"Fear and Celebrating the Rural as Deviant in Horror Movies"
Associate Professor of Appalachian Studies and Popular Culture Studies
Department of Religion and Culture
Emily Satterwhite is Associate Professor at Virginia Tech, where she teaches Appalachian studies and popular culture. She earned her PhD in American Studies from the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts at Emory University. Satterwhite’s research explores the cultural politics of the ways in which Americans imagine particular places.
Satterwhite’s first book, Dear Appalachia: Readers, Identity, and Popular Fiction since 1878 (UP of Kentucky, 2011), demonstrates the value of analyzing and mapping fan mail and online customer reviews in order to show how readers’ geographic movements and affiliations influenced their imagined geographies of Appalachia. Dear Appalachia cautions that pastoral versions of Appalachia may romanticize whiteness, glorify white American nationalism, and reinforce readers’ belief that so-called primitive peoples need guidance from well-to-do Americans. Dear Appalachia won the 2011 Weatherford Award for illuminating the Appalachian South and the 2013 Phi Beta Kappa Sturm Award for Faculty Excellence in Research at Virginia Tech. Her articles have appeared in American Literature, Appalachian Journal, Journal of American Folklore, and Studies in American Culture.
Satterwhite’s current book project centers on the cultural work performed by horror movies set in rural Appalachia and other regionalized rural places. While some scholars argue that “Hillbilly Horror” films celebrate the marginal, others argue that “fear of the rural” movies justify the oppression and annihilation of rural people imagined as inherently deviant. As a scholar of audience reception, Satterwhite examines viewers’ reactions to recent horror films set in Appalachia, including the Wrong Turn franchise (2003 - 2012) and Staunton Hill (2009), to illuminate how various audience groups understand these films as celebrating--or working to contain--deviance.