Maps of Heaven, Maps of Hell: Religious Terror as Memory from the Puritans to Stephen King

By Edward J. Ingebretsen | Go to book overview

PREFACE

The Semiotics of Terror

... fantasy structures are given by a society as maps ... by which a lost audience can find its way.

—JAMES TWITCHELL, DREADFUL PLEASURES, P. 87.

You must look through the surface of American art, and see the inner diabolism of the symbolic meaning.

-D. H. LAWRENCE 1

... all ghost stories presupposed a life after death ... no matter how scary the ghosts are, isn't that optimistic?

—STEPHEN KING 2


Introduction

There are apparently two books in every American household—one of them is the Bible and the other one is probably by Stephen King.

—CLIVE BARKER 3

At the core of American cultic memory is a rhetoric shared by colonial theological text, civic ritual, and contemporary pulp horror formula. This rhetoric is partly habit, partly pragmatic social strategy: the duty of remembering the Holy, writing it into society as transcendent origin and authority. Traditionally, however, to speak of the Holy is to enter a realm of experience that could not be enunciated within earthly grammars; speaking the Holy, therefore, is to invoke the limits of human comprehension.

-xi-

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