I got my doctoral degree in Literature at Belgrade's Faculty of Philology (English Department) on February 22. My PhD mentor was Prof. Dr. Zoran Paunović, and the title of my dissertation is HISTORICAL POETICS OF HORROR GENRE IN ANGLO-AMERICAN LITERATURE. Basically, its 470 pages cover the rise and development of horror literature in English from Gothic until 21st century with close analysis of selected representative key works and their poetics. This is the first academic degree in Serbia received for a disertation on horror genre.
            Below you can see this dissertation's summary and contents, illustrated with photos from the PhD ceremony.


            This thesis is based on the following premises: a) there is a kind of prose devoted to eliciting fear in its readers; b) the works belonging to it constitute a distinctive literary genre; c) this kind of prose was first shaped into a distinctive genre in the form of English Gothic novel, in the second half of the 18th century; d) there is a clear and recognizable formal and poetical continuity from Gothic novel to today's horror literature; e) therefore, Gothic novel is considered an early historical stage in the development of horror genre.
            The thesis assumes that horror is a complex aesthetic construct whose poetics and development were influenced by a variety of historical and aesthetic factors, so that it can only be fully understood by taking into account its predecessors and influences and by viewing its aesthetic distinction (elicting fear in the reader by specific themes and narrative devices) in the cultural and historical contexts that shaped it from late 18th until early 21st century within Anglo-American literature.
            Horror is defined as a type of fictional narrative prose defined by three key factors: particular themes (the clash between the homely known and the threatening unknown Other), adequate motifs (related to various emanations of Otherness, which may or may not belong to the fantastic mode) and aesthetic intent (causing fear, terror, suspense). The latter is realized in two ways: 1) through selection of appropriate themes and adequate motifs, and b) through a genre-specific rhetoric directed towards causing the reader to feel insecurity, fear, terror. The common motifs, themes and rhetorical tropes constitute a horror-specific horizon of expectations whose synchronic and diachronic variations move the generic boundaries while constantly reinvigorating the genre and creating genre-specific effect and meaning expectant within a specific cultural context which is defined by the triad: author, publisher and reader. 
            The poetics of genre is viewed as the result of merging the individual authors' poetics with specific extra-literary and extra-aesthetic influences which shape the fears dominant in certain periods as well as the modes of their artistic representation. Therefore, genre is not seen as merely aesthetic category, but is shown to be influenced by extra-literary influences such as: the cultural climate and dominant views and values, historical events, great discoveries and scientific theories, emergence of similar literary schools, movements and genres. This idea of genre is reflected in the methodology of this work: it is based on close reading and notions of aesthetics of reception by H. R. Jauss but also on literary history and history of art and culture in general, so as to define the contexts which shaped the literature of terror and enabled its greatest development precisely within Anglo-American literature. This approach answers the two basic questions related to any historical poetics: 1) What are the principles according to which works of art are constructed and by means of which they achieve particular effects? and 2) How and why have these principles arisen and changed in particular empirical circumstances?
            The structure of this work is shaped by the desire to present the poetics of horror in a clear and well-supported manner. Its first task is to define the key concepts like genre, aesthetic intent, horizon of expectations, romance, Gothic, gothic novel, horror and historical poetics. A general overview of the basic tendencies towards defining horror genre in theory in English is followed by a chapter devoted to rare attempts of doing the same in Serbian literary (and film) theory.
            After providing the theoretical basis for horror as a literary genre the thesis analyzes the origin of the poetics of horror in the form of Gothic novel, in its two phases: early Gothic, constituted by Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1764) and late Gothic, represented by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818). The period of Gothic horror culminates with the works of American writer Edgar Allan Poe which have fundamentally reconstituted the Gothic tradition providing a modern, complex content and most appropriate form (short story).
This is followed by defining the classical period of horror and the dominant three varieties of horror poetics in it: the ghost story, exemplified by "The Turn of the Screw" (1898) by Henry James, Victorian neo-Gothic of Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897) as the most typical and influential representative, and the "weird tale" of cosmic horror with its apex in the stories by H. P. Lovecraft (whose "The Colour from outer Space", 1927, is analyzed as its best example). All these works serve to re-examine and further develop the Gothic legacy, accommodated for the new societal, cultural and aesthetic circumstances of the late 19th and early 20th century.
The final part od the thesis deals with the modern horror literature, defines the horror bestseller phenomenon and analyzes the poetics of Stephen King (exemplified by his novel The Shining, 1977) which made him one of the bestselling authors of the 20th century and which, also, indirectly enabled an unprecedented expansion of horror fiction. It facilitated the rise and development of new original voices in modern horror fiction whose representative works are analyzed in the final chapters.
Analysis of each of the key variables of poetics of horror stresses the governing formal principles through which the aesthetic intention of horror genre is manifested, such as: identification, retardation, ellipsis, parallel plots and subplots, epistolar and/or diary form, unreliable narrator, indetermination, ambivalence and ambiguity, plot structure based on the race with time, gradation of horrific events, accumulation of apparently insignificant hints, clues and allusions, cognitive horror, strong allusiveness, unexpected plot twist. These formal elements can be found in works of other genres, too, but never in such number nor governed by the same aesthetic intent leading to the effect of causing fear.
This historical poetics of horror genre demonstrates the significance of horror fiction for Anglo-american literature. This genre is revalued as a legitimate, respectable kind of writing which has attracted numerous literary giants and whose themes, ideas and aesthetic qualities make it an equal and inseparable part of literature in general. Progressive ideas in the best horror fiction are reflected, among other things, in its attitude to the "monstrous" Other, i.e. in showing the complex interrelations the Otherness has with the representatives of authority of the community. One of the common effects of horror is contained in showing the fluidity of borders and limits: it is a genre defined by its questioning of boundaries, breaking down the taboos, unveiling the hidden, undesirable, nightmarish, irrational. The rich variety of horror themes can be reduced to one idea: what we consider known is actually interwoven with the unknown. The world is not what it seems; behind the veil of appearances there are other, threatening forces. We are not what we seem; behind the reflection in the mirror there is something else, which questions the powers of reason and morals. The clash between the known and the unknown initially causes fear, but this fear is not the ultimate goal of horror fiction: the result produced by the juxtaposition between the homely and the Other brings about the (cognitive) understanding and (emotional) catharsis to the reader.




