HORROR: A LITERARY HISTORY

PrintE-mail Written by Jennie Bailey

There has been a rise in the study of the Gothic over the last decade or so where horror is taken seriously as a scholarly concern and themes and tropes are analysed.  In this new book edited by Xavier Aldana Reyes, the literary history of horror spans from the first Gothic novel in 1764 right bang up to 2016 (while noting that themes of horror and the supernatural were present before that timespan). In his introduction, Dr Reyes discusses the parameters of the book (what is horror fiction, why is horror fiction, and when is horror fiction). Reyes knows his stuff; he is senior lecturer in English Literature and Film at Manchester Metropolitan University teaching widely in the areas of Gothic and contemporary literature and, as well as other things, a specialist in horror film and fiction. The book is lovingly edited with chapter contributions from Professor Steffen Hantke (on the rise of popular horror), Professor Roger Luckhurst (on Victorian and modern Gothic horror), Dr Royce Mahawatte (on nineteenth century horror), Assistant Professor Bernice Murphy (on horror fiction after world war two), Professor Agnieszka Monnet (on American horror), Dr Dale Townshend (on gothic and cultural sources of horror) and Xavier himself concluding the book with a chapter on post-millenial horror (spoiler: may contain zombies). Horror fiction and films are enjoyed, and endured, by millions and this tome adds to a bit of a gap in the literature concerning the history and development of horror particularly in the West. In the closing chapter, Reyes notes that while it is difficult for those not working in the English language to find success outside of their home countries he does tip a nod to works such as the influential Ringu (Koji Susuki) and Let the Right One In (John Ajvide Lindqvist). He also has a fantastic rant about the overuse of zombies!

Before you go all glassy-eyed and dismiss this book as being an academic primer then don’t! It’s informed and accessible with an eye to both students and the lovers of horror.  There are a whole host of monsters and their histories to learn about from ghosts to vampires; serial killers to zombies.  The book is packed full of these creepy, weird, and freaky creatures, and the creation of skin-crawling moments plus the cultural impact that their creators - writers and auteurs - have had. If you like your jump scares, moments of fear, and emotional and psychological manipulation but want some context then you’ll love this book. 

With its stark black and red cover this is a handsome book for scholars and Horror aficionados alike. It will look amazing on your book shelf if you dare delve in…

HORROR: A LITERARY HISTORY / AUTHOR AND EDITOR: XAVIER ALDANA REYES / PUBLISHER: BRITISH LIBRARY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW


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