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Parent categories: fiction - horror - literature
Non-fiction: Supernatural Horror in Literature (1924-1927) - H. P. Lovecraft
Related: fantastic literature - gothic novel - revenge play (theatre)
Titles: Castle of Otranto (1764) - Carmilla (1872) - Dracula (1897) - Frankenstein (1818)
Les chefs-d'oeuvre de l'épouvante
Authors: Sheridan le Fanu - Stephen King - H.P. Lovecraft - Franz Kafka - Edgar Allan Poe - Anne Rice
Connoisseurs: Adéle Olivia Gladwell - Clive Bloom - Richard Davenport-Hines - Jacques Sternberg - Stanley Wiater
DefinitionHorror fiction is, broadly, fiction intended to scare, unsettle or horrify the reader. Although a good deal of it is about the supernatural, any fiction with a morbid, gruesome, surreal, suspenseful or frightening theme may be termed "horror"; conversely, many stories of the supernatural are not horror. Horror fiction often overlaps with science fiction and fantasy, all of which form the umbrella category speculative fiction. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_fiction, May 2004
Early horror fiction
Fictional characters have found themselves in horrifying situations from the earliest recorded tales. Many myths and legends feature scenarios and archetypes utilized by later horror writers. Tales collected by the Grimm Brothers are often quite horrific.
Probably the first works of modern horror fiction were gothic novels, typified by Bram Stoker's Dracula and Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. Another early work of horror fiction is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein. Frankenstein has also been considered science fiction or a philosophical novel by some literary historians. Early horror works used mood and subtlety to deliver an eerie and otherworldly flavor, but usually eschewed extensive explicit violence.
Other early exponents of the horror form number such luminaries as H. P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, who were considered to be masters of the art. Among the writers of classic English ghost stories, M.R. James is often cited as the finest. His stories avoid shock effects and often involve an Oxford antiquarian as their hero. Algernon Blackwood's The Willows and Oliver Onions's The Beckoning Fair One have been called the best ghost stories. Lovecraft and Sheridan le Fanu called some of their writing weird fiction or weird stories.
Some stories in highbrow literature could arguably be regarded as horror fiction: examples include Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung) and The Penal Colony (In der Strafkolonie). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horror_fiction [Nov 2004]
Das Gespensterbuch (1569) - Ludwig Lavater
In search of the roots of Tales of the Dead.
Das Gespensterbuch (1569) - Ludwig Lavater
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Image sourced here.
The fullest and most influential work on angels and ghosts in the sixteenth century was Das Gespensterbuch by Ludwig Lavater, first printed in Zurich in 1569. The work was quickly translated into German and then French, Spanish and Italian. The English translation appeared in 1572 with the title, Of Ghostes and Spirites walking by Nyght, and of strange noyses, crackes and sundry forewarninges.
In a conflicting account on Wikipedia, where Gespensterbuch redirects to Tales of the Dead, there is no reference to an anterior version of Gespensterbuch.The collection had its origin in Gespensterbuch (lit. "ghost book"), a five-volume anthology of German language ghost stories. The original anthology was published in Leipzig between 1811 and 1815. The stories were compiled by Friedrich August Schulze (1770 - 1849), under the pen name Friedrich Laun, and Johann August Apel (September 17, 1771 - August 9, 1816).
The latter is the one that was used by Byron and company in 1816 to scare and inspire:
On the night of June 16, after Lord Byron, John Polidori and the Shelleys had read aloud from the Tales of the Dead, a collection of horror tales, Byron suggested that they each write a ghost story. Mary Shelley worked on a tale that would later evolve into Frankenstein. Byron wrote (and quickly abandoned) a fragment of a story, which Polidori used later as the basis for his own tale. [Aug 2006]
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