Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Literary Horror

First - VAULT OF HORROR compiles a list of Top 30 pieces of Horror Fiction! I think three of my pics made the top 10.

Pretty neat!

It inspired me to go back the CANONICAL LIST where I went to school. Four years of seminar readings in the Western canon. How many of those could be classified as "horror"? Not just "including horror elements" - but more like "books I read and scared me and I still think of years later and they creep me out a little." (Bear in mind, the list is heavily weighted toward philosophy, only secondarily toward literature.) Here goes!

Euripides, Bacchae (I'm serious; I almost included Homer's Odyssey for the eye-gouging scene, but that's not the main point - but with Euripides, I think a lot of his point is to shock and appal)

Dante, Inferno

Shakespeare, Macbeth

Flannery O'Connor, Selected Stories (depends on what they read this year, but plenty would qualify)

Not a lot - but if I had to name my horror influences, I think those would be up there, way ahead of anything more recent.


Blogger Gryphon said...

Thanks for the intelligent (and very apt) choices. I've always felt that Euripides makes Stephen King look like Beatrix Potter.

I've long argued that 'Medea' and 'The Bacchae' are essential masterpieces of the genre, but how many horror fans read the classics?

Euripides achieves a broad, and very rich, range of emotional effects in both of these, but the horror element - overwhelming in those gruesome messenger speeches, and in the distressingly inexorable buildup to the fatal - is very aggressively presented.

I tend to think that he was deliberately pushing the envelope, finding ways to subvert and circumvent the no-violence-on-stage rule with his penchants for graphic descriptions and dragging the bloody remains out before the audience for a final lament.

I reread a number of those plays recently - these two and 'The Trojan Women' shook me up as much as, if not more than, the first time I read them. Awe, dread, lumps in the throat and chest, tears... I am rarely affected as deeply by anything, and it actually came as a surprise.

But then, families wiped out from within by blind rage, the futile destruction and personal agony wrought by war, and religious fanaticism touching off civic madness and chaos are still parts of day to day life in 21st century America, aren't they?

5:16 PM  

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