Contents
  Notes &
Permissions
  Preface & Acknowledg-
ments
1:
Introduction
2: Horror in Literature and the Literature of Horror
3: The Marvelous Horror Thriller
4:  The Fantastic/Uncanny Horror Thriller
5: The Aesthetics of the Horror Thriller: Stoker's Dracula
6: The Pure Fantastic Tale of Terror
7:  Anticlosure: Poe's "Ligeia"
8: The Entrapped Critic:
Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher"
9: The Master's Trap:
James's The Turn of the Screw 
10: Escape: An Aesthetics of Terror Fantasy
11: Terror and the Sublime
Sources
Index

 
 
Chapter One:  Introduction
 
I
 

What sorts of tales of terror are there?

What sorts of pleasures do they offer the reader?

     To answer these questions, we need to share some basic aesthetic concepts. In this introduction I outline the main concepts I am borrowing from literary theory. But first, I must issue a warning: these concepts will not remain static. Rarely do we invent concepts for the solution of one problem that remain precisely the same when we turn to another problem. Each of the theoretical concepts I use will undergo modification as I adapt it to the explanation of tales of terror, but I will make every effort to keep these concepts clear.

     The theoretical concepts that seem most useful in explaining tales of terror come from Roman Ingarden's characterization of the aesthetic experience of the literary art work and from Wolfgang Iser's elaboration of the phenomenology of reading, especially in his development of the concept of the implied reader. To understand these concepts thoroughly, one must, of course, go to the writers themselves. The following summary, therefore, draws out only those aspects of these theories that seem most useful to this project but does not attempt to explain them in detail.

     Most helpful is Ingarden's concept of the literary art work as a concretion, that is, as a mental experience co-created by the interaction of a reader, who adopts an aesthetic attitude toward a text that invites such a response, and of the text itself, which is a schematized set of instructions for the creation of the whole work. Although many implications of this conception will prove valuable, none is more important than the idea that we expect literary works to be wholes; we expect a feeling of completeness in our concretion of a work. One of the features of a literary work that makes it seem whole is closure. At some point at or shortly after the end of the text, we expect to see all the prominent features of the work forming a harmony that can recede in memory as we turn to other objects in the world. To end Pride and Prejudice after Lizzy reads Darcy's letter of explanation in response to her refusing his first proposal of marriage would turn the novel into a fragment, not because of the deficiency of any preceding part, but because the novel creates certain expectations for the completion of several kinds of patterns that must be met before the reader will feel that the novel is finished. Only when the reader feels the novel to be contained by the patterns it has promised to complete is it possible to contemplate the novel's wholeness. Jane Austen leads her readers to desire and to expect that Lizzy and Darcy will overcome their pride and prejudices to achieve marriage. Because closure, the completing of a concretion, is so important to the reader's being able to grasp the wholeness of a work, any reasonably skillful writer should be able to complete the plot of an Austen novel as has been done, for example, with Sanditon. We tend to tolerate various degrees of openness in fictions, but only if some form of satisfactory closure is present. Kafka's The Castle, though genuinely fragmentary in the sense that Kafka never completed it, still feels whole because the fundamental parable of alienation is complete. Were K. to die and the action to end, there would be a kind of conventional closure, but our understanding of the novel would remain unchanged, and our feeling of its completeness would hardly be altered. As long as the idea this novel conveys is complete, we can do without other forms of closure. In fact, given the idea of The Castle, a lack of conventional closure may be a positive benefit. For K.'s life to take shape and gain meaning would work against the novel's insistently unkept promise of such meaning.

     Ingarden's concept of the aesthetic attitude is also important to the discussion of the tale of terror. This concept means essentially what psychical distance means to Edward Bullough. Psychical or aesthetic distance, as I call it, is distinct from the more common use of the term distance in literary studies. We often think of distance as the degree of identification or sympathy an author creates between reader and character, and the degree of immediacy with which scenes and events are presented in a fiction (Abrams 43-44). In this sense, distance describes the relationship between the reader and parts of the work. Aesthetic distance, however, describes the relationship between the reader and the whole work at any stage in the reading process.

