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Terror and Horror in the Fantastic Novels: Walpole’s The Castle Of Otranto, Shelley’s Frankenstein and Stoker’s Dracula

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Differences between terror and horror.
  3. The role of psychological modes in the novels.
    1. Different theories by authors and philosophers.
  4. Explanation by Burke.
    1. Sublime in nature causing astonishment.
    2. Where delight can be a 'negative pleasure'.
  5. Freud's theory.
    1. Study of the feeling of terror in a psychoanalytical way.
    2. The concept of Uncanny.
  6. Jung's theory.
    1. Terror is linked to the idea of darkness.
    2. The concept of shadow.
  7. Factors of terror in Dracula.
    1. Analysis of terror and horror in Dracula.
    2. The role of vampires in Dracula.
  8. Conclusion.
  9. Bibliography.

The concepts of terror and horror are key factors in the Fantastic and Gothic novel. This literary genre appeared with Walpole's The Castle of Otranto in 1765 and then flourished until 1830; it mainly developed during the historical period of the Enlightenment and can be seen as an alternative to the predominance of the aesthetics of probability, rationalism and utility, trying to expend imagination. The uncertain terrors in the books make the reader an active participant, like the characters, trying to understand unbelievable facts.
We often confuse the two terms of terror and horror, because they are often linked; but there are subtle differences between these two states, and that is the reason why we have first of all to define these two words before analysing their role in the three novels.Terror is characterised by obscurity, it can be defined as an overpowering fear, a feeling of dread and anticipation that usually occurs before something frightening is seen or experienced. It is a mental state. Horror is an intense and painful feeling of repugnance or dislike, with the idea of a shock when one faces something horrible, a displays of atrocity; we often talk about horror when the dreadful experience has already occurred. It refers to more physical effects of fears. To further analyse the role of these psychological modes in the novels, I will put The Castle of Otranto, Frankenstein and Dracula in relationship with one another.

[...] That is why in the end, Frankenstein has to admit his mistake before dying, the only way to make the monster disappear, and it leads to an differentiation of the self from the other. Of course, as a reader, we are also left with the questions: who is the real monster in the story? Are Frankenstein and his creature alike? Indeed, if the monster and its awful physical appearance is the main source of terror in the book, the one which still remains a very frightening character in popular culture, we have to notice that the protagonist, the scientist himself has the responsibility of such a creature. [...]


[...] The Castle of Otranto, Frankenstein and Dracula are good illustrations of the genre, each pointing at a specific problem of conscious, a specific fear, and expressing taboos through their monsters. The reader has to face emotions or frightful events which make in doubt, like the collapse of the mental faculties, the encounter of creatures from the past or a threat to the imagination. Both terror and horror confront the imagination with its limits, either by suggestion (terror) or excessive visualisation (horror): conventional reason has difficulties to respond to these things conceived by imagination, and that is what makes the genre so rich. [...]


[...] Jackson p.38) In The Castle of Otranto, these strange things are ghosts, not alive, not dead, moving pictures on the wall and the giant armour, for example. The three novels are structured upon ambivalence and contradiction, and also on the fact that the characters have to struggle against powerful creatures. Count Dracula, for example, collects victims to stay alive and the vicious circle seems to have no end; it can affect anybody. We find there destructive forces at work, forces we cannot really control. [...]

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