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Defining Genre


If you've ever seen a scary movie, you know what horror fiction is:  that bite your nail, sit with your back against the wall narrative that raises your hackles.  Horror fiction feature five primary elements:

  • malevolent or "wicked" characters and phenomena
  • evoke feelings of fear, shock or revulsion in the reader, including a sense of the uncanny 
  • intense tone and mood blended with the morbid situations, cycles of violence, and otherwise macabre details.
  • frightening plot twists and reveals

The terms gothic literature and horror fiction are often used interchangeably, though Gothic literature is more correctly a particular movement within horror fiction. In the mid-nineteenth century, Edgar Allen Poe popularized the genre with which he explored psychological trauma, evil, and mental illness.  In general, the gothic literature of the period also featured:

  • dark, gloom filled settings (haunted houses, for example)
  • threatening human or supernatural beings
  • touches of romance. travel and adventure




Must-read Classics

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
  • The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka

Try anything by the Master of the Macabre,  Edgar Allan Poe

  • The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Masque of the Read Death by Edgar Allan Poe

Check out two by Shirley Jackson

  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

The King of Horror,  Stephen King, writes:

  • Carrie by Stephen King
  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • And many more!

Other modern literary novels:

  • Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  • The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
  • Bird Box by Josh Malerman
  • American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  • Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

YA Horror Fiction

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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