This book probably has some relevance to the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, in New York City and Washington, but in fact it was written well before those events. In the 1970s at Case Western Reserve I began teaching a course called by the not-so-original name of American Gothic; I knew something about American literature, and I remembered that critics talked about its so-called Gothic tendencies. At least two curious problems very soon emerged: most students tried to avoid taking seriously what seemed to me (and, I assume, to the authors in question) very serious issues; and most mature literary critics were content simply to classify the genre by literary devices and cultural backgrounds. My own interests, however, got diverted; I wrote a book on the power of Quixotic illusion, before I began to think again of the nature of life without illusion. Out of such musings books sometimes come.
In any case, I am deeply grateful to the students, graduate and undergraduate, with whom I have shared ideas over the years. Special thanks go to three graduate students who helped me with research and with transcribing the text into computerized form: Ruth Rhodes, Rick Van Noy, and Kristin Bryant. My thanks go also to Suzanne Ferguson, then English Department chair, for warmly approving such an arrangement, and to John Bassett, at that time Dean of