     Bullough defines the aesthetic mode of perceiving as involving a separation "of the object and its appeal from one's own self by putting it out of gear with practical ends and needs" (756). Bullough formulates a principle of aesthetic distance when he says that what is most desirable "both in appreciation and production" of a work of art "is the utmost decrease of distance without its disappearance" (758). In other words, a work of art seems best when it involves readers in it as completely as possible without their forgetting that it is a work of art and interacting with it as if it were reality. The person who flees the theater unable to endure the terrors of Psycho and the person who, in Bullough's example, pulls out his pistol to shoot a film villain on the screen have both lost aesthetic distance. A sophisticated reader who declines to finish a bad novel may have found that the author is unable to reduce the aesthetic distance enough to involve him in the book.

     A work of art asks for a special, disinterested kind of attention in which the concretization (the making of a concretion) of the work becomes an end in itself, and in which the use of our imaginative faculties in that concretization is for [the] pleasure rather than for solving practical problems of communication (reading a telegram) or survival (dealing with a mugger). The idea that we normally look at works of art in a different way from that in which we normally look at the rest of the world seems fairly obvious, though, of course, the natures of both kinds of looking are matters of controversy.

     The concept of aesthetic distance is important because it seems to be in the nature of a tale of terror to threaten aesthetic distance. The example of Psycho mentioned above illustrates that sometimes a tale of terror can destroy the aesthetic attitude and that some viewers find such tales to be the equivalent of a mugger, a danger to the self in the world. We need, therefore, to look closely at how successful tales of terror handle aesthetic distance.

     Related to the concepts of concretion and aesthetic distance are those I adopt from Wolfgang Iser's elaboration in The Act of Reading of Ingarden's phenomenology of reading.

     Iser has described as accurately as anyone I have read the kinds of processes I observe in myself as I move through a text, turning its words and sentences into a presented world in my imagination. Especially important is the idea that because a fictional text is always schematic and underdetermined in comparison with our experience of natural objects, we are required to fill in gaps, to create a world of depth and of whole objects out of a verbal presentation of outlines and perspectives. Therefore, as we read we engage in a process of creating provisional unities; we hypothesize wholes, practicing for the final concretization of the work. This description emphasizes the importance of wholeness to our experience of the work of art because it shows reading to consist mainly of projecting possible wholes out of the fragments given at any specific point. On the other hand, the description also reveals the unavoidable lack of wholeness in any work. Writing fiction may be conceived, by a Henry James, for example, as the art of so moving the reader through these projections as to disguise completely the presence of gaps. Or, alternatively, an artist as sophisticated as James may discover and exploit such gaps, as James said he did in writing The Turn of the Screw. In his preface to The Aspern Papers, James explains with amusement how he deliberately made the transgressions of the ghosts into blanks, which his readers then filled in with the most horrific content. His illusion was so perfect that his readers asserted that what they imagined to fill those blanks was actually put there by James (Theory of Fiction 173-74).

     Iser's concept of the implied reader is essential to this study. Though other theorists have developed other terms, such as inscribed reader, encoded reader, and narratee, I prefer Iser's term. I intend, however, to use the concept in my own way, a way modified to some extent by my contact with other developments of the concept and by my thinking about tales of terror.

     I have no doubt that as I read, "I" am created by the text that I read. The text includes instructions for the creation of the appropriate reader for that text, one who can make a concretion of the work that will hold up under public and professional scrutiny. The implied reader comes into being in the process of filling gaps, of making connections between the always underdetermined presented elements; this involves making a series of commitments that, though they may always be modified as a result of subsequent information, nevertheless add up not only to a picture of a world but also to a perspective on that world. The implied reader, therefore, consists of inferences about the connections between presented elements, inferences in which the reader is "invested" or to which he is committed. In The Act of Reading Iser calls this construct of reader and text a role: "Thus the concept of the implied reader designates a network of response-inviting structures, which impel the reader to grasp the text. No matter who or what he may be, the real reader is always offered a particular role to play, and it is this role that constitutes the concept of the implied reader" (34-35).

     The text offers me the role of reader and gradually creates that role in various ways. It may determine points of view from which I am to look. It specifies, to some degree, my world, its events, its inhabitants, its mysteries, and its culture for the duration of the reading. In the process of reading, I pretend to occupy a fictional world as an observer of and, to some degree, as an actor in that world. I construct the fictional world and myself in relation to it in much the same way that I construct myself and the so-called real world in my daily life. Two essential differences between my life in the fiction and my life in the world are that I voluntarily enter the fiction for a limited time (its anticipated duration), and I adopt an aesthetic or disinterested attitude toward the experience of the work. This attitude means, in part, that the self that the work and I create is fictional, a role that has its beginning, middle, and end. In the modern tradition of fiction up until the twentieth century, the real reader understands that the role of implied reader is to be temporary, that the role will end more or less with the last page of the text. As I suggest in my preface, some tales of terror seem not to end in any conventional way. If "Ligeia" is made to haunt its readers, then perhaps something radically different with regard to closure for the implied reader is happening there. Clearly, these concepts of Ingarden and Iser may prove crucial in understanding such an effect.

