I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Refined Reader (30) Origins of the Horror Genre

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

The Refined Reader aims to take a look at the journey to where we are as readers today.  It's part history, part commentary - providing a brief, conversational summary of various aspects of our bookish past and comparing it to how it has affected us in modern times.  I love history, but I am no historian, and while I plan to do my research, if there are any errors, please let me know!  This is as much a learning venture for me as I hope it is for my blog visitors!

The elements of horror in fiction has it roots deep in our past with folklore and humanity's concern with death and the afterlife.  Gothic literature played an important part in the evolution of horror as it's own literary genre, since modern novels were more based in realism until The Castle of Otranto (1764), the first modern novel to incorporate supernatural explanations.  When The Castle of Otranto was first published, it was marketed as a found medieval story so when it came out that it was in fact written contemporary, it was not critically received very well.  But it became very popular.

Horror literature incorporates many supernatural elements such as ghosts, vampires, werewolves, witches and the occult, and creates emotional, psychological or physical fear within a reader, but in a controlled manner which can be exciting or a thrilling.  Our psychological interest in reading horror stories is an interesting point to explore and there's more of a philosophical discussion of it on the wikipedia page linked below.  There are some ideas that because we don't have to deal with fighting for survival on a daily basis like our ancestors did, horror stories supply that need for excitement or for an adrenaline rush.

Pioneers of the horror genre include Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and Bram Stoker in it's earliest incarnations,  H.P. Lovecraft and his 'cosmic horror' (in his stories the insignificance of humanity is often a focal point).  Lovecraft could also be credited in creating the modern zombie tale, as well as Richard Matheson, author of I Am Legend.  Stephen King is a highly influential modern horror writer, who helped make the genre extremely popular in our time.

Personally horror stories that feature overly gruesome details or graphic depictions of death are not appealing to me, but horror stories that deal with the supernatural and psychological horror is very interesting to me.  I usually like to read older horror novels since they are not as disturbing to me.  So I'm a little bit of a wuss. ;)

What are some of your favorite horror stories?  Do you have a favorite supernatural creature?


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