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Supernatural

Related: fantastic - fetishism (religion) - religion - surrealism - uncanny

Non-fiction: Supernatural Horror in Literature (1924-1927) - H. P. Lovecraft

Supernatural fiction: Horace Walpole

Contrast: natural - reality

Garden of Earthly Delights (detail) - Bosch

Definition

Supernatural literally means transcending the natural. Generally, it involves the belief in conscious forces that cannot ordinarily be perceived except through their effects. Sometimes it is used to characterize or explain events that people consider extraordinary (see also preternatural or paranormal).

A concept of the supernatural is generally identified with religion, although there is much debate as to whether a conception of the supernatural is necessary for religion. Generally, people contrast the supernatural with the natural and some believe that these two concepts are compatible or complementary (in other words, religion and science fulfill different but equally valid functions), while others believe that they are incompatible and in competition.

Nevertheless, many claims of supernatural phenomena often conflict directly and fundamentally with current scientific understanding.

There have been many attempts to verify claims of supernatural phenomena scientifically. All are generally considered failures, although proponents often claimed to show startling and unusual results. Most scientists claim that the experiments are best classified as pseudoscience, that they have been experimentally flawed, statistically invalid, and/or not repeatable. Other events appear to be manifestations of a natural, explainable nature that are misinterpreted. Most religious people claim that these phenomena, being essentially "unnatural," are not appropriate for scientific study (see also William James, The Variety of Religious Experience).

The supernatural is also a topic in various genres of fiction, such as fantasy and horror. Some examples of supernatural phenomena are miracles, ghosts; psychic abilities like psychokinesis and telepathy are better classified as paranormal than supernatural. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernatural [May 2004]

Supernatural fiction

Supernatural fiction is a classification of literature used to describe fiction exploiting or requiring as plot devices or themes some contradictions of the commonplace natural world and materialist assumptions about it. It includes the traditional ghost story, and was propelled to prominence in Europe by the eighteenth century explosion of popular Gothic fiction. It includes both fiction with a religious message, and some that is directed against the religious concepts of natural law by postulating anti-natural phenomena and beings.

Most but not all supernatural fiction would be taken to be genre fiction; The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is an example of a work of literary fiction that is also largely concerned with supernatural fiction elements, making play of the possibility that they are psychological at root, but requiring the option that they are not for effect. John Banville is a contemporary writer of supernatural literary fiction.

While a great deal of supernatural fiction was written in the century up to 1950, the genre arguably died around then, except for stilted imitation and children's literature. The bulk of fiction dealing with the occult had been posed as supernatural, but somewhere between Arthur Machen and a writer like Dennis Wheatley the effects had become threadbare. On this argument, Charles Williams was one of the last innovators of supernatural fiction.

This dwindling of supernatural fiction can be attributed to a number of causes. The newer genres of horror fiction and fantasy fiction, while growing out of some of the basic propositions and generic conventions, were more energetic, attracted talented authors, and disposed gradually of the older arch style and fusty Edwardianisms. Surrealism was similarly against 'natural law', wholeheartedly, but postulated that the daily world we live in contains the very 'decadent' elements, which in the older supernatural fiction were shown as breaking through some barrier to meet us. After Sigmund Freud, and in a general realignment of thinking on mythology post-1945 (courtesy for example of Northrop Frye, Robert Graves and numerous art historians), European thought had less need to be reminded of the supernatural in the form of repressed Somethings. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernatural_fiction [Jun 2006]

See also: supernatural - gothic novel - fantastic literature - fantastic - fiction

Supernatural in Fiction (1952) - Peter Penzoldt

Supernatural in Fiction (1952) - Peter Penzoldt [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Classic study of the genre, mentioned and commented upon in Todorov's The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre (1970) [Jun 2006]

The Rise of Supernatural Fiction, 1762-1800 (1999) - E. J. Clery

The Rise of Supernatural Fiction, 1762-1800 (1999) - E. J. Clery [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Beginning with the notorious case of the Cock Lane ghost, a performing poltergeist who became a major attraction in the London of 1762, and with Garrick's