     This is probably the right place for a second warning. I have presented the key theoretical concepts that I will use and, to some extent, modify as I offer my explanations of the pleasures of terror. These concepts describe what can fairly be called "natural" reading. When I read "naturally," I disengage "my" ego from the task of self-definition and give myself over to another ego-like force, the work. In this way, the implied reader comes into existence. When I read critically, I try to stand back from this process and to watch (or imagine I am watching) this implied reader come into being. This is the sort of watching in which I engage in this book. Attractive as this method may be and useful as it may prove, it is only one method and it is in the hands of only one reader. I wish to emphasize that my critical attention to the implied reader does not privilege my readings. My reading of the implied reader and my reading as implied reader are still my readings with all of my limitations.

     At this point I want to claim a small privilege in the interest of efficiency in terminology. To avoid too frequent repetition of real reader and implied reader, I will use the terms mainly when the distinction between the two readers seems crucial to the discussion. Generally, when I use the shorter term, reader, I will mean the implied reader.

     In his study of Ingarden, Eugene Falk distinguishes between a kind of naive reader, which we all are sometimes, and a more sophisticated reader. The naive reader is a consumer of literature who likes to "indulge vicariously in the experiences of presented characters, to be carried away with enthusiasm, to rejoice, to hope, or to suffer with them, to gain practical lessons from these experiences" (xiv). While such experiences are clearly of great worth, the value of literature increases as we come to see how it is made, what its structures are. Then we encounter a level of aesthetic experience to which our more naive enjoyments contribute. Horror stories are considered popular literature because they satisfy naive readers but offer rather little enjoyment beyond instruction and delight to more sophisticated readers. In this book, I argue that some tales of terror are beautiful as well as enjoyable, especially those by Poe and James. In chapter 2, we will notice that the tale of terror is connected with tragedy. Indeed, some of the greatest works in the Western tradition, for example, Oedipus, Othello, and Macbeth, are noted for their terror.
 

II
 

What sorts of tales of terror are there?

What sorts of pleasures do they offer the reader?

     The answer to the first question is a matter of descriptive poetics, the second of aesthetics. The first has received a great deal of attention, and the second, not much, though during the eighteenth century it was approached by many writers concerned with the sublime. Near the end of this book, I will suggest connections between the answers I give here and the theory of the sublime. The main purpose of this book is to answer the second question, but to do so, we must have some reasonable and useful answer to the first. Indeed, an aesthetic study of tales of terror should group them according to the different varieties of pleasure they appear to offer. Therefore, I find myself choosing from among the available descriptions the one that seems most helpful to my enterprise and, inevitably, I find myself modifying it to some extent. I will come to Tzvetan Todorov's description of the fantastic and of four closely related genres by way of Walt Whitman and Edward Bullough.
 

     Closer yet I approach you,
     What thought you have of me now, I had as much of you --
     I laid in my stores in advance,
     I considered long and seriously of you before you were born.

     Who was to know what should come home to me?
     Who knows but I am enjoying this?
     Who knows, for all the distance, but I am as good as looking at you now, for all you cannot see me?
 

     Here in part 7 of "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," Whitman's persona completes the identification with the reader that he has been moving toward from the beginning of the poem. Whitman uses a visionary chanting re-creation of the landscape of the ferry to move in on the reader, asserting that time and distance cannot separate him from his reader. In part 4 he manipulates grammar to transcend time: "These and all else were to me the same as they are to you" (my emphasis). In part 6 he asserts that we all play the same role, that there is something more fundamental than our physical appearances that is our true identity. At the end of part 8 he maintains that he has succeeded in unifying with the reader by means of the poem:

     What is more subtle than this which ties me to the woman or man that looks in my face?
     Which fuses me into you now, and pours my meaning into you?

     We understand then do we not?
     What I promis'd without mentioning it, have you not accepted?

