By: Gina Brandolino
In H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “Pickman’s Model,” the narrator Thurber reveals the moment of his realization that the artwork of his friend Pickman—dark, disturbing paintings depicting monstrous beings performing unsettling acts—is based on, not imagination, but reality. (I won’t reveal more of the details for folks who haven’t read the story.) This is a text I like to talk about early on in the semester because it gives a new class the chance to discuss the question of to what extent they believe in the supernatural elements of horror stories—to what extent they consider such elements not just the work of artistic imagination, but examples in fiction of phenomena that can and does happen “in real life.” This post and the poll below will, I hope, extend the most recent discussion we had in class and give followers of the blog who are not enrolled in the class this term a chance to join in, too.
It’s obvious that one need not believe in the supernatural to enjoy, like, or even love horror—in fact, not believing might make it easier to inhabit the world of horror because stakes of the stories change, are not so personal.
Without belief in the supernatural, horror stories give us a great opportunity to think more about the people, communities, and cultures that tell them: Why does terror take the shape that it does for them? What inspires it? What makes it go away? What happens if they succumb to it? Believing in the supernatural ups the ante on all these questions—and even moreso, on the answers to them.
So weigh in below, and feel free to say more by leaving a comment.