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Horror is unlike any other literary genre. It seeks to provoke uniquely strong reactions, such as fear, shock, dread or disgust, and yet remains very popular. It also crosses media, manifesting in narrative forms such as graphic novels and video games. Its characters and trends routinely escape the confines of given texts and become part of the zeitgeist.
Of course, horror is most readily associated with the film industry, but horrific short stories and novels have been wildly loved by readers for well over two centuries. Despite its persistent popularity, there is no up-to-date history of horror fiction for the general reader.
This ground-breaking new book is the first comprehensive history of horror fiction to take readers from the first Gothic novel in 1764 to the ‘new weird’, and beyond, in the early 21st century. It offers a chronological overview of the genre in fiction and explores its development and mutations over the past 250 years. It also challenges the common misjudgement that horror fiction is necessarily frivolous or dispensable.
Leading experts on Gothic and horror literature introduce readers to classics of the genre as well as exciting texts they may not have encountered before. The topics examined include: horror’s roots in the Gothic romance and antebellum American fiction; the penny dreadful and sensation novels of Victorian England; fin-de-siècle ghost stories; decadent fiction and the weird; the familial horrors of the Cold War era; the publishing boom of the 1980s; the establishment of contemporary horror auteurs; and the post-millennial zombie trend.