     Even though we know that Whitman is attempting to induce a self-transcendent vision in the reader by reducing the distance between speaker and reader, this experience is a little spooky. Whitman tries to transform his poem, which the reader approaches as an aesthetic object, into something different. He wishes to produce the practical effect of lifting the reader out of himself into unity with a transpersonal divinity. One need make only the slight effort of being unsympathetic to Whitman's transcendentalism to feel part 7 as a somewhat chilling haunting. Whitman's voice becomes the dead returned to devour the reader. One of the reasons why this distortion is so easy is that Whitman has deliberately set out to destroy Bullough's antinomy of aesthetic distance.

     Bullough says that the artist generally wants to minimize without destroying the aesthetic distance between the reader and the work. The reader is always to be aware that he is contemplating a work of art, thus keeping this experience distinct from practical experiences in life. The reader is to maintain a "disinterested" attitude toward the work, as if reading the work will have no effect on his well-being or his practice of life. Bullough reflects that it is just this disinterestedness that makes that which is ugly or frightening in life, such as a fog at sea, beautiful in aesthetic experience. Our interest in the experience shifts from what effect it may have on us to what it is like to perceive it, to patterns of sensation, feeling, and thought. On the other hand, the artist wants the reader to be as completely involved in the work as is appropriate to the work. Though the novelist typically wants readers to approach the novel in an aesthetic attitude of disinterestedness, the novelist also typically wants the reader to become deeply engaged with characters and to care about their situations, values, choices, and fates. This, then, is what I understand Bullough to mean by his antinomy of aesthetic distance.

     Whitman deliberately upsets this balance. He depends upon the reader approaching his text in an aesthetic attitude that Whitman can exploit by dissolving. What is involved in this exploitation?

     When I take up a literary work I do so with expectations based upon what sort of work I think I am approaching. This is the beginning of the creation of the implied reader. In effect I ask myself what sort of reader this work needs. Beginning with the first word, I construct that reader, bit by bit, using whatever instructions I find in the text. The implied reader, then, is a central structure in the establishment of aesthetic distance. By taking on a role provided by the text, I create a separate or bracketed self that, in effect, stands between my "actual" self and the work. Even though I must play the role to read the text as an art work, my involvement in this role is essentially voluntary in the sense that I have chosen to read and I may choose to stop.

     In a typical reading situation there are several levels of distance between the real reader and the literary work. The real reader is engaged in a constructive activity that is interesting in itself, the concretization of the work. Part of that process of concretization involves the creation of the implied reader. The way in which that role is created may move the reader closer to the story. For example the speaker of the story may address the implied reader personally and directly, as Nathaniel Hawthorne often does. Or the speaker may address no particular person and be no particular person, as in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. These quite different techniques tend to minimize the distance between the reader and the work; the implied reader is made a direct observer of the work. What happens in the text may be moved further from the reader by various techniques, one of which is framing, as in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Aesthetic distance is extended when a frame interposes one or more personae between the implied reader and the work, requiring that the real reader construct not only an implied reader but also various tellers of and listeners to the story as well. This is especially supportive of aesthetic distance when evaluating the attitudes of each teller and listener is necessary to the reading.

     Whitman begins "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" with the minimal requirements. There is a speaking voice, and once he turns from the setting to his listener, his listener is the implied reader. As the speaker moves through the poem, he asks the reader to construct the implied reader as a part of the speaker. Insofar as he succeeds, the speaker collapses one of the barriers that separate the real reader from the work. The speaker, in the context of Leaves of Grass, is Whitman's transcendent soul. The arguments he presents attempt to persuade the real reader that the role of implied reader as unified with Whitman is the one true role. He asserts, for example, that he has played the same role that all souls play, the role of ordinary life in the world, but that behind that role is the transcendent "actor or actress." The speaker of the poem is Whitman's soul identified with the implied reader; this composite is the actor or actress. As a result, Whitman transforms the dead physical Whitman and the real reader into roles rather than the actors. The transcendent composite of Whitman's soul and the implied reader becomes the more fundamental reality. In creating such a complex, transforming poem, Whitman shows an intuitive awareness of how his reader will approach his text and of how that approach might be exploited to produce his desired effect.

