies, April 2020, Intellect
DOI: 10.1386/host_00012_1
The 'Hannibal' TV-Series as an example of
the grotesque
Photo by Max Muselmann on Unsplash
What is it about?
'Hannibal' (NBC, 2013-15) is one of the greatest hits of TV-Horror. It retells Hannibal
Lecter's story before 'The Silence of the Lambs". In the article, I analyze how the
beautiful and bloody narrative is continuously playing with aesthetic contradictions. I
explore in depth the visual allure of deformations, aberrations, exaggerations and
metamorphosis displayed by the show. Because the mesmerizing 'Hannibal', a
critical darling, can be considered the perfect example of the grotesque, that is, a
violation of our standing categories or concept, a subversion of our conventional
expectations of the natural order.
Why is it important?
If you like horror, Hannibal Lecter is one of the most relevant contemporary
characters. This paper is important because it explores the last iteration of the
character so far. And the analysis --academic but readable for every horror fan--
focuses on how style and meaning collide, exhibiting how metaphors, symbols and
aesthetic complexities work in the show.
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Alberto N. García
Universidad de Navarra
'Hannibal' is such a dense and absorbing television series that being able to analyze
it has been a real pleasure. Every close reading was intellectually challenging, but I
think I have been able to oer valuable analytical insights to such a profound work of
The following have contributed to this page: Alberto N. García
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