Why do we love to be scared? Prof Darryl Jones on the unsettling story of horror

From internet memes to Shakespearean tragedies — Prof Darryl Jones delves in to the darkest corners of the horror genre in his new book ‘Sleeping With The Lights On: The Unsettling Story of Horror’

Fear is one of the most primal emotions, and one of the hardest to reason with and dispel. So why do we love to scare ourselves? In his new book Professor Darryl Jones, School of English, delves into the darkest corners of the horror genre to explore why horror stories disturb us, and how they reflect society’s taboos.

As Professor Jones shows, in his new book ‘Sleeping With The Lights On: The Unsettling Story of Horror’, the horror genre is huge — there are thousands of books, films, games, and other forms of entertainment which are designed to frighten us for fun.

Ranging from vampires, ghosts, and werewolves to mad scientists, Satanists, and deranged serial killers, the cathartic release of scaring ourselves has made its appearance in everything 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, the book, published by Oxford University Press this week, analyses the way in which horror has been used throughout history to articulate the fears and taboos of the current generation and how the genre is continuing to evolve today.

Professor Jones, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Trinity, also asks whether the enjoyment of horror should be regarded with suspicion?

Professor Jones commented: “Horror is mass marketed to mainstream society in the form of romantic vampires and blockbuster hits. However it also continues to maintain its former 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.”

“We need to ask ourselves should the enjoyment of horror be regarded with suspicion? Are there different levels of the horrific, and should we distinguish between the commonly reviled carnage of contemporary torture porn and the culturally acceptable bloodbaths of ancient Greek tragedies?”

Professor Jones will give a public talk entitled ‘Sleeping With the Lights On: The Unsettling Story of Horror’ in the National Library of Ireland on Tuesday October, 9th, at 7pm. See more here: https://www.nli.ie/en/list/current-events.aspx?article=f9c6775f-e03b-4437-874e-4cede717d351