This week: On the origin of HorrorEdited by: Andy~2021 has to be better
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"What scares me is what scares you. We’re all afraid of the same things. That’s why horror is such a powerful genre. All you have to do is ask yourself what frightens you and you’ll know what frightens me."
Quote by John Carpenter
Hi WDC, welcome to this week's Horror/Scary Newsletter. I am your guest editor Andy~2021 has to be better .
In Western society the literary cultivation of fear for its own sake emerged in the 18th-century pre-Romantic era with the Gothic novel. The invention of the genre is attributed to Horace Walpole, whose Castle of Otranto (1765) may be said to have founded the horror story. Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, was the youngest son of Robert Walpole, the de facto first Prime Minister of Great Britain. Educated at Eton and at King’s College, Cambridge, he was a friend and admirer of the poetry of Thomas Gray.
He owned a villa in Twickenham, a town in south west London, called Strawberry Hill. He established a private press on the grounds, where he printed his own works and those of his friends Following a rather undistinguished political career, Horace published a novel called The Castle of Otranto, which shares a number of themes with Shakepseare's Hamlet (princes trying to keep their power, the bloodline of royalty, and princes being haunted by ghosts).
Walpole was apparently inspired by a nightmare he had while staying at the Gothic-esque Strawberry Hill. He took imagery from the nightmare and combined it with his knowledge of medieval history to come up with the novel. Many of Walpole’s plot devices and character types became typical of Gothic literature: hidden identities, secret passageways, supernatural forces, and virginal damsels in distress. Castle of Otranto inspired a number of writers to follow the genre including Matthew Gregory Lewis, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, and even Jane Austen (in her satirical take on the Gothic genre, Northanger Abbey).
During the Romantic era, authors such as E.T.A. Hoffmann and Edgar Allan Poe raised the horror story to a level far above mere entertainment. They skillfully blended reason and madness, eerie atmosphere and everyday reality into their works. They invested their spectres, doppelgangers, and haunted houses with a psychological symbolism that gave their tales a haunting credibility.
The horror novel continue to evolve into the 19th Century and beyond with classics such as Dracula and Frankenstein, and authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, Mervyn Peake, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz leading the charge.
Although horror has somewhat moved away from its Gothic roots, as the genre evolved to include elements such as blood and gore, demons, ritual magic, and indeed anything that might produce the "shock value" many look for in the horror genre, I bring you back to Carpenter's quote at the head of this Newsletter: All you have to do is ask yourself what frightens you and you’ll know what frightens me.
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