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Reading in the DarkHorror in Children's Literature and Culture$
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Jessica R. McCort

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781496806444

Published to University Press of Mississippi: May 2018

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496806444.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM Mississippi SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mississippi.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Mississippi, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSSO for personal use.date: 25 September 2021

“A Wonderful Horrid Thing”

“A Wonderful Horrid Thing”

Edward Gorey, Charles Dickens, and Drawing the Horror out of Childhood Death

(p.61) “A Wonderful Horrid Thing”
Reading in the Dark

A. Robin Hoffman

University Press of Mississippi

A. Robin Hoffman considers the sinister books designed by Edward Gorey (many of which she claims were intended for a young audience) in relation to influences such as Hoffman’s Struwwelpeter and Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop andBleak House. Hoffman argues that Gorey, by appropriating and reconceptualizing these texts’ modes of representation, manages to provide an “anaesthetizing historical distance” between his modern readers and the representations of childhood death popular among Victorian audiences. Through a careful examination of his books’ production methods, concentrating on their calculated appeal toward younger audiences, as well as his insistence on presenting childhood death as a subject of dark comedy, Hoffman asserts that what Gorey produces is at once an homage to Dickens’s work and a perversion of Dickens’s sentimentalized stories, mainly because of Gorey’s more unequivocal representations of violence and his eradication of Christian symbolism that offered the promise of moral redemption in favor of a critique of mid-twentieth-century American representations of childhood. In the end, Hoffman recognizes Gorey’s disruptive potential as he offers up, for both child and adult readers, a novel representation of childhood death, one that disempowers the mythologizing of textual children’s demises as a means of conveying a particular social, philosophical, or political agenda. She also suggests that Gorey’s portrayals of childhood death in his books serve as both a precursor to and an influence on the modern turn toward the comic gothic in many children’s and young adult horror texts. In doing so, she provides us with a useful model for thinking about the methods of portraying and thinking about death and violence against children within the space of horror novels, films, or television shows targeted toward young audiences.

Keywords:   Edward Gorey, Childhood death, Charles Dickens, Comic Gothic, Illustrations

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