Danse Macabre Critical Context - Essay

Stephen King

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Stephen King is certainly not the only contemporary writer to consider the nature of horror; he follows in a tradition that extends at least as far back as Sigmund Freud’s essay on the uncanny. In fact, horror in fiction, film, and television has become the topic of much critical debate and analysis, particularly since the 1970’s, when many scholars turned their attention to the field of popular culture. Yet few makers of the stuff analyzed by such critics offer their thoughts on the nature of popular forms, at least not in an extended or widely disseminated format. In Danse Macabre, King offers readers an evaluation not only of the genre itself but also of himself as a writer. Thus, the book serves as an interesting supplement to the fiction he has written, as an exploration of the genre about which he is clearly an expert practitioner, and as an introduction to the study of popular culture and horror fiction and film that will perhaps be more accessible to readers than the many scholarly treatises that have also been published in this field.

Finally, Danse Macabre brings together a greater variety of horror genres than a typical treatment of the field does. While there are many books on horror, most of them confine themselves to the study of one form of horror: film or television or mainstream fiction or popular fiction. King bridges the differences to show readers that, no matter what the form, horror deals with the same themes and topics, employs the same generic archetypes, and provides the consumer (reader, viewer, or listener) with the same entertainment and the same sought-after release.