horror story

1. a story, movie, etc., that entertains or fascinates by shocking or frightening, esp. by an emphasis on bloodshed or supernatural forces.
2. Informal. a distressing experience: the horror stories of child abuse.

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Story intended to elicit a strong feeling of fear.

Such tales are of ancient origin and form a substantial part of folk literature. They may feature supernatural elements such as ghosts, witches, or vampires or address more realistic psychological fears. In Western literature, the literary cultivation of fear and curiosity for its own sake emerged in the 18th century with the gothic novel. Classic practitioners of the horror and gothic genres include Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Edgar Allan Poe, Sheridan Le Fanu (1814–73), Wilkie Collins, Bram Stoker, Ambrose Bierce, and Stephen King.

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▪ narrative genre
      a story in which the focus is on creating a feeling of fear. Such tales are of ancient origin and form a substantial part of the body of folk literature. They can feature supernatural elements such as ghosts, witches, or vampires, or they can address more realistic psychological fears. In Western literature the literary cultivation of fear and curiosity for its own sake began to emerge in the 18th-century pre-Romantic era with the Gothic novel. The genre was invented by Horace Walpole (Walpole, Horace, 4th earl of Orford), whose Castle of Otranto (1765) may be said to have founded the horror story as a legitimate literary form. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft) introduced pseudoscience into the genre in her famous novel Frankenstein (1818), about the creation of a monster that ultimately destroys its creator.

      In the Romantic era the German storyteller E.T.A. Hoffmann (Hoffmann, E.T.A.) and the American Edgar Allan Poe (Poe, Edgar Allan) raised the horror story to a level far above mere entertainment through their skillful intermingling of reason and madness, eerie atmosphere and everyday reality. They invested their spectres, doubles, and haunted houses with a psychological symbolism that gave their tales a haunting credibility.

      The Gothic influence persisted throughout the 19th century in such works as Sheridan Le Fanu (Le Fanu, Sheridan)'s The House by the Churchyard and “Green Tea,” Wilkie Collins (Collins, Wilkie)'s The Moonstone, and Bram Stoker (Stoker, Bram)'s vampire tale Dracula. The influence was revived in the 20th century by science-fiction and fantasy writers such as Mervyn Peake (Peake, Mervyn) in his Gormenghast series. Other masters of the horror tale were Ambrose Bierce (Bierce, Ambrose), Arthur Machen (Machen, Arthur), Algernon Blackwood (Blackwood, Algernon Henry), H.P. Lovecraft (Lovecraft, H.P.), and Stephen King (King, Stephen). Isolated masterpieces have been produced by writers not usually associated with the genre, such as Guy de Maupassant (Maupassant, Guy de)'s “Le Horla,” A.E. Coppard (Coppard, A E)'s “Adam and Eve and Pinch Me,” Saki's “Sredni Vashtar” and “The Open Window,” and W.F. Harvey's “August Heat.” Some of the best-known horror stories owe their power to full-bodied characters that develop in realistic social environments and to the very absence of a mysterious atmosphere. In this category are Aleksandr Pushkin (Pushkin, Aleksandr Sergeyevich)'s “The Queen of Spades” and W.W. Jacobs (Jacobs, W.W.)'s “The Monkey's Paw.”

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • horror story — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms horror story : singular horror story plural horror stories informal 1) a story that is intended to frighten people 2) an unpleasant experience …   English dictionary

  • horror story — noun Date: 1937 an account of an unsettling or unfortunate occurrence < heard horror stories about recent layoffs >; also something unsettling or unfortunate < his childhood was a horror story > …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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  • horror story — noun (C) 1 informal a report about bad experiences, bad conditions etc: horror stories about patients being given the wrong drugs 2 a story in which strange and frightening things happen …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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