     My main reason for looking at Whitman in the light of Bullough is to establish the idea that there may be a continuum of aesthetic distance. Whitman provides one pole of the continuum in his deliberate attempt to violate the antinomy of aesthetic distance. Were a tale of terror to violate this antinomy, what would happen? We have seen that this is a constant risk of the tale of terror and that some readers (and especially film viewers) find themselves unable to sustain aesthetic distance in relation to such tales. However, one can imagine that the ideal tale of terror would terrify its reader, which entails dissolving aesthetic distance, and still provide an aesthetic experience, which should entail restoring the lost distance. I argue, in fact, that three tales of terror accomplish this effect: The Turn of the Screw," Ligeia," and "The Fall of the House of Usher." On a continuum moving back toward more conventional fictions are tales of terror that threaten but do not dissolve aesthetic distance and so provide noticeably different aesthetic pleasures, different clearly in degree, if not in kind.

     At this point Todorov's work on the fantastic becomes especially useful, for he provides a descriptive poetics of the fantastic and four related genres that together include all tales of terror. Furthermore, his description of these genres suggests ways of placing tales of terror along the continuum from "typical" fictions toward those that make the destruction of aesthetic distance part of their effect. His names for the genres are the uncanny; the marvelous; the fantastic/marvelous; the fantastic/uncanny; and the pure fantastic.

     Todorov's definitions of these genres depend on his definition of the fantastic:

The fantastic requires the fulfillment of three conditions. First, the text must oblige the reader to consider the world of the characters as a world of living persons and to hesitate between a natural and a supernatural explanation of the events described. Second, this hesitation may also be experienced by a character; thus the reader's role is so to speak entrusted to a character, and at the same time the hesitation is represented, it becomes one of the themes of the work -- in the case of naive reading, the actual reader identifies himself with the character. Third, the reader must adopt a certain attitude with regard to the text: he will reject allegorical as well as "poetic" interpretations. (33)
The fantastic, then, is an effect experienced by the implied reader and, perhaps, by a character in the text. The effect arises from the hesitation of the implied reader between two mutually exclusive ways of understanding the events presented in the text. I find the third condition somewhat puzzling because Todorov seems so insistent upon the reader adopting a particular attitude, as if the adoption of such an attitude were extratextual. Judging from his discussion of this point, I take him to mean that the text is so constructed as to prevent the implied reader from subordinating the experience of the fantastic to allegory or to poetic metaphor as a means of resolving the hesitation. In short, the hesitation can be resolved only if the text supplies some means of doing so, and in the true fantastic, as opposed to allegory and poetry, this resolution, if it comes at all, must be in favor either of the natural or of the supernatural interpretation of the ambiguous events.

     Over Todorov's genres I will superimpose three groupings of tales of terror according to aesthetic effect: uncanny horror stories; horror thrillers; and terror fantasies. Uncanny horror stories offer the reader the opportunity to pretend to experience extreme mental and physical states by identifying with characters who undergo such experiences. Stories of this type form part though not necessarily all, of Todorov's uncanny genre. Horror thrillers offer the reader the thrill of horror mainly by creating supernatural images, usually monsters, that in various ways and with careful qualifications embody or make concrete unconscious fears that a reader brings to the texts. Though these monsters have actions to perform in their plots, they also act directly upon the reader, threatening to bring repressed fears into consciousness. Undergoing and escaping these threats causes a thrill of horror in the reader. Todorov's genres of the marvelous, the fantastic/marvelous, and the fantastic/uncanny include most horror thrillers, though some pure fantastic tales of terror are also horror thrillers. Finally, I sort out a group of fantastic tales of terror that I call terror fantasies; I explore these in chapters 6-10.

     Because I work from Todorov's genres, it will be helpful to look at his descriptions in a little more detail.

     Todorov sees the uncanny as a vague genre: "events are related which may be readily accounted for by the laws of reason, but which are, in one way or another, incredible, extraordinary, shocking, singular, disturbing or unexpected, and which thereby provoke in the character and in the reader a reaction which works of the fantastic have made familiar" (46). Todorov is not very satisfying in his discussion of this genre. He points out that it tends to fade away into literature generally, where we often find events of the kinds listed above. He offers stories of Ambrose Bierce and Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" as examples of the genre in its pure form. Neither of these examples seems appropriate, for Bierce's tales often partake of the fantastic or the marvelous, and Poe's narrator in "Usher" is in the toils of hesitation throughout his narrative. I think the tale of terror this definition brings to mind is exemplified by "The Pit and the Pendulum." There is never a serious suggestion that the supernatural is operating in this story, yet the implied reader's identification with the persecuted narrator is such that the experience of horror is not unlike that of identifying with a Gothic heroine who is apparently the victim of supernatural terror. Similar tales come to mind, each offering a kind of horror without using the fantastic: "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Tell-Tale Heart," and "Hop-Frog" are examples by Poe. We are perhaps most familiar with this type in films in which a protagonist is hunted by powers that, though natural, seem almost supernatural in their power to find and destroy. One variation of this type is Jaws, which presents a natural monster whose depredations approach those of a vampire.

