No 'clowning' around at annual Horror Conference

Photo of title screen "Encountering Pennywise at SUNY Old Westbury"

SUNY Old Westbury thrilled students with the 2023 Horror Conference, which focused on the villain Pennywise from the motion picture “IT.” The event, sponsored by the Panther Arts Collective and the English Department, was held on-campus to coincide with Halloween.

Photo of Professors Dr. Williams and Dr. Lee speaking to Students at Horror Conference
Drs. Williams and Lee talking to students at the 2023 Horror Conference.

Dr. Danielle Lee, Associate Professor of English and Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences prompted the audience to watch the "IT" scenes through a different lens, and to analyze the characters, and their individual and collective traumas. 

After the screenings, the audience heard from Whitney May, author of "Encountering Pennywise: Critical Perspectives on Stephen King’s 'IT,'” an edited anthology that spans discussions of American surveillance culture, intergenerational conflict, the legacies of settler colonialism and Native American representation, serial-killer fanaticism, and more. The chat included a comparison of an early commercial featuring Ronald McDonald to a scene from the film with Pennywise. May, a professor from Texas State University, also collaborated with Dr. Jessica Williams of the English Department writing chapters for the book “The Big Top on the Big Screen: Explorations of the Circus on Film.”

After the discussions, Dr. Lee encouraged those in attendance to rethink how they experience horror films in the future: “the next time you see a horror movie, I want you to think past the chills and ghosts and think about what is happening in the film. There is always something to it besides the spooky stuff and the jump scares.”


School of Arts and Sciences