2.1. Defining basic concepts

2.11. Genre, aesthetic intention and "horizon of expectations"
2.12. Romance
2.13. Gothic / Gothic novel
2.14. Horror
2.15. Historical poetics

2.2. Defining the problem
2.21. Horror theory in English language
2.22. Horror theory in Serbian language


3.1. Early Gothic
3.11. Horace Walpole: The Castle of Otranto - cultural climate, intention and reception
3.12. The Castle of Otranto and the rhetoric of horror
3.13. The legacy of Early Gothic

3.2 Late Gothic
3.21 Mary Shelley: Frankenstein, or Modern Prometheus - the cultural climate, intention and reception
3.22 Frankenstein: the aesthetic and conceptual achievements
3.23 Frankenstein and the poetics of horror
3.24 Legacy of Late Gothic

3.3. Horror Story
3.31. Themes and motifs of American Gothic
3.32. Edgar Allan Poe and the poetics of short (horror) story
3.33. Thematic cycles of Poe's horror fiction
   3.331. Dead beloved woman
   3.332. "The Imp of the Perverse"
   3.333. Cosmic horror
3.34 Legacy of Poe's poetics of horror


4.1. Ghost story
4.11. The role of the supernatural in the works of Henry James
4.12. "The Turn of the Screw": intention and reception
4.13. Conceptual and aesthetic achievements of  "The Turn of the Screw"
4.14. Legacy of ghost story

4.2. Victorian neo-Gothic novel
4.21. Vampires in literature before Dracula
4.22. Bram Stoker's Dracula: intention and reception
4.23. Dracula: conceptual and aesthetic achievements
4.24. Legacy of Dracula and the neo-Gothic

4.3. "Weird Tales" of cosmic horror
4.31 H. P. Lovecraft's poetics of fantasy and horror
   4.311. Lovecraft's attitude towards science and fantasy
   4.312. Lovecraft and the horror tradition: influences and differences
   4.313. Lovecraft's style
   4.314. Reception of Lovecraft's poetics
4.32. The conceptual and aesthetic achievements of "The Color out of Space"
4.33. Legacy of Lovecraft's fiction


5.1. Horror as best-seller
5.11. Stephen King and poetics of horror
   5.111. Stephen King and horror tradition
   5.112. Stephen King's poetics of horror
5.12. The Shining as a modern bestselling horror novel
5.13. Legacy of Stephen King's poetics of horror

5.2. Trends in modern horror fiction

5.21. Modern Gothic: Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter, Joyce Carol Oates
5.22. Psychological horror: Robert Bloch, Thomas Harris
5.23. Modern ghost story: Robert Aickman
5.24. Body horror: Clive Barker
5.25. The cosmic horror: Tomas Ligotti



3 коментара:

  1. Hi, are there any plans to put out a digital version that we can read?

  2. Thank you for your interest: this work is originally written in Serbian (that's the law). The Serbian version will be published (as a regular book, not on internet), probably next year. If I decide that there might be interest from a foreign publisher, I might do the English translation, but it certainly won't be on the internet (unless someone makes a pirated e-book version).

  3. A beautiful thesis, one very interesting and everlasting theme we actually occupy our minds with (more than we're really aware of). Best!!