The Genre Master: Auditory Horror in Anne Radcliffe’s Fiction

The Genre Master article written for Mind on Fire Books

To be a master in the horror genre takes work and an understanding of how writers create an atmosphere ripe for fear. Apparitions, or ghosts, or mysterious sounds and settings have long been associated with tales of haunted spaces through the centuries; through short stories, folklore and different mediums of delivering the narrative, the shape and form of these narratives have taken different shapes across cultures.  Author of Apparitions, Ghosts, Fairies, Demons and Wild Events writes that “Writings about apparitions informs us what various people think is important about their psyches and selves, about truth, error, mystery and the constitution of the real world” (Marshall 141). This claim is made from an anthropological perspective but it points us in the direction that this study will traverse for understanding how an author may write about these subjects in mainstream Western culture.

The gothic writer in the English history after the 1700’s was also interested in using the technique of horror for their fiction.  A few centuries later, this tradition remains a powerful genre and it has adapted to modern technologies such as television, radio and internet.  In Manu Aguirre’s work, Geometries of Terror, Aguirre supplies us with society’s interest in these new Medias, primarily with examples of films such as The Things From Another World, The Beast from Twenty Thousand Fathoms.  Aguirre plants his argument next to Anne Radlicffe’s novel, The Italian to support his claim that these works show an affinity for spatial control in the horror genre.  I will also argue in favor of the genre being dependent on spatial geography.  However, these geo-spatial haunting effects must first be prepped for a supernatural effect.  Prepping the reader for this effect would include Jonathan Marshall’s emphases on the persons psyche and the constitution of the real world; only, I view these statements from a rhetorical understanding.  If a writer of gothic fiction wants to be successful in scaring their audience, they must prepare the reader mentally for an emotion worth reading for.

How the Masters of the Horror Genre Elicit Fear

The Genre Master: Auditory Horror in Anne Radcliffe’s Fiction

The intent of this work is to analyze how Anne Radcliffe provides a framework for sustaining supernatural effects in the novels Mysteries of Udolpho and Romance of the Forest.  One of the tools Radcliffe uses to accomplish this is by controlling audible psychology; Radcliffe deploys the interjection of random voices or questionable sounds which are expended from unknown locations that leave the characters questioning their own rationale and sense of direction or attachment to the location.  This study explores where Todorov leaves amiss in his definition of the fantastic: “We might indeed characterize such events as supernatural, but the supernatural, though a literary category, of course, is not relevant here” (35).   In this study, how the supernatural is rhetorically used in within the literary category, is the aim.  It is Radcliffe’s understanding and mastery of the character-mind and character disorientating tactics that allows her to entertain her readers with hauntings in these two novels.

Auditory Disruptions to Question Reality

Controlling the character’s reality constructs of subjectivity/objectivity and supporting them with a superstitious community, are compound, with her use of the auditory sense.  To add the third support beam to sustain supernatural effects, Radcliffe sprinkles different scenes with disorienting sounds which Todorov would label as the period of “uncertainty” (37).  In both works, characters are forced in “observing the peculiar tone in which” sounds, music and voices are delivered (Udolpho 62).  Similar to what Todorov explains in his definition of the fantastic, these sounds place the character in a state of ambivalence between the real and imaginary: “as [Emily] listened, her heart faltered in terror, and she became convinced, that the former sound was more than imaginary” (355).  Although the aim of this paper does not directly support Todorov’s definitions of  the fantastic, he does provide us with a good heuristic for analyzing moments of uncertainty, which in this case, are auditory disruptions used to disorientate characters.

Setting Up Audible Horror

The Genre Master article written for Mind on Fire Books

Radcliffe sets up these auditory disorientations towards the beginning of Udolpho in Volume one where Emily’s father is still alive and she is seeing perceiving things objectively.  Emily wants to sooth her father’s pains so she decides to play some tunes for him with her lute, which was left in the fishing house.  As she approaches the fishing house “she was surprised to hear the tones of the instrument” but upon entering the room, she finds it “unoccupied” (9).  Being that this happens before her rationale becomes subjective, she dismisses these sounds due to the “melancholy gloom of evening, and the profound stillness of the place, interrupted only by the light trembling leaves, heightened her fanciful apprehensions” (9).  At this point in the novel, the sounds are explainable as being imaginary because of the setting.  On the journey to France, Emily and her father are forced to take rest at unfamiliar locations due to her father’s health, and on one of these instances where they are searching for a community; they ask a peasant about the chateau in the distance.  The peasant responds with a tone noted by the characters as being “peculiar in which it was delivered” (62).  Emily’s father elects to continue through the woods to try their luck despite the peasant advising them not to go there.  They enter the forest where they begin to hear music: “the sounds were distant and seemed to come from a remote part of the woods” (64).  Since Emily is still with her father, she doesn’t immediately question the reality of these sounds, rather, she insists that they are real and attempts to find their origins.  Later on though, these same sounds are disorienting and push Emily further into the threshold.  During her stay at Udolpho, Emily stays up late one night until midnight when she heard the soothing sounds of the lute coming from a distance unperceived and the “long suffering had made her spirits peculiarly sensible to terror, and liable to be affected by the illusions of superstition- it now seemed to her, as if her dead father had spoken to her…but with the inconsistency so natural, when imagination guides the thoughts, she then wavered towards a belief as wild” (330).  Coupling these auditory instances with a subjective mind places the characters right at the point of ambivalence between the real and imaginary as Todorov suggests.

