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Gothic Horror Fiction

Corstorphine, Kevin



Bryan Santin


The horror novel appears in the late twentieth century as a significant genre of popular fiction. Growing out of older traditions of the European Gothic and weird fiction, and their trajectory through American literature, the horror novel has produced some of the most famous names in writing, such as Shirley Jackson and Stephen King. Debates about the literary merits of horror have been frequent, but the genre undoubtedly holds an important place in fiction and in American culture more widely. The politics of the horror novel, then, are crucial. This chapter traces the history of critical commentary on the political position of horror, asking if it upholds or questions the status quo. It also moves beyond this model to examine modern transformations of the genre and self-conscious literary responses to the legacy of racism and misogyny that has been a subject of critique. Covering the horror novel’s response to varied social changes, including immigration, the sexual revolution, and the Civil Rights Movement, this chapter argues that it is capable of both reflecting on and exploiting social fears, and that its politics are as varied as its form, which has far more variety than narrow genre definitions might suggest.


Corstorphine, K. (2023). Gothic Horror Fiction. In B. Santin (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Novel and Politics (205-218). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Acceptance Date Dec 9, 2021
Online Publication Date Oct 7, 2023
Publication Date Oct 7, 2023
Deposit Date Oct 31, 2022
Publicly Available Date Apr 8, 2024
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Pages 205-218
Series Title Cambridge Companions to Literature
Book Title The Cambridge Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Novel and Politics
Chapter Number 13
ISBN 9781316516485 ; 9781009015660
Keywords Horror; Gothic; Horror novel; American Gothic; Southern Gothic; Popular fiction; Politics; Twentieth-century literature
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Chapter (188 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This material has been published in revised form in The Cambridge Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Novel and Politics edited by Bryan M. Santin This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution or re-use. © Cambridge University Press.

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