What is the greatest horror in Gothic? What difference do you see between horror and terror?

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bmadnick's profile pic

bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

This is a great question, and I looked both words up in the dictionary and a thesaurus to try and get a sense of the different connotations of the two words. Then I read what eNotes has to say on the subject and came up with the following.

Terror is the intense fear we feel in anticipation of something happening, while horror is the revulsion we feel when it happens. Both of these emotions are what Gothic writers aspire to achieve in their plots and in their readers. They want to develop a mood of fear and anxiety. To create terror, Gothic writers create suspense in their stories, thereby creating terror in their readers. As the suspense builds in the story, our terror rises as well because we're afraid of what will happen or what we know is going to happen. When the event does happen, we are then shocked and alarmed that it has truly occurred, and we feel horrified. Our horror is increased if the events cannot easily be explained away.

As far as the greatest horror in Gothic literature, I think that depends on what scares you. A well-written Gothic piece of literature allows the reader to feel the same terror and horror that the characters do, and that's the beauty of Gothic to me. Some people are really freaked out by ghosts and vampires, while others are not. Perhaps monsters or torture chambers scare you. To me, the greatest horror is what makes you feel the most terror and horror.

kwoo1213's profile pic

kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

Great question for the discussion board!

In my opinion, the greatest horror in Gothic literature is the shocking aspect of it.  Horror is a feeling that is caused by something frightening and shocking.  Great Gothic horror, to me, is shocking and unexpected.  It makes the reader fear, cower and be put in the moment in a piece of literature.  I believe good Gothic horror sticks with you...it is something you'll never forget...images that persist.

Terror, to me, is related to fear of being harmed by violence, so this is the difference between horror and terror for me.

erabene3's profile pic

erabene3 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

This is a great question, and I looked both words up in the dictionary and a thesaurus to try and get a sense of the different connotations of the two words. Then I read what eNotes has to say on the subject and came up with the following.

Terror is the intense fear we feel in anticipation of something happening, while horror is the revulsion we feel when it happens. Both of these emotions are what Gothic writers aspire to achieve in their plots and in their readers. They want to develop a mood of fear and anxiety. To create terror, Gothic writers create suspense in their stories, thereby creating terror in their readers. As the suspense builds in the story, our terror rises as well because we're afraid of what will happen or what we know is going to happen. When the event does happen, we are then shocked and alarmed that it has truly occurred, and we feel horrified. Our horror is increased if the events cannot easily be explained away.

As far as the greatest horror in Gothic literature, I think that depends on what scares you. A well-written Gothic piece of literature allows the reader to feel the same terror and horror that the characters do, and that's the beauty of Gothic to me. Some people are really freaked out by ghosts and vampires, while others are not. Perhaps monsters or torture chambers scare you. To me, the greatest horror is what makes you feel the most terror and horror.

Thanks for your answer. I really love what all of you are writing to my questions. And the best thing: I understand what you are saying. Well, I must admit I am having a hard time understanding what some authors have to say - as I am German. I just read what J. E. Hogle says about the "greatest horror", but I have no clue of what he is talking about. "the pull of the masculine back??? What do you think of his idea? Maybe your comment will help me understand:-))...

The greatest horror in the Gothic is not simply the pull of the masculine back toward an overpowering femininity. The deep Feminine level, as the Gothic mode has developed, is but one major form of a primordial dissolution that can obscure (verdecken) the boundaries between all western oppositions, not just masculine-feminine or the other pairs already noted. The reason that Gothic others or spaces can abject (verachten, verwerfen?) myriad cultural and psycholigical contradictions, and thereby confront us with those anomalies in disguise, is because those spectral characters, images, and settings harbor the hidden reality that oppsositions of all kinds cannot maintain their separations, that each “lesser term” is contained in its counterpart and that difference really arises by standing against and relating to interdependency…

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