Knowing Fear Science Knowledge and the Development of the Horror Genre

Knowing Fear Science Knowledge and the Development of the Horror Genre

by Jason Colavito




Tracing the development of horror entertainment since the late 18th century, this study argues that scientific discovery, technological progress, and knowledge in general have played an unparalleled role in influencing the evolution of horror. Throughout its many subgenres (biological horror, cosmic horror and others) and formats (film, literature, comics), horror records humanity’s uneasy relationship with its own ability to reason, understand, and learn. The text first outlines a loose framework defining several distinct periods in horror development, then explores each period sequentially by looking at the scientific and cultural background of the period, its expression in horror literature, and its expression in horror visual and performing arts.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786432738
Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
Publication date: 11/12/2007
Pages: 464
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jason Colavito is also a frequent contributor to Skeptic magazine, and has earned praise from Archaeology magazine for his archaeology writing. He lives in Albany, New York and can be found online at

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface 1

Introduction: From Prometheus to Faust 5

Part I. Darkness and Enlightenment: The Gothic and Its Aftermath (c. 1750–c. 1845)

1. Science and Society 25

2. Literary Developments 37

3. Horror in the Arts 54

Part II. Between God and Beast: Biological Horror (c. 1815–c. 1900)

4. Science and Society 65

5. Literary Developments 78

6. Horror in the Arts 98

Part III. The Ghost in the Machine: Spiritualist Horror (c. 1865–c. 1920)

7. Science and Society 113

8. Literary Developments 127

9. Horror in the Arts 146

Part IV. Terror from Outside: Cosmic Horror (c. 1895–c. 1945)

10. Science and Society 161

11. Literary Developments 175

12. Horror in the Arts 200

Part V. The Age of Alienation: Psycho-Atomic Horror (c. 1940–c. 1975)

13. Science and Society 225

14. Literary Developments 239

15. Horror in the Arts 257

Part VI. The Human Machine: Body Horror (c. 1965–c. 2000)

16. Science and Society 283

17. Literary Developments 296

18. Horror in the Arts 319

Part VII. A Failure of Free Will: The Horror of Helplessness (c. 1990–present)

19. Science and Society 349

20. Literary Developments 362

21. Horror in the Arts 380

Conclusion 403

Appendix: Does War Make Horror Movies? 415

Chapter Notes 419

Selected Bibliography 435

Index 447

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