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On the one hand, within literary and film studies, the notion of horror is used as a genological category. On the other hand, as an aesthetic category, it is referred to various cultural texts: literary works, films, and TV series as well as theatrical performances and video games. Anita Has-Tokarz, in a monograph Horror w literaturze współczesnej i filmie [Horror in Contemporary Literature and Film] (2010), even considers it to denote “an effect [of dread] exerted on the recipient by a [cultural] text” (p. 51; our own translation). We would like to devote the third issue of “Dzieciństwo. Literatura i Kultura” to the relations of childhood and adolescence with horror – understood in all these ways – which are visible in three fields of consideration.

Firstly: the child in horror fiction. Culture, especially popular culture, eagerly casts children in the roles of disturbingly mysterious, mediumistic, frightening, demonic beings, or even torturers – but also in the roles of victims, specially protected individuals, objects of interest of variously presented evil, as well as heroes and heroines who are the only ones that can fight this evil. From the classic examples, it is enough to recall the teenage girl, Regan, from The Exorcist directed by William Friedkin, the young antichrist from The Omen franchise, and children’s characters from Stephen King’s prose – e.g. The Shining, Children of the Corn, Pet Semetary, or It – and from many famous screen adaptations of his works. Such figures – demonic children, but also children as saviours – have appeared in many popular films in recent years, such as John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, Jennifer Kent’s Babadook, or Ari Aster’s Hereditary; in TV series, to mention the American Horror Story anthology by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, Stranger Things by the Duffer brothers, The Haunting of Hill House by Mike Flanagan (loosely based on the novel by Shirley Jackson); in video games, e.g. The Last of Us by the Mighty Dog studio and American McGee’s Alice series; and, finally, in literature, like Josh Malerman’s already filmed novel, Bird Box. It is also worth to mention the approaches other than the Anglo-Saxon ones: the dreadful child presented by the classics of Japanese horror cinema in which it is an embodiment of tragedy and mystery, and where childhood is stigmatised by unimaginable suffering from which the protagonists cannot free themselves (e.g. The Ring and Dark Water by Hideo Nakata, or Ju-On: The Grudge by Takashi Shimizu); Spanish, Portuguese, Mexican, and South American representations, connected to folklore, traditional beliefs, and fairy tales, such as Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth or J. A. Bayona’s The Orphanage; the cruel children from German and Austrian works, e.g. Goodnight Mommy by Veronica Franz and Severin Fiala. We would like to look at the ways in which children’s characters are used both in the classics of the genre and in the latest cultural production.

Secondly: children’s and young adult horror fiction. In the last dozen or so years, we have been experiencing a renaissance of horror literature for young people. The literary roots of such works date back to the tradition of the 19th century and, inter alia, to the so-called pedagogy of fear, while in the 20th century, classical examples are the works by John Bellairs, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Today, many authors display both the ludic and reflective dimensions of horror, such as Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), Ian Ogilvy, Chris Priestley, or Neil Gaiman and, in Poland, Marcin Szczygielski and Grzegorz Gortat. The issue of horror in cultural texts for children and young adults has become the subject of research of many scholars, both in Poland, especially Katarzyna Slany, and abroad, including Jessica R. McCort, Michael Howarth as well as Anna Jackson, Karen Coats and Roderick McGillis, Monica Flegel, Christopher Parkes, Chloé Germaine Buckley, K. Shryock Hood, Laura Hubner. To continue the considerations they have undertaken, we would like to invite authors to examine the strategies of creating horror fiction for young recipients – not only literary works, but also those from other media, such as films, TV series, video games, comic books.

Thirdly and lastly: childhood and adolescence as a horror. In this problem area, the concept of horror will be understood the most broadly. Such plots and motifs appear in works addressed both to adults (including biographical and autobiographical pieces) and children and young adults. The dominance of the Arcadian tone in cultural texts for young people is a thing of the past; for several decades, there has been a clear tendency to raise drastic subjects, tabooed before, such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, addictions, suicides, etc. 13 Reasons Why, a famous TV series created by Brian Yorkey (adapted from the novel by Jay Asher), Euphoria by Sam Levinson, Stephen Chbosky’s novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower and its screen adaptation directed by the writer, The Lovely Bones by Jodi Picoult and Peter Jackson’s film based on this work, Dom nie z tej ziemi [The House Out of This World] by Małgorzata Strękowska-Zaremba, The Book Everything by Guus Kuijer, or transgressive picturebooks (like those by Gro Dahle and Svein Nyhus) – are just a few of the many examples. Another issue is the horror of childhood and adolescence in dystopias and post-apocalyptic narratives, those for adult audiences (The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and a TV series inspired by this prose, The Road by Cormac McCarthy and a film based on it) and those for young adults (Suzanne Collins’s trilogy The Hunger Games, Veronica Roths’s Divergent series, and screen adaptations of these works, or Meto by Yves Grevet) and children (Woolvs in the Sitee by Margaret Wild and Anne Spudvilas). Social problems with a destructive impact on childhood and adolescence, reflected or extrapolated in many cultural texts, are therefore another issue we encourage potential authors to explore.

We invite you to consider various aspects of the relations of childhood and adolescence with horror in diverse cultural texts for different audiences. We are interested in cross-sectional articles and case studies about works created in the 19th, 20th, and 21st century. The three problem areas we identified – the child in horror fiction, horror for children and young adults, and childhood and adolescence as a horror – do not cover such a complex issue fully; therefore, the editorial team is open to other proposals, going beyond the proposed topics.

We also invite you to send texts unconnected with the issue’s subject matter to our Varia and Reviews sections.

Article submission deadline: 31.01.2020