     Uncanny tales of terror, in Todorov's definition, seem the least terrifying because their terrors are not aimed at the implied reader. If there is no appearance of the fantastic or even of the marvelous in a tale of terror, it is difficult to involve the implied reader in the terror itself, and so there is no threat to aesthetic distance. The central interest seems to be the vicarious experience of extreme emotions not readily available in ordinary life. I shall begin my examination of actual tales of terror by looking at a few works that seem to belong in this category. We will see that they become more problematic aesthetically as they move toward producing hesitation in the implied reader. There is a similar pattern in Todorov's genre of the marvelous.

     According to Todorov, "in the case of the marvelous, supernatural elements provoke no particular reaction either in the characters or in the implicit reader" (54). Thus, the marvelous corresponds to Eric Rabkin's description of the fairy tale (38). In a world where the supernatural is accepted as normal, there will be no hesitation about how to interpret supernatural events, and the fantastic, in Todorov's sense, will not occur. In a marvelous tale of terror, the manifest unreality of such a world may provide the author with one major additional device for sustaining aesthetic distance; there is less danger of the reader directly connecting events in the fiction with events in the extratextual world. The safest terror can take place here. As the world of the fiction becomes more similar to the reader's world, that is, a world in which natural laws are perceived to operate without arbitrary interventions of the supernatural, then the terrors of the tale can seem more real. It is at this point that I will take up an example of a marvelous tale of terror, H. P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness. This tale contains little, if any, of the fantastic. Once alien beings are discovered in Antarctica, we move quickly to exploring the new laws of nature that they reveal. The implied reader is not made to hesitate significantly over whether they exist.

     Once there is significant hesitation in the implied reader between the natural and the supernatural, we enter one of the three genres Todorov labels fantastic. The fantastic/marvelous is "the class of narratives that are presented as fantastic and that end with an acceptance of the supernatural" (Todorov 52). This genre seems to form a part of what Rabkin calls the fantastic, the genre in which the rules of being and of causation in a given text are violated (10). Indeed, all three of Todorov's fantastic genres fall within Rabkin's definition. Because Todorov centers on the fantastic as hesitation in the implied reader, he tends to be uninterested in a text such as Alice in Wonderland, which is paradigmatic for Rabkin. If there is hesitation between the supernatural interpretation of Alice--there is a looking-glass world -- and the natural explanation -- Alice dreams -- this is hardly foregrounded in the experience of the text. Rabkin's emphasis on the anti-expected provides a different perspective, which sheds more light on Alice and similar fantasies than on Dracula and its relatives. Todorov's distinctions grow out of greater attention to tales of terror and, therefore, continue to prove more useful to answering questions about the sorts of tales of terror and the pleasures they provide. In his discussion of the fantastic, however, Todorov does not mean to include only tales of terror in his genres.

     Dracula is an example of a text in which the fantastic appears, eventually to be resolved in favor of a supernatural interpretation. In this novel, as in many fantastic/marvelous texts, the presentation of the fantastic is of relatively brief duration, necessary only to insert the supernatural being into a textual world that carefully duplicates the extratextual world of the author and his original readers. By this means, among others, the supernatural monster is brought close to the implied reader. Lovecraft's monsters, though they are also placed in a representation of the real world, seem more remote, not only because they are confined to Antarctica, but also because the implied reader does not struggle through hesitation to belief in them.

     The fantastic/marvelous is probably the largest of the categories of the tale of terror. Most of the popular tales of terror that have lasted over the years and that are produced today involve the appearance of some sort of supernatural being in a realistic setting. Most use some degree of hesitation in the characters, and often in the implied reader, between belief and disbelief in the reality of the supernatural being. This most common kind of tale of terror is probably also the best understood by literary theorists.