A genre of supernatural fiction was among the more improbable products of the Age of Enlightenment. This book questions the historical reasons for its growing popularity in the late eighteenth century. Beginning with the notorious case of the Cock Lane ghost, a performing poltergeist who became a major attraction in London in 1762, and with Garrick's spellbinding and paradigmatic performance as the ghost-seeing Hamlet, it moves on to look at the Gothic novels of Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, M. G. Lewis, and others, in unexpected new lights, drawing out the connection between fictions of the supernatural and the growth of consumerism.

Reviews
'Clery's breadth recalls Raymond Williams who could also have written a powerful statement like this ... The Rise of Supernatural Fiction should be read by an audience far wider than one concerned with Gothic culture alone.' The Wordsworth Circle

See also: supernatural - gothic novel - fantastic literature - fantastic - 1760s - 1800s

Arthur Machen


Ballantine 1972 book cover sourced here.

The Three Impostors (1895) - Arthur Machen [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Arthur Machen (March 3, 1863 December 15th, 1947) was a leading Welsh author of the 1890s. He is best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy and horror fiction. He also is well known for a leading role in creating the myth of the Angels of Mons. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur Machen [Mar 2006]

See also: horror fiction - fantastic literature - 1895 - 1890s - supernatural - H. P. Lovecraft

Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural (1944) - Phyllis Cerf Wagner

Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural (1944) - Phyllis Cerf Wagner [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Amazon.com
This bargain of a book is a thick hardcover anthology--more than 1,000 pages long--containing stories of naturalistic and supernatural terror. First published in 1944, it has stood the test of time and become a classic in the field. Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural is rivaled only by David G. Hartwell's The Dark Descent as the essential horror anthology. Fortunately, there's little overlap: of the 52 tales in this anthology, only 5 are duplicated in The Dark Descent. Included here are such memorable stories as W.W. Jacobs's "The Monkey's Paw"; Saki's "Sredni Vashtar" and "The Open Window"; Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game"; Conrad Aiken's "Silent Snow, Secret Snow"; Arthur Machen's "The Great God Pan"; along with gems by E.F. Benson, H.G. Wells, Ambrose Bierce, Rudyard Kipling, Walter de la Mare, M.R. James, Guy de Maupassant, and O. Henry.

Book Description
When this longtime Modern Library favorite--filled with fifty-two stories of heart-stopping suspense--was first published in 1944, one of its biggest fans was critic Edmund Wilson, who in The New Yorker applauded what he termed a sudden revival of the appetite for tales of horror. Represented in the anthology are such distinguished spell weavers as Edgar Allen Poe ("The Black Cat"), Wilkie Collins ("A Terribly Strange Bed"), Henry James ("Sir Edmund Orme"), Guy de Maupassant ("Was It a Dream?"), O. Henry ("The Furnished Room"), Rudyard Kipling ("They"), and H.G. Wells ("Pollock and the Porroh Man"). Included as well are such modern masters as Algernon Blackwood ("Ancient Sorceries"), Walter de la Mare ("Out of the Deep"), E.M. Forster ("The Celestial Omnibus"), Isak Dinesen ("The Sailor-Boys Tale"), H.P. Lovecraft ("The Dunwich Horror"), Dorothy L. Sayers ("Suspicion"), and Ernest Hemingway ("The Killers").

"There is not a story in this collection that does not have the breath of life, achieve the full suspension of disbelief that is so particularly important in [this] type of fiction," wrote the Saturday Review. With an introduction and notes by Phyllis Cerf Wagner and Herbert Wise.

see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Jahsonic#Great_Tales_of_Terror_and_the_Supernatural_.281944.29_-_Phyllis_Cerf_Wagner [Dec 2005]

See also: great - tale - supernatural - terror - horror fiction - 1944

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