American Horror Fiction: From Brockden Brown to Stephen King by Brian Docherty

By Brian Docherty

This quantity bargains serious and theoretical views on a style which has remained renowned for almost 2 hundred years: American horror fiction. There are essays on Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P.Lovecraft, William Faulkner, Robert Bloch, Patricia Highsmith, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King and Suzy McKee Charnas, masking the interval from 1798 to 1983. every one essay bargains with a tremendous determine within the style, from Gothic orginators to fashionable feminist reworkings. various analyzing suggestions are hired to interrogate those texts, with feminist and psychoanalytic ways good represented. those essays illustrate the truth that glossy literary concept can usefully be utilized to any textual content or style. scholars of horror fiction looking new readings, and readers drawn to sleek ways to literature, will locate this e-book helpful and informative. The essays are all new, and feature been specifically written for Insights through top teachers.

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Yet another style of Gothie with Brownian undertones is to be found in the work of John Hawkes - for instance, in his early fantastieal war novel The Cannibal (1949), and in the well-bred erotiea of Travestie (1976) and Virginie; her Two Lives (1982). Finally, what of pop Gothie, which has drawn not only from film noir, be it Alfred Hitchcock or Roger Corman, but also from the elassie mystery fietion of Dashiell Harnrnett, Raymond Chandler, Cornell Woolrieh and others? A generation of readers or movie-goers raised on the 'horror' of, say, Robert Bloch's Psycho (whieh began as two stories of menace, 'Lucy Comes to Stay' and 'The Real Bad Friend' became the Hitchcock screen land mark of 1960, and then got written up as the book of the film), of William Blatty's The Exorcist (1971), or Stephen King's The Shining (1977), would doubtless be considerably surprised at how much is prefigured in Brown.

These recurring themes suggest to me that, besides drawing (whether consciously or unconsciously) on his own inner psychological tensions, Poe was deftly handling some of the leading ideas of his generation, and exploiting them to create some of the most exciting and dramatic horror writing of the nineteenth century. This, in my view, makes Poe a great American writer: unlike the European masters of horror writing, he belonged to a society of comparatively recent origin, with little of a past to which he could have recourse.

Yet in the act of writing her narrative, done as aseries of letters, she also indeed finds 'gleams of light', a way into and through an otherwise seemingly inexplicable round of calamity. And, as she writes herself out of puzzlement (though not sorrow), so she enables Brown's reader to establish his or her own 'light' for a drama which has been beset by the most violent and encircling dark. This alternating pattern of darkness and elucidation begins early for Clara. In infancy, with her brother Theodore, she witnesses her father's seeming self-combustion in the summerhouse he has built by the Schuykill river just outside Philadelphia.

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