chapter  1
14 Pages

Frightening Entertainment: A Historical Perspective of Fictional Horror

It can be hard to understand the "nature of the beast" when we are always running away from it. So it seems as we attempt to define the modem horror genre. Indeed, as we looked for a clear, precise definition of the horror genre, we discovered instead a deeply entangled and controversial concept. It is not uncommon, for instance, for scholars to be centuries apart when identifying the genre's inception. Some trace the ancestry of horror to early cave drawings and primitive rituals (see Zillmann & Gibson, chap.2, this volume). Others put its roots in the mid-18th century beginning with the "Age of Reason" (Edwards, 1984; Twitchell, 1989), and mock those who would describe horrid fiction "in mythic, legendary terms, as if there were any resemblance between a postindustrial American teenager, screaming in delight at a monster movie, and some medieval peasant who trembled in the dark for fear a ghost would get him" (Kendrick, 1991, p. xxii). Still others suggest that the modem horror genre originated only in the early part of this century when scholars first began to write anthologies on horrid fiction, or, perhaps when critics affirmed it by decree (Joshi, 1990).