In “What To Read This Week,” CHALK contributor Faith Maddox and CHALK editor Taylor Worden suggest novels, poetry, articles and other forms of writing, often centering around a timely topic or theme.
This week, Maddox and Worden collaborate to suggest classic works that are timeless horror favorites for the Halloween season.
Approaching classic literature in 2020 is often a daunting task.
Thankfully, the Halloween season boasts some of the most enthralling and accessible stories to get you started. Mary Shelley, John Polidori and Oscar Wilde invite us to peer into their pre-20th-century visions of horror with characters that we know and love (or fear).
“Frankenstein: The 1818 Text” by Mary Shelley
“Frankenstein” details the life of scientist Victor Frankenstein as he hunts the creature he assembled and reanimated, following the death of his mother.
Told from the perspectives of both monster and creator, Shelley questions who has the right to hold either title, and whether intentions matter when experimenting with the balance between life and death.
Written in 1816, the “year without a summer,” this is often considered to be the first true work of science fiction, and its impact on modern storytelling remains unrivaled. Shelley was only 20 when she wrote the novel, and it was initially to be published under her husband’s name.
The 1818 edition of “Frankenstein” is groundbreaking in its portrayal of moral ambiguity and the distinct manner in which it challenges gender roles of the early 19th century.
“The Vampyre” by John Polidori
Dracula is commonly referred to as the first vampire, but Polidori’s short story “The Vampyre” predates Stoker’s classic by almost 80 years.
A synthesis of horror and romance, this story follows a man named Aubrey as he befriends the mysterious Lord Ruthven. Aubrey is quickly surrounded by death, finding himself unable to pinpoint its cause or escape its grip.
Polidori and Shelley both came up with the ideas for their individual works during a competition at the poet Lord Byron’s house, and both were published within a year of each other.
While Polidori would not live to see “The Vampyre” reach acclaim, it would live on as the precedent for the romantic vampire story arc into the modern era.
“The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde
Another classic to send shivers up your spine this season, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is a timeless work by Oscar Wilde.
The novel centers around the title character Dorian, a wealthy and attractive young man who sells his soul to remain young and beautiful forever. Instead of his own body aging, Dorian barters to have a portrait of himself take on the damage to his looks, age and soul.
However, as the story continues, Dorian finds himself falling deeper into a life focused on solely himself and his pleasure, as he remains beautiful while his portrait grows more ghastly and frightening by the day.
Although not full of ghosts or monsters, Wilde’s novel might make you think twice about your own vanity.