Sleeping with the Lights On: The Unsettling Story of Horror
By Darryl Jones
It's four in the morning and the lights are on. There's no way we're going to sleep, not after the film we just saw. Fear is one of the most primal human emotions, and one of the hardest to reason with and dispel. So why do we scare ourselves? It seems almost mad that we would frighten ourselves for fun, and yet there are thousands of books, films, and games designed to do exactly that. As Darryl Jones shows in Sleeping with the Lights On, the horror genre is vast, ranging from vampires, ghosts, and werewolves to mad scientists, Satanists, and deranged serial killers.
The cathartic release of scaring ourselves has made its appearance everywhere from Shakespearean tragedies to Internet memes. Exploring the key tropes of the genre, including its monsters, its psychological chills, and its love affair with the macabre, Jones explains why horror stories disturb us, and how society responds to literary and film representations of the gruesome and taboo.
Should the enjoyment of horror be regarded with suspicion? What kind of a distinction should we make between the commonly reviled carnage of the contemporary horror genre and the culturally acceptable bloodbaths of ancient Greek tragedies? Analyzing how horror has been used throughout history to articulate the fears and taboos of the current generation, Jones considers the continuing evolution of the genre today. As horror is marketed to mainstream society in the form of romantic vampires and blockbuster hits, it maintains its shadowy presence on the edges of respectability, as banned films and violent Internet phenomena push us to question both our own preconceptions and the terrifying capacity of human nature.
Author Darryl Jones is Professor of English and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Trinity College Dublin, where he teaches nineteenth-century literature and popular fiction. His books include Horror: A Thematic History in Fiction and Film, the Oxford World's Classics editions of M. R. James's Collected Ghost Stories, and Horror Stories: Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson. He has also written numerous articles on nineteenth-century fiction and supernatural literature.