Stephen King

Stephen King

Stephen King

Stephen King


-- Brings together the best criticism on the most widely read poets, novelists, and playwrights

-- Presents complex critical portraits of the most influential writers in the English-speaking world -- from the English medievalists to contemporary writers


In a brilliant study, Nightmare on Main Street (1997), the critic Mark Edmundson attributes the immense popularity of Stephen King to our universal Gothic obsessions as we approach the Millennium.Edmundson is very shrewd in surmising a quasi-religious source for the latest wave of American Gothic:

Yet if I were pressed to submit one reason for the contemporary proliferation of Gothic, that reason would in a certain sense be religious. Though most of us Americans claim to believe in God, few of us seem able to believe in God's presence. That is, we do not perceive some powerful force for good shaping the events of day-to-day life in accord with a perceptibly benevolent master plan. Most of us don't have a story that we can believe about the way God's designs are unfolding among us. Whatever God is up to, he is not busying himself unduly with worldly events.

Many of us have, I think, turned from hope in benevolent religion to fascination with the Gothic. There is something to gain in accepting the harsh belief that the world is infested with evil, that all power is corrupt, all humanity debased, and that there is nothing we can do about it. With the turn to contemporary Gothic—no-fault, dead-end, politically impotent though it may be—we recover a horizon of ultimate meaning. We recover something of what is lost with the withdrawal of God from the day-to-day world. With the Gothic, we can tell ourselves that we live in the worst and most barbaric of times, that all is broken never to be mended, that things are bad and fated to be, that significant hope is a sorry joke, the prerogative of suckers. The Gothic, dark as it is, offers epistemological certainty; it allows us to believe that we've found the truth.

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