Southern Gothic Horror

What is Southern Gothic Horror?

In short, the Southern Gothic subgenre is literature that is set in the American South. Also a subgenre of Gothic fiction. A few adjectives have been used to describe it, ones like macabre, political, and ironic. Southern Gothic tends to tackle themes such as racism, poverty, violence, alienation, and crime. Social issues as well as the culture of the South is explored in this genre. In a way, it is the opposite of a Mark Twain novel. Southern Gothic is closer to the film Gummo. The books with this label are likely to contain nihilistic characters.


Characteristics of Southern Gothic Horror

Level of Characterization
High level. More focused on characters than plot.

Level of Plot Complexity

Level of Supernatural
Varies on author. Most Southern Gothic novels are set in reality.

Level of Scary
Moderate. Scary in the movie Deliverance sort of way.    

Level of Violence 
High level. Violence is a big factor in the ruthless territory of the American South portrayed in this subgenre.

Typical Setting
Rural areas with small populations. 

Related Fantasy Sub-Genres


Southern Gothic Horror Isn’t For You If You Dislike

Poverty stricken and nihilistic characters. Stories set in the South.


    1. The Devil All The Time, Donald Ray Pollock. Includes a demented group of serial killers, a preacher that eats spiders, and a crooked sheriff, among a large cast of characters.   

    2. Crimes In Southern Indiana: Stories, Frank Bill. A collection of stories with linked stories featuring recurring characters.

    3. Knockemstiff, Donald Ray Pollock. Another gritty collection of linked stories featuring recurring characters loosely based on the city of the same name in Ohio.

    4. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote. A quiet farm family in Kansas are savagely murdered for no apparent reason.

    5. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. A lawyer named Atticus Finch deals with issues of racism, injustice, intolerance, and bigotry in a small Alabama town.

    6. Deliverance, James Dickey. A canoe trip for four men in Georgia turns into a fight for survival.

    7. Outer Dark, Cormac McCarthy. A man abandons the child he conceived with his sister in the Appalachia. After the sister finds out, she sets off in search for the child.

    8. Winter's Bone, Daniel Woodrell. Ree Dolly is responsible for taking care of her family. When her father skips a court date, her and her family risk losing their house if she doesn't bring him back dead or alive.

    9. The Sounds and The Fury, William Faulkner. Tells of the tragedy of the Compson family. Includes  incest, castration, suicide, racism, and misogyny.

    10. Beloved, Toni Morrison. Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. 

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