Horror and literature

May 28, 2020

Horror and its counterparts, dread and helpless despair, underlie much of literature, expressing perhaps our most primal, tightly suppressed emotions. In horror the nightmares, uncensored, run free, and we see with eviscerating clarity the things we try in vain to conceal from awareness. During times of tragedy and turbulence, it may, paradoxically, illuminate the truths of our vulnerability to forces beyond our understanding and control–disease, pestilence, senescence, and the inevitability of death. Although we as humans often delude ourselves by thinking we have dominion over the earth and sanctimoniously congratulate ourselves on all of the technological marvels we have created, we are still at the mercy of viruses and microbes, still the plaything of entities who, like many of us, are indifferent to the suffering they cause. Not only are we at the whim of non-human entities; we also have cause to fear our own kind, the careless crowds blithely shunning safety protocols or the gullible people blindly disseminating deceptions that put us all at risk. We can be our own worst enemies or become a source of inspiration and solace. We can, through literature and other works of art, symbolically encounter our fears and, in the process, reconnect with our shared humanity.

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Writings by Alison Armstrong