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About this book

This highly accessible anthology of Gothic writings and criticism provides an essential guide to the genre. The second edition of this critically acclaimed book has been thoroughly revised to include material from the early gothic and a fresh set of contemporary essays, with a supporting timeline and thought provoking introductory material.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Death’s Own Backyard

The Nature of Gothic and Horror Fiction
Bram Stoker’s Dracula celebrated its centenary in 1997. One of the greatest horror tales ever told and, more importantly, one of the most significant pieces of literature ever written, the book has never been out of print since its first publication and it initiated a ‘vampire’ industry that spans film, radio, television, books, comics and merchandise — no fancy dress party would be complete without its ‘Dracula’.
Clive Bloom

1. Gothic Whispers

Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling….
Edmund Burke, Horace Walpole, Matthew G. Lewis, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ann Radcliffe, Joshua Reynolds, Mary Shelley, Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Thomas Love Peacock, Charles Maturin

2. Horror the Soul of the Plot

It was well said of a certain German book that ‘es lässt sich nicht lesen’ — it does not permit itself to be read. There are some secrets which do not permit themselves to be told. Men die nightly in their beds, writing the hands of ghostly confessors, and looking them piteously in the eyes — die with despair of heart and convulsion of throat, on account of the hideousness of mysteries which will not suffer themselves to be revealed. Now and then, alas, the conscience of man takes up a burden so heavy in horror that it can be thrown down only into the grave. And thus the essence of all crime is undivulged.
Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walter Pater, Lafcadio Hearn, Edith Wharton

3. In the Dark

One is curious to know what this peculiar quality is which allows us to distinguish as ‘uncanny’ certain things within the boundaries of what is ‘fearful’ …
Sigmund Freud, Hilaire Belloc, M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft, Montague Summers, Bela Lugosi, Dennis Wheatley, E. S. Turner

4. Fear Makers

I’m neither a philosopher nor a psychiatrist, and I must opt for the easy explanation. On the basis of personal belief and observation, I’d say that those of us who direct our storytelling into dark channels do so because we were perhaps a bit more mindful than most regarding our childhood confusions of identity, our conflicts with unpleasant realities and our traumatic encounters with imaginative terrors. Although there are significant exceptions, it would appear that the majority of writers who deal with the supernatural have repudiated the tenets of organised religion. In so doing they may have lost the fear of hellfire but they’ve also sacrificed any hope of heaven. What remains is an all-too-vivid fear of pain and death and a final, total, eternal oblivion.
Robert Bloch, Kingsley Amis, Stephen King, Whitley Strieber, Clive Barker

5. Contemporary Shivers

To broach the question of the terrorist is not an easy matter. In fact, this chapter might be considered as a fragment from a much longer work which, I suspect, may never be written; at all events, its writing could take place only outside the law, and would be in a permanent state of non-completion. That work would be a history of literary representations of terrorism, and there are at least three good reasons why such a book would be impossible to write or to publish.
David Punter, Tzvetan Todorov, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Rosemarie Garland Thomson, Cecil Helman, Manuel Aguirre, Laurence Talairach-Vielmas, Gina Wisker, Clive Bloom

Epilogue: Further Thoughts on the Gothic

The two poles of gothic horror are insanity and Hell, the ruling image is of death, the central symbolism cosmic annihilation and the invasion of supernatural otherness beyond rational consciousness; the underlying theme: the withdrawal of God and the long night of the soul beyond salvation. Gothic horror is about that which should not be, whose comprehension is the end of sanity and the opening of the abyss, in which cursed state of knowledge the forbidden becomes manifest, the veil is withdrawn and the fabric of the material universe falls to dust. For that which ‘should not be’ to manifest itself to consciousness, making visible the otherness of cosmic indifference, is a profoundly disturbing, terrifying and sublime moment, but it is also play, masquerade, toying, a delicious fiction by which we fake our own terror for the sake of mere pleasure.
Clive Bloom
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