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

By Edward J. Ingebretsen | Go to book overview

POSTSCRIPT

End Runs: Toward the
American Gothic

The world of memory breaks up more quickly, the mythic in it surfaces more quickly and crudely, a completely different world of memory must be set up even faster to oppose it.

—WALTER BENJAMIN, STORM FROM PARADISE, P. 49

We were fertile ground for the seeds of terror.... we had been raised in a strange circus atmosphere of paranoia, patriotism, and national hubris.

—STEPHEN KING, DANSE MACABRE, P. 23


"This Horrid Nonsense"

—JONATHAN EDWARDS

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but memory—awe-ful memory—is what the founders of New England, by civic necessity, invented. 1 At some remove behind this study of cultic memory have been two primary assumptions: first, religious discourse, although legally "unspeakable" in public, never ceases to speak; its rhythms and cadences establish a critical civic hermeneutic. This apparent paradox directs attention to a second assumption, that terror and nostalgia—rather than love, as conventional rhetoric insists—drives the popular or mass-culture imagination. 2 As evidence for these assertions, I have considered in this study the genres of the unspeakable, the theologically shadowed tradition of American fantasy. In the formulaic tales of episodic attack and

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