The Supernatural in Short Fiction of the Americas: The Other World in the New World

The Supernatural in Short Fiction of the Americas: The Other World in the New World

The Supernatural in Short Fiction of the Americas: The Other World in the New World

The Supernatural in Short Fiction of the Americas: The Other World in the New World

Synopsis

Examines supernatural short fiction of the Americas in terms of the cultural encounters between European and indigenous societies and between scientific materialism and premodern supernaturalism.

Excerpt

Among the many fascinations of the World Wide Web is “Interlupe,” ' a site that represents a conglomeration of attitudes toward the supernatural spanning hundreds of years. The subject of this website is the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Aztec Juan Diego in Mexico City in the year 1531: An image of the Virgin was miraculously imprinted on Juan Diego's clothing and preserved as a relic. One of the links to “Interlupe,” entitled “The Eyes,” discusses scientific proof of the reality of the Virgin's image: “[I]n 1944, analysis made by outstanding ophthalmologists identified micro artery circulation in the free edge of the image's eyelids.” The website casts the Virgin of Guadalupe as a premodern miracle, a modern scientific fact, and a postmodern hypertext; thus, “Interlupe” may be viewed as a palimpsest of the intellectual history of the supernatural. Another such palimpsest is the short story, which was a popular medium for the expression of supernatural interests long before the internet existed and continues to be so today. This book traces the history of representations of the supernatural through short narratives of U.S. and Spanish-American literatures.

Belief in the supernatural has changed dramatically since the advent of modernity, and so has its literary representation. The arrival of European conquistadors and colonists in the Americas coincides with the beginnings of a major change in Western cosmology. In 1534, fifty years after Columbus landed in the West Indies, Copernicus published On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. In 1620, the same year Plymouth Colony was founded, Francis Bacon published Novum Organum. These treatises exemplify how Western scholars began to prefer the inductive thinking of empiricism to the deductive reasoning of religious authority. The New World and the modern world were concurrently introduced to Western culture. While supernatural belief still abounded in the Americas for several centuries more, in the form of Christianity and Native American religions, the European Enlightenment found its way to the Americas at the end of the eighteenth century. And the Americas . . .

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