The Aesthetics of Terror and Horror: A Genealogy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter offers a genealogy of the aesthetic categories ‘terror’ and ‘horror’ as they were constructed in eighteenth-century criticism. Drawing primarily upon authors such as John Dennis, Joseph Addison, Edmund Burke, Anna Laetitia Aikin, James Beattie, Nathan Drake and Ann Radcliffe, the chapter first establishes the common aesthetic and lexical ground shared by terror and horror early in the century, before tracing their increasing divergence during the formative years of the Gothic Revival. This aesthetic divergence, it is argued, is the culmination of a series of both explicit and implicit distinctions that consider various dimensions of fear, including the temporal, the moral, the degree of artifice, its relation to probability, and to gender. Critical discussion of these aesthetic categories is supplemented throughout by brief, illustrative examples from Gothic verse and fiction, some of which also expose the increasing politicisation of terror and horror in response to the French Revolution late in the century.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGothic in the Long Eighteenth Century
EditorsAngela Wright, Dale Townshend
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781108561044
ISBN (Print)9781108472715
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

Name The Cambridge History of the Gothic
PublisherCambridge University Press


  • Gothic
  • aesthetics
  • terror
  • horror
  • sublime
  • disgust
  • French Revolution


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