Cult fiction  

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"One is not criminal for painting the strange tendencies inspired by nature"--Marquis de Sade


"The book which most deserved to be banned would be a catalogue of banned books." --Georg Christoph Lichtenberg


"I know of no bomb other than a book" --Stéphane Mallarmé


"Any list of cult fiction will feature Lucian, Apuleius, Rabelais, Brantôme, Sterne, Sade, De Quincey, Poe, Baudelaire, Zola, Kafka, Lovecraft, Céline, Bataille, Borges, Simenon, Cortazar, Burroughs, Vonnegut, Saramago, Amis and Houellebecq."--Sholem Stein


"My taste, if you will, is depraved, I like strongly spiced literary stews, works of decadence where a sort of sickly sensibility substitutes for the robust health of the classical era.[...]" --Zola

The Index Librorum Prohibitorum ("List of Prohibited Books") is a list of publications which the Catholic Church censored for being a danger to itself and the faith of its members. The various editions also contain the rules of the Church relating to the reading, selling and censorship of books. The aim of the list was to prevent the reading of immoral books or works containing theological errors and to prevent the corruption of the faithful.
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The Index Librorum Prohibitorum ("List of Prohibited Books") is a list of publications which the Catholic Church censored for being a danger to itself and the faith of its members. The various editions also contain the rules of the Church relating to the reading, selling and censorship of books. The aim of the list was to prevent the reading of immoral books or works containing theological errors and to prevent the corruption of the faithful.

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Cult fiction is a term used to denote fiction that has attracted a cult following. This category does not include non-fiction but does not necessarily exclude the category great books.

Books that attract a cult following include banned books, transgressive fiction, controversial books, erotic literature, ergodic literature, drug literature, and some genre fiction (crime fiction, horror fiction, fantastic fiction, supernatural fiction or science fiction). The earliest compilation of cult fiction was the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (index of prohibited books) by the Catholic church, although most books on that list were non-fiction. The first work of fiction prohibited by the Index was Pamela by Samuel Richardson.

Broadly the category can be divided in two: a) cult because of its subject matter and themes and b) cult because of its form in the case of ergodic literature, nonlinear narratives or metafiction.

The term cult fiction was first attested in the late 1980s and is a calque from cult movies or cult films, a term which has been in use since the late 1960s and early 1970s. Before this, cult fiction was the province of bibliophiles who were hunting for curiosa.

Contents

Historiography

#Bibliography

A precursor of an anthology of cult fiction (in its late 20th meaning) was The Outsider (1956) by Colin Wilson, a work that delved into the countercultural significance of novels that have outsiders as protagonists.

And in the 19th century, there were the excesses as highlighted in the literary sections of Psychopathia Sexualis (1886) by Krafft-Ebing and Degeneration (1892) by Nordau and in the literary study The Romantic Agony (1930) by Praz.

Transgression

A basic idea of cult fiction is that of transgression, either transgression of subject matter or transgression of form.

Transgression of subject matter

transgressive fiction

The basic ideas of transgressive fiction are by no means new. Many works that are now considered classics dealt with controversial themes and harshly criticized societal norms. Early examples include the scandalous writing of the Marquis de Sade and the Comte de Lautréamont's Les Chants de Maldoror (1869). French author Émile Zola's works about social conditions and “bad behavior” are examples, as are Russian Fyodor Dostoyevsky's existentialist novels Crime and Punishment (1866) and Notes from Underground (1864) and Norwegian Knut Hamsun's psychologically-driven Hunger (1890). Sexual extravagance can be seen in two of the earliest European novels, the Satyricon and The Golden Ass, and also (with disclaimers) Moll Flanders, and some of the excesses of early Gothic fiction.

Early twentieth-century writers such as Octave Mirbeau, Georges Bataille and Arthur Schnitzler, who pungently explored psychosexual development, are also important forebears.

Transgression of form

Ergodic literature

ergodic literature, metafiction

Examples are the I Ching; B. S. Johnson's The Unfortunates; Milorad Pavić's Dictionary of the Khazars; Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire; Michael Joyce's "Afternoon: a story"; House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski; and Julio Cortázar's Rayuela.

Metafiction

metafiction

Metafiction is primarily associated with late modernist and postmodernist literature, but is found at least as early as Homer's Odyssey, Chaucer's 14th century Canterbury Tales, and Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy (1756). Cervantes' Don Quixote, published in the 17th century, is a metafictional novel and so is James Hogg's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner published in 1824. Russian author Nikolai Gogol implements a limited, self-referencing narrator in his novel, Dead Souls published in 1842. The novels of Flann O'Brien are considered to be examples of metafiction. In the 1950s several French novelists published works whose styles were collectively dubbed "nouveau roman". These "new novels" were characterized by the bending of genre and style and often included elements of metafiction. It became prominent in the 1960s, with authors and works such as John Barth's Lost in the Funhouse, Robert Coover's "The Babysitter" and "The Magic Poker", Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman, Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 and William H. Gass's Willie Master's Lonesome Wife. William H. Gass coined the term "metafiction" in a 1970 essay entitled "Philosophy and the Form of Fiction". Unlike the antinovel, or anti-fiction, metafiction is specifically fiction about fiction, i.e. fiction which deliberately reflects upon itself.


Bibliography

Avant la lettre

As a genre

See also




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