Horror vs Terror.

Hello everyone and welcome back to another #theorythursday.

Last week I talked about how to recognise elements of gothic literature, so you should check that out if you have not already.

Today I am going to be talking about the difference between horror and terror, because despite sounding similar, they are not the same.

Let’s dive into Theory Thursday.

I spent some time studying gothic literature because it is a genre that I find really interesting, and the knowledge that I am sharing today comes from Ann Radcliffe, a very prolific gothic author, in fact she has been referred to as the pioneer of gothic fiction.

Ann Radcliffe outlined what she believed to be the difference between horror and terror, and it is from my studies of her and gothic literature that I am working off of.

What is horror?

Radcliffe describes horror as being a fear of something concrete. Horror is an immediate reaction that happens in the moment. So, we may feel horror when we see a monster or a jump scare. It is shocking, but it can be fleeting.

What is terror?

Radcliffe describes terror as a much more complex feeling. Terror is a feeling of anxiety and dread, that builds and builds before something happens. We may feel feel terror in the moments before something scary happens. We may feel terror when we hear ominous sounds, or creepy noises, or if we see flashes of dark shadows in the distance. We feel that something is wrong, but we do not know what, and we are scared to find out. That is terror.

Why is it important to know the difference between horror and terror?

I thought that breaking down the difference between horror and terror would be an interesting Theory Thursday topic, seeing as it is #spookyseason. I have been discussing a lot of horror movies this month, and this month’s #bookofthemonth is a gothic novel. I felt that since I am using terms such as ‘gothic’, and ‘horror’, and ‘terror’, etc., that it would be a good idea to break down what those terms mean.

I also think that knowing why horror and terror are different is a really interesting concept to think about, and I feel that after studying Radcliffe, I have a deeper appreciation for gothic literature.

I also think that it makes sense to understand that horror and terror are different because when you think about it, the feeling of shock when something jumps out at you is very different to the feeling of foreboding you feel when you hear an odd noise, or you feel like something is lurking in the shadows. I think that after a jump scare, we recover quicker, but if we feel that something is wrong, but we don’t know what, that feeling of dread is a lot harder to shake off. I think it is important to be able to recognise the difference between those feelings, especially when one is analysing horror movies and/or gothic novels.

This has been Theory Thursday. I hope you enjoyed it. Happy Friday Eve everyone.

Kate xo.

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