Skip to main content

About this book

This anthology presents classic and contemporary accounts of modern gothic horror writing from Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, Stephen King, Clive Barker and many other authors, as well as essays from current literary scholars, providing an essential guide to the genre and the variety of approaches possible when discussing the literature of terror. The whole volume is introduced by Clive Bloom, who offers an outline of the genre and situates it in its social and cultural context.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Death’s Own Backyard

The Nature of Modern 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. Early Accounts

Extract from ‘The Man of the Crowd’1 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, wringing 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

2. Early Modern Accounts

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, Dennis Wheatley

3. Later Modern Accounts

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 darker 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, Stephen King, Whitley Strieber, Clive Barker

4. Contemporary Critical Accounts

Montague Rhodes James set out his rules for the ghost story, such as they were, in the various brief prefaces to his collections of tales. Unlike Vernon Lee, he believed it important to establish a setting that was
fairly familiar and the majority of the characters and their talk such as you may meet or hear any day. A ghost story of which the scene is laid in the twelfth or thirteenth century may succeed in being romantic or poetical: it will never put the reader into the position of saying to himself, ‘If I’m not very careful, something of this kind may happen to me!’ (Preface to More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, 1911).
Julia Briggs, David Punter, Tzvetan Todorov, Rosemary Jackson, Anne Cranny Francis, Judie Newman, J. Gerald Kennedy, Manuel Aguirre, Gina Wisker, John Nicholson, Steve Holland, Robert F. Geary
Additional information