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Palgrave Macmillan

The Rural Gothic in American Popular Culture

Backwoods Horror and Terror in the Wilderness

ISBN 9781137353719
Publication Date October 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

From the very beginnings of an independent literary culture, the North American wilderness has often served as the setting for narratives in which the boundaries between order and chaos, savagery and civilization are torn down, and the natural world – as well as the individuals and creatures associated with it – becomes a threat to physical and moral safety. The Rural Gothic in American Popular Culture argues that complex and often negative initial responses early European settlers expressed toward the North American Wilderness continue to influence American horror and gothic narratives to this day. The book undertakes a detailed and historically grounded analysis of key literary and filmic texts. The works of canonical authors such as Mary Rowlandson, Charles Brockden Brown and Nathaniel Hawthorne are discussed, as are the origins and characteristics of the backwoods horror film tradition and the post-1960 eco-horror narrative.

Bernice M. Murphy is Lecturer in Popular Literature at the School of English, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. Publications include The Suburban Gothic in American Popular Culture (2009), The Rural Gothic in American Popular Culture (2013) and the collections Shirley Jackson: Essays on the Literary Legacy (2005) and (with Darryl Jones and Elizabeth McCarthy) It Came From the 1950s: Popular Culture, Popular Anxieties (2011).

Introduction: We're Not Out of the Woods Yet
1. The Cabin in the Woods: Order versus Chaos in the 'New World'
2. 'We are But a Little Way in the Forest Yet': The Community in the Wilderness
3. 'Going Windigo': 'Civilisation' and 'Savagery' on the New Frontier
4. Backwoods Nightmares: The Rural Poor as Monstrous Other
5. 'Why Wouldn't the Wilderness Fight Us?' Eco-horror and the Apocalypse


'This is a highly engaging read, full of great ideas and interesting connections. Each chapter has a well-chosen focus, and together they amount to the definitive scholarly commentary on the genre and its cultural significance. The book's readability and its breadth – even within its tight focus in terms of genre – means it will be widely used in film studies, cultural studies, literature, American studies, cultural geography, and beyond.' - David Bell, University of Leeds, UK
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