     Todorov says that in the fantastic/uncanny, "events that seem supernatural throughout a story receive a rational explanation at its end" (44). This group may be second largest. It includes the Gothic romance, sometimes called the supernatural explained. Ann Radcliffe is perhaps the best and the best known of the writers in this mode. As Todorov's description suggests, such stories, before their endings, are not much different from the fantastic/marvelous. For some major portion of the narrative, the implied reader is made to hesitate between the two ways of interpreting events. The difference comes at or near the end, when the laws of nature, as we commonly understand them, are either affirmed or denied. In many works of the fantastic/marvelous and the fantastic/uncanny, even this difference of ending is of little consequence to the aesthetic effect, since the reaffirmation of natural law, which is an assertion that supernatural events do not in fact take place, is virtually the same as the defeat of the supernatural monster. When the monster is removed from the scene, the world is returned to normality, just as when apparently supernatural events are shown to have natural causes.

     On our continuum the fantastic/marvelous and the fantastic/uncanny may occupy much the same space and provide much the same aesthetic pleasure. However, we will see that the most frightening of these tales turn the screw just a little, entangling the implied reader in ambiguities and hesitations that extend beyond the end of the reading of the text. I will deal in detail with one text from this area, C. B. Brown's Wieland,which nicely illustrates the general patterns of the fantastic/uncanny and moves beyond the central definition by so entangling the implied reader.

     In the genre of the pure fantastic, the implied reader's hesitation is sustained through the end of the text. Though this group is small, it will receive the most attention in the following chapters. I will look at six tales of terror that seem to fulfill the conditions of the pure fantastic. Three of these, E. T. A. Hoffman's "The Sandman," Guy de Maupassant's "The Horla," and Poe's "The Black Cat," involve the implied reader in irresolvable hesitation between natural and supernatural interpretations of events and, as a result, have become classics of literary terror. But three others have gone beyond being merely classics of literary terror: James's The Turn of the Screw and Poe's two tales, "Ligeia" and "The Fall of the House of Usher." They are undisputed classics of high literature as well and are also the centers of a long and extensive literary debate over how they ought to be read. This debate in itself is primary evidence of the power of these stories to terrify readers at a level that transcends the power of most, if not all, other tales of terror. These, then, are the most complex and aesthetically problematic of the works to be examined in the subsequent chapters. If, as I have suggested, they work in a way analogous to that of "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" to dissolve the reader's aesthetic attitude during the reading process, then, according to what we generally understand about literary works, aesthetic pleasure would seem to be foreclosed. Furthermore, if it is terror that brings an end to the aesthetic attitude, that is, if the work becomes a threat to the reader, then it would seem a mistake to talk of any kind of pleasure at all issuing from these works. And yet . . . . they are acknowledged as literary classics.

     Generally, then, I will move from less to more terrifying examples of tales of terror. These examples will be grouped according to the categories I have derived from Todorov: uncanny, marvelous, fantastic/marvelous, fantastic/uncanny, and pure fantastic. However, I will analyze them differently by asking what sorts of pleasures they provide (figure 1).

     In figure 1, I have divided literature, according to Kathryn Hume's suggestion, into two basic modes, mimesis and fantasy. On the branching lines I have located Todorov's genres, the uncanny tale of terror branching away from mimesis and toward fantasy, the marvelous tale of terror branching away from fantasy and toward mimesis. At the point where mimetic and fantasy modes meet, I have placed Todorov's fantastic. The fantastic/uncanny tale of terror is on the mimetic side because it ultimately claims natural causes for apparently supernatural events. The fantastic/marvelous tale of terror appears on the fantasy side because in such tales apparently supernatural events prove really to be supernatural. Finally, there is the line of the pure fantastic, where the fantastic hesitation Todorov describes persists through the whole story. The three polygons group together and show the relationships between the three distinctive kinds of pleasure that tales of terror offer. The uncanny tale of terror seems closest to other literary works in which terror may appear, such as tragedy, for the reader is here most concerned with the terrifying experiences of characters. As soon as the marvelous or the apparently marvelous appears in a tale of terror, there is the new possibility of the "thrill of terror," which results from the marvelous image, the monster that seems to speak directly to the reader while also enacting its part in the plot. Marvelous, fantastic/marvelous, and fantastic/uncanny tales all share this crucial characteristic; therefore these three genres are grouped together in a category called horror thrillers. The uncanny tales of terror and horror thrillers overlap, for the distinction between them becomes vague as uncanny tales manifest greater ambiguity concerning how they are to be read. This overlapping will be clearer when I discuss Charles Brockden Brown's Edgar Huntly. The pure fantastic tale of terror also divides between examples that offer the pleasure of a horror thriller and those that offer a unique pleasure. These latter are called terror fantasies. In both kinds of the pure fantastic a text creates and sustains the fantastic hesitation Todorov describes. Another sort of discomfort becomes a part of the reading experience as the reader is forced to deal with an intransigent ambiguity.

