| horreur (feminine noun) | /ɔʀœʀ/
This is my seventh year in higher education, and I’ve just learned that the highly disturbing, fucked-up books I love so much actually belong to a respected literary genre, the contemporary American Gothic; I have thus decided to refine my professional and academic research to this genre and become somewhat of a “horror scholar.” I love all types of literature, but I’ve always been fascinated by psychoanalytical literary theory and representations of mental illness in literature. As a child, I marveled at my father’s psychiatric texts, never realizing that my interest was bizarre for a girl of thirteen. And, preferring literature, I’ve never been much a cinephile, but I’ve developed a deep passion for horror films as I’ve grown older. Conducting research in this field has been a journey in self-discovery, and I’m continually asking myself why I so adamantly love a genre that most find appalling.
As someone who’s wrestled with those vicious demons of the psyche, I’m always eager to explore new forms of escapism, anything that doesn’t leave me feeling emptier than before. While most people seem to find that delicious escape in comedies and romance, these films only depressed me further. They don’t reflect reality, at least, not one with which I’m familiar. For me, watching these films only served to underline the contrast between a delightful delusion and a bitter reality. And I cannot cope with that great distance. At the film’s end, I was left feeling dejected and alone, instead of happy and fulfilled, the way I thought I should be.
The horror genre may be equally fantastical, but it often explores the undeniably real and disturbing facets of the human condition. Horror films enthrall me. They are able to capture my attention in a way no other films can. For those two hours, I am consumed with terror, and the film’s dénouement is addictive in its catharsis, like wakening from a nightmare to find you’re safe in bed. Edmund Burke, whose treatise to Gothic writing was central to the development of the genre, stated, “Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the idea of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible subjects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.” In this way, terror transports us; it consumes us, suspending our faculties of reason. I believe, as human beings, we must acknowledge and address the darkest, most depraved tendencies of our kind. Do not close your eyes.