In America as in Britain, the rise of the Gothic represented the other—the fearful shadows cast upon Enlightenment philosophies of common sense, democratic positivism, and optimistic futurity. Many critics have recognized the centrality of these shadows to American culture and self-identification. American Gothic, however, remaps the field by offering a series of revisionist essays associated with a common theme: the range and variety of Gothic manifestations in high and popular art from the roots of American culture to the present.
The thirteen essayists approach the persistence of the Gothic in American culture by providing a composite of interventions that focus on specific issues—the histories of gender and race, the cultures of cities and scandals and sensations—in order to advance distinct theoretical paradigms. Each essay sustains a connection between a particular theoretical field and a central problem in the Gothic tradition.
Drawing widely on contemporary theory—particularly revisionist views of Freud such as those offered by Lacan and Kristeva—this volume ranges from the well-known Gothic horrors of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne to the popular fantasies of Stephen King and the postmodern visions of Kathy Acker. Special attention is paid to the issues of slavery and race in both black and white texts, including those by Ralph Ellison and William Faulkner. In the view of the editors and contributors, the Gothic is not so much a historical category as a mode of thought haunted by history, a part of suburban life and the lifeblood of films such as The Exorcist and Fatal Attraction.
When Edgar Allan Poe set down the tale of the accursed House of Usher in 1839, he also laid the foundation for a literary tradition that has assumed a lasting role in American culture. “The House of Usher” and its literary progeny have not lacked for tenants in the century and a half since: writers from Nathaniel Hawthorne to Stephen King have taken rooms in the haunted houses of American fiction. Dale Bailey traces the haunted house tale from its origins in English gothic fiction to the paperback potboilers of the present, highlighting the unique significance of the house in the domestic, economic, and social ideologies of our nation. The author concludes that the haunted house has become a powerful and profoundly subversive symbol of everything that has gone nightmarishly awry in the American Dream.
Secretary to the Salem witch trials, Cotton Mather is the most reviled of our national historians. Yet James Russell Lowell admitted that “with all his faults, that conceited old pedant contrived to make one of the most entertaining books ever written on this side of the water.” In America’s Gothic Fiction, Dorothy Z. Baker investigates the ways in which nineteenth-century authors Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, among others, look to Mather’s Magnalia Christi Americana at critical moments in their work and refashion his historical accounts as gothic fiction.
Cotton Mather’s 1702 Magnalia captured the imagination of its readers more than any other colonial history and impressed Americans with its message of American exceptionalism and God’s dramatic intervention on behalf of the country and its citizens. Poe, Stowe, and Hawthorne, who are rarely grouped together in literary studies, have radically divergent responses to Mather’s theology, historiography, and literary forms. However, each takes up Mather’s themes and forms and, in distinct ways, interrogates the providence tales in Magnalia Christi Americana as foundational statements about American history and identity.
This book does nothing less than redefine the very genre of horror fiction, calling into question the usual conventions, motifs, and elements. Unlike many critics of this genre, Linda Holland-Toll sees dis/affirmative horror fiction acting neither to soothe fears nor reduce them to the vicarious “thrills ‘n’ chills” mode, but as intensifying the fears inherent in everyday life.
Today the vampire is a major cultural icon and can be found in breakfast foods, comics, television, computer games, films, and books from academic studies to best-selling novels. While readers may be familiar with such figures as Dracula and Lestat, few are aware of the range of the vampire legacy that stretches from the early nineteenth century through the end of the twentieth. The essays in this volume use a humanistic viewpoint to explore the evolution and significance of the vampire in literature. Contributors examine—besides Dracula—characters such as Lord Ruthven, Carmilla Karnstein, Stephen King’s Kurt Barlow, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Saint-Germain, and Anne Rice’s recoded vampires. Other authors investigated include George R. R. Martin, Brian Stableford, Kim Newman, Colin Wilson, Poppy Z. Brite, and Tanith Lee.
In a thoughtful, well-informed study exploring fiction from throughout Stephen King's immense oeuvre, Heidi Strengell shows how this popular writer enriches his unique brand of horror by building on the traditions of his literary heritage. Tapping into the wellsprings of the gothic to reveal contemporary phobias, King invokes the abnormal and repressed sexuality of the vampire, the hubris of Frankenstein, the split identity of the werewolf, the domestic melodrama of the ghost tale. Drawing on myths and fairy tales, he creates characters who, like the heroic Roland the Gunslinger and the villainous Randall Flagg, may either reinforce or subvert the reader's childlike faith in society. And in the manner of the naturalist tradition, he reinforces a tension between the free will of the individual and the daunting hand of fate.
Ultimately, Strengell shows how King shatters our illusions of safety and control: "King places his decent and basically good characters at the mercy of indifferent forces, survival depending on their moral strength and the responsibility they may take for their fellow men."
This groundbreaking study analyzes the development of American gothic literature alongside nineteenth-century discourses of passing and racial ambiguity.
