1. misuse or strained use of words, as in a mixed metaphor, occurring either in error or for rhetorical effect.

Abūsiō (“abuse, misuse”) is the “pure” Latin word for “misuse of a word” in rhetoric; Latin catachrēsis is a direct borrowing from Greek katáchrēsis, which first meant “analogical extension of a term” (e.g., calling a joint of a grass or reed a “knee”). Katáchrēsis in Greek later acquired the sense “misuse of a word, misapplication of a word or phrase.” Hardly any two people agree on particular examples, one critic’s catachresis being another’s “striking” mixed metaphor. Catachresis entered English in the late 16th century.

“No sane wholesome colours were anywhere to be seen except in the green grass and leafage; but everywhere those hectic and prismatic variants of some diseased, underlying primary tone” …. Can colours ever be “sane,” “wholesome,” “hectic,” or“diseased”? This rhetorical device is known as catacresis, the deliberate abuse of language, such as mixed metaphors.”
- Roger Luckhurst, “Introduction,” The Classic Horror Stories, 2013


Post-Penny Dreadful
Reading List

Showtime’s Penny Dreadful had its season finale this past Sunday. Fortunately for fans of the series, and Victorian Gothic yarns in general, it has been renewed for a 10 episode second season set to air next year. However, for those of you needing to slake your (blood)thirst for further gaslight Gothic horrors, here are a few reading suggestions to tide you over in the meantime.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Two great late-Victorian era classics, both beautifully written and chilling to the bone. Modern readers already know the twist that so shocked Victorian readers yet Stevenson’s tale of a man quite literally losing his mind, body, and soul is still startlingly powerful, as is Henry James’s novella concerning a governess who seeks to protect her charges from a malevolent menace, who may or may not be real.

Late Victorian Gothic Tales, ed. by Roger Luckhurst
In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu

Luckhurst’s anthology contains an excellent selection of terrifying tales from the era including Arthur Conan Doyle’s story of a murderous mummy, “Lot 249,” and Arthur Machen’s sensational novella “The Great God Pan,” about a mysterious beauty whose ability to corrupt is every bit the equal to Dorian Gray, as well as works from Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling, and the aforementioned Henry James. Le Fanu’s collection of tales comes from the “casebook” of the fictitious Dr. Martin Hesselius (an early forerunner to Stoker’s Van Helsing), whose papers recount an encounter with a spectral monkey, the fate of a vindictive judge, and Le Fanu’s masterpiece “Carmilla,” in which a young teen’s melancholic new friend is more than what she seems.

The Monk by Matthew Lewis
Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin

Upon its original publication, Lewis’s scandalous early Gothic novel was deemed both horrid and blasphemous, which didn’t prevent it from becoming a runaway best seller. The novel charts the diabolical decline of Ambrosio, a Capuchin superior, who succumbs to increasingly depraved acts of sex, sorcery, torture and murder. The eponymous character from Maturin’s novel has sold his soul for 150 years of extended life, but his Faustian bargain comes with an escape clause, leading Melmoth to tempt other souls in their darkest hour.

Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough
The Quick by Lauren Owen

Sarah Pinborough’s eerie novel is set against the notorious torso murders that rocked London less than a year after Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror while in Lauren Owen’s critically acclaimed new novel, a shy, young poet arrives in London seeking fame and fortune only to mysteriously vanish. Shortly thereafter, his sister arrives to investigate the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and discovers the answer may lie with the exclusive, secretive Aegolius Club, whose members number among the most elite in England.

Commonly thought of as a signature symptom of PTSD, the flashback is, in fact, a term borrowed from the world of film. Originally coined by early twentieth-century filmmakers to describe a jump betweendifferent points of time within a narrative, the flashback is so deeply embedded in the public imaginationthat it is difficult to imagine a world without it, and yet in 2002, researchers at King’s College in London, digging through war records dating back to the Victorian era, found that flashbacks were virtually nonexistent among veterans who fought beforethe age of film. (Civil War veterans who suffered from involuntary intrusive images didn’t refer to them as flashbacks, and they were more likely to describe being visited by a host of spirits, phantoms, demons, and the ghosts of fallen comrades.) Adding to the confusion, a variant of the term was also in wide use in the LSD culture of the sixties and seventies. In all likelihood,the reason that the flashback is an essential part of today’s understanding of trauma is that an influential San Francisco psychiatrist with an interest in stress syndromes and psychedelia, Mardi Horowitz, served on the working groups that oversaw PTSD’s eventual introduction into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1980.

Some scholars, such as Roger Luckhurst of the University of London, have even goneso far as to say that cinema’s claim on the imagination is so strong that it servesto “shape the psychological and general cultural discourse of trauma into the present.”

Looking back on my experiences in Iraq, it isn’t hard to see where Luckhurst mightderive such ideas. There were, wherever you went in Anbar province, continual referencesby Marines to 300, a film about ancient Sparta, and then there were the soldiers in Dora who insistentlyreferred back to their “Black Hawk Down day” when describing a series of ambushes they’d survived, as if the casualty countwasn’t enough to lend it gravity. Thinking back on the soldiers’ stories from thatday, it is tempting to wonder if film, television, and, increasingly, video games don’t provide the lion’s share of our modern traumatic vocabulary, teaching us how to see our memories in the way that photography taught us how to see (and not see) sunsets, in the way that the minds of British soldiers from World War I were dominated by the poetic images of Kipling and Hardy, and in the way that Protestant Christianity guided the attitudes toward death and dying in the Civil War.


“The Evil Hours” by David J. Morris

@michigrim This is the bit I was referring to


How did H. P. Lovecraft’s story-writing pave the way for modern horror stories and a film genre called ‘the new weird’?