     This is probably a good point for a word about what will be left out of this study. The tales I chose to discuss as examples have been determined by the breadth of my reading and the limits of my skills, interests, and tastes. Inevitably, the reader will think of better examples than I have chosen and counterexamples. That is good, for it would be a little frightening to be the first writer ever to have the last word on a literary problem. However, there is one class of works about which I will say virtually nothing: the apologue. David H. Richter defines the apologue as a work of fiction the final cause of which is "the inculcation of some doctrine or sentiment concerning the world external to the fiction" (9). Such fictions subordinate the aesthetic to the practical by seeking to directly influence attitudes of the real reader toward the real world. It is rather common for such works to use horror and terror. Voltaire's Candide, for example, contains many incidents that would be equally at home in Matthew Lewis's The Monk. The terrors suffered by the mutilated slave Candide meets in Surinam would make a sensational plot for a Blackwood's story, but Voltaire clearly directs the effects of this horror toward arousing indignation and toward further demonstrating the falsity of Candide's faith. The horrifying images in some twentieth-century apologues may be more disturbing, but always the horrifying image, event, or atmosphere is subordinated to the communication of ideas or feelings about the world. Though The Castle, The Trial, Catch-22, The Crying of Lot 49, and The Lime Twig all produce horror and, perhaps, even terror in their readers, that terror is never for its own sake, not even when the purpose of the text, as in the case of Kafka, may be to demonstrate that our extratextual world is terrifying. If Kafka, in The Castle, makes us feel the possibly horrifying idea that the cosmos refuses to recognize us, we feel this idea about our world, not about the work. It is not the work, but the world that becomes terrifying as a result of reading. Works that seem clearly to be apologues are so different in purpose from what we usually think of as tales of terror as to present vastly different problems of explanation from those which are the central concern of this book.

     Finally, I should like to say a little more about what I mean by aesthetic pleasure. I implied in the first part of this chapter that the pleasure of experiencing a literary work consists of entering into an aesthetic attitude toward a text, working through the text to construct a concretion of that text, and completing the task. The pleasure is complete when the task is complete. Such an activity is a kind of play in which our mental faculties are engaged for the sake of using them.

     Behind my concept of aesthetic pleasure then is a fairly simple and, I hope, a commonsense assumption that we humans take particular pleasure in doing those things that make us particularly human, such as using our hands, using language, constructing meaningful patterns, and constructing our identities as self-aware beings. While reading literature does not usually require much creative use of our hands, it certainly allows for and stimulates the use of all the other capabilities on this list. Reading literature is play rather than work because we intend to pretend, to use our more or less uniquely human faculties in security, fenced off from the risks involved in taking practical actions in the world.

     All literature that we value and keep performs these functions and so offers aesthetic pleasure, the pleasure of using our uniquely human mental faculties without pursuing a practical goal in the world. By asking about the pleasures of terror, I am selecting for study an area of literature that seems problematic because terror is not pleasant in reality. We know that when terror happens to a character in a tragedy, we usually feel sympathy and pity, but not fear for ourselves. But some works try to terrify their readers. The pleasures offered by such works must be different. We expect such works to offer aesthetic pleasure in the general sense just described, but we expect that pleasure to have unique characteristics, as do the pleasures of tragedy and comedy. Furthermore, those unique characteristics should be related directly to the unique effect that tales of terror tend to seek, that of frightening their readers. What are the delights of terror?

End of Chapter 1

Contents
  Notes &
Permissions
  Preface & Acknowledg-
ments
1:
Introduction
2: Horror in Literature and the Literature of Horror
3: The Marvelous Horror Thriller
4:  The Fantastic/Uncanny Horror Thriller
5: The Aesthetics of the Horror Thriller: Stoker's Dracula
6: The Pure Fantastic Tale of Terror
7:  Anticlosure: Poe's "Ligeia"
8: The Entrapped Critic:
Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher"
9: The Master's Trap:
James's The Turn of the Screw 
10: Escape: An Aesthetics of Terror Fantasy
11: Terror and the Sublime
Sources
Index