By bringing together these areas of analysis, Justin Edwards considers the following questions. How are the categories of “race” and the rhetoric of racial difference tied to the language of gothicism? What can these discursive ties tell us about a range of social boundaries—gender, sexuality, class, race, etc.—during the nineteenth century? What can the construction and destabilization of these social boundaries tell us about the development of the U.S. gothic?
The sources used to address these questions are diverse, often literary and historical, fluidly moving between “representation” and “reality.” Works of gothic literature by Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Frances Harper, and Charles Chesnutt, among others, are placed in the contexts of nineteenth-century racial “science” and contemporary discourses about the formation of identity. Edwards then examines how nineteenth-century writers gothicized biracial and passing figures in order to frame them within the rubric of a “demonization of difference.” By charting such depictions in literature and popular science, he focuses on an obsession in antebellum and postbellum America over the threat of collapsing racial identities—threats that resonated strongly with fears of the transgression of the boundaries of sexuality and the social anxiety concerning the instabilities of gender, class, ethnicity, and nationality.
Gothic Passages not only builds upon the work of Americanists who uncover an underlying racial element in U.S. gothic literature but also sheds new light on the pervasiveness of gothic discourse in nineteenth-century representations of passing from both sides of the color line. This fascinating book will be of interest to scholars of American literature, cultural studies, and African American studies.
The Gothic World of Anne Rice
Edited by Gary Hoppenstand and Ray B. Browne University of Wisconsin Press, 1996 Library of Congress PS3568.I265Z68 1996 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
This anthology argues for the serious study of the literary oeuvre of Anne Rice, a major figure in today’s popular literature. The essays assert that Rice expands the conventions of the horror genre’s formula to examine important social issues. Like a handful of authors working in this genre, Rice manipulates its otherwise predictable narrative structures so that a larger, more interesting cultural mythology can be developed. Rice searches for philosophical truth, examining themes of good and evil, the influence on people and society of both nature and nurture, and the conflict and dependence of humanism and science.
Stephen King’s popularity lies in his ability to reinterpret the standard Gothic tale in new and exciting ways. Through his eyes, the conventional becomes unconventional and wonderful. King thus creates his own Gothic world and then interprets it for us. This book analyzes King’s interpretations and his mastery of popular literature. The essays discuss adolescent revolt, the artist as survivor, the vampire in popular literature, and much more.
One of the very first books to take Stephen King seriously, Landscape of Fear (originally published in 1988) reveals the source of King's horror in the sociopolitical anxieties of the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate era. In this groundbreaking study, Tony Magistrale shows how King's fiction transcends the escapism typical of its genre to tap into our deepest cultural fears: "that the government we have installed through the democratic process is not only corrupt but actively pursuing our destruction, that our technologies have progressed to the point at which the individual has now become expendable, and that our fundamental social institutions-school, marriage, workplace, and the church-have, beneath their veneers of respectability, evolved into perverse manifestations of narcissism, greed, and violence."
Tracing King's moralist vision to the likes of Twain, Hawthorne, and Melville, Landscape of Fear establishes the place of this popular writer within the grand tradition of American literature. Like his literary forbears, King gives us characters that have the capacity to make ethical choices in an imperfect, often evil world. Yet he inscribes that conflict within unmistakably modern settings. From the industrial nightmare of "Graveyard Shift" to the breakdown of the domestic sphere in The Shining, from the techno-horrors of The Stand to the religious fanaticism and adolescent cruelty depicted in Carrie, Magistrale charts the contours of King's fictional landscape in its first decade.
Offering a fresh perspective on the gothic novel in America, this vigorous study engages the underlying currents that define American culture as one of consumption. It rereads texts that range from Hawthorne, Poe, James, and Faulkner to the contemporary gothic novels of Toni Morrison, Joyce Carol Oates, and Anne Rice. By exposing the literary motifs of subversion and seduction inherent in these works as disruptive to the flow, circulation, and expansion of value, this book positions American literary culture as an extension of commodity economics. Its cogent yet interdisciplinary approach, supported by the work of such theorists as Jacques Lacan and Jean Baudrillard, makes this text useful to anyone interested in American literature, popular culture, and American economic thought.
The Short Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe brings together, in one convenient edition, all of the information a reader needs to understand Poe's stories. Readable, attractive, and accessible to a general reader or student, it also provides a useful resource for the scholar and specialist. Stuart Levine and Susan Levine tracked down information that is often highly specialized and hard to come by through an extensive program of literary sleuthing—an investigation that took him through the hundreds of places where scholars make their contributions to knowledge.
Stephen King's America
Jonathan P. Davis University of Wisconsin Press, 1994 Library of Congress PS3561.I483Z6295 1994 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Stephen King's America aims to heighten awareness of the numerous American issues that resonate throughout King's fiction, issues that bear universal application to the evolution of the human condition.