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Mad Men Mad Men

  • Mad Men is a collection of three disturbing horror shorts from authors living in the Midwest. The themes explored in this collection range from man versus self, man versus man, and man versus creature. [caption id="attachment_4742" align="alignleft" width="188"]Mad Men eBook Mad Men eBook at Mind on Fire Books[/caption] Mad Men begins with Matt’s tale, a thought-provoking thriller that causes the reader to question his reality and what he fears within himself. The second tale explores the grotesque juxtaposed with beautiful nature, where the ending unfolds into a horrific dream, waking in even more terrible pain. The third tale is by seasoned horror writer, A.R. Braun – and his diabolical creatures never disappoint!  A.R. Braun’s goal is to be on the banned book list; we think this tale may just be evil enough to be considered. A must-read before it does get banned! Mainstream Horror Shorts don’t always satisfy us in the way they should. They don’t open conversations about what it is that we fear or why we fear such things, they focus mainly on pop culture and gore. The writers in the Mad Men anthology understand the need for literate horror, opening discussions of man’s psyche. When these writers set out to tell a story, they are less interested in conveying fear and more interested in wonder, the sublime, and the infinite strangeness that drives all men and women. Highly recommended for tweens, teens, and adults. The Mad Men anthology was published by Mind on Fire Books. Written by Willy Martinez, A.R. Braun, and Matt Lavitt. No part of this book shall be copied without permission from the publisher.

On Writing Horror Willy Martinez

  • On Writing Horror amassed from an obsession to learn where the power of fear resides. An anthology of works studying the way in which writers evoke fear and how it may affect us. On Writing Fear is an index of terror, drawing from Aristotle, Longinus, Edmund Burke, Che Guevarra, Wordsworth, Foucault, H.P. Lovecraft, Todorov, and many more.

    Available for download below for Free as Epub PDF, and Mobi. All we ask is for an honest review!

    Chapters include digital illustrations created by the author.


    A must have collection of research on the power of Horror- a tormented treatment of the human passions!

    Table of Contents for On Writing Horror

    Ch 1. Fear and War: Crafting the War on Terror Using Fear Appeals Ch 2. The Art of the Coup D'etat Ch 3. The Feminine Supernatural versus the Male Supernatural Writers Ch 4. Projecting Ghost Children to Find Identity Ch 5. The Supernatural Power of the Sublime in Wordsworth's Poetry Ch 6. Disorienting Characters with Haunted Spaces and Auditory Hallucinations Ch 7. Modern Ghosts Ch 8. The Fantastic in Fear Ch 9. The Fun Side of Fear: Faustus' Tricky Imp of Satan Ch 10. Glorifying Satan

    Some of the art included:

    [caption id="attachment_4846" align="alignnone" width="188"]Art for On Writing Horror Art for On Writing Horror[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4847" align="alignnone" width="200"]Art for On Writing Horror Art for On Writing Horror[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4848" align="alignnone" width="194"]Art for On Writing Horror Art for On Writing Horror[/caption]



    On Writing Fear amassed from an obsession to learn where the power of
    horror resides. When I returned to study for my masters in English, the
    University was in tumult. The union of professors was on strike against
    the University. And of course, the students were pawns in the battle. As a
    student, I realized I was powerless in this situation, yet both the professors
    and University felt the need to deploy a rhetoric of fear. On the one hand, the
    school was threatening to lower our grades if we did not attend a class
    that was being covered by fill-in teachers and administrators, and on the
    other, we knew our teachers would be back so we didn’t want to show that
    we attended classes, and did not support them in their strike.

    their abuse of power, the University sent letters and emails to both
    students and their parents explaining that the students were still expected
    to attend class. The University then controlled its social media space and
    print by removing comments that were made regarding the strike – they
    wanted to continue as if nothing was going on. They were in control of the
    narrative and we were left to rumors. The school paper was not allowed to
    print any stories on the matter and the University was threatening to hold
    us accountable.

    We have other books specializing in Horror and sci-fi here. Thank you for your interest in “On Writing Horror.”

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