What is the difference between 'horror' and 'terror' in Gothic literature?

‘Horror’ and ‘Terror’


Horror = physical emotion (sensationalism) Terror = psychological (subtle, sublime)


Horror = Matthew Lewis ('The Monk') Terror = Anne Radcliffe ('The Mysteries of Udolpho')

What is the effect of these texts?

A test of courage? A means to ascertain what frightens us? Or dictate what frightens us? A means of emboldening us? Or of enabling contact with the supernatural?

Gothic novels have conventionally been divided into the schools of terror and horror, schools which have often been neatly grouped under the names of Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis. Terror seeks to evoke by suggestion, by dreadful suspense; horror displays in the hopes of generating revulsion. Terror veils a potentially ghastly unknown and tempts the reader to advance cautiously and with anticipation, while marches the reader through a landscape of unmistakable taboo and atrocity. Terror remains discreet and seeks unity of tone; horror has an appetite for the sudden and crude, for the blatantly comic, for the grotesque. Historically, terror has been associated with the practice of women while horror has been judged the province of men, at least in the early periods of Gothic.

While we accept these early distinctions, which dictated the perceived morality and gendered concerns of Gothic texts, we must understand how both horror and terror essentially work best together. Essentially the difference can be neatly defined by ‘awful apprehension’ (terror) versus ‘sickening realisation’ (horror), and in these terms it is easy to see how when horror follows terror we are left with a complete and dramatic conclusion of events. If terror defines the duration of the novel, then horror must surely comprise the climactic ending.

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