Gothic Popular Culture


The American Imperial Gothic

Popular Culture, Empire, Violence

Johan Höglund, Linnaeus University, Sweden

  • The imagination of the early twenty-first century is catastrophic, with Hollywood blockbusters, novels, computer games, popular music, art and even political speeches all depicting a world consumed by vampires, zombies, meteors, aliens from outer space, disease, crazed terrorists and mad scientists. These frequently gothic descriptions of the apocalypse not only commodify fear itself; they articulate and even help produce imperialism. Building on, and often retelling, the British ‘imperial gothic’ of the late nineteenth century, the American imperial gothic is obsessed with race, gender, degeneration and invasion, with the destruction of society, the collapse of modernity and the disintegration of capitalism.
    Drawing on a rich array of texts from a long history of the gothic, this book contends that the doom faced by the world in popular culture is related to the current global instability, renegotiation of worldwide power and the American bid for hegemony that goes back to the beginning of the Republic and which have given shape to the first decade of the millennium. From the frontier gothic of Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntly to the apocalyptic torture porn of Eli Roth’s Hostel, the American imperial gothic dramatises the desires and anxieties of empire. Revealing the ways in which images of destruction and social upheaval both query the violence with which the US has asserted itself locally and globally, and feed the longing for stable imperial structures, this book will be of interest to scholars and students of popular culture, cultural and media studies, literary and visual studies and sociology.
  • Contents: Preface; Introduction: the American imperial gothic; Imperial frontier gothic; The gothic of benevolent assimilation; Cold War horror; Post-Vietnam gothic; 11 September and the gothic war on terror; Afghanistan, Iraq and the new frontiers of the imperial gothic; Militarising the virtual gothic; Tales of torture and invasion; The imperial gothic of the post-Apocalypse; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.
  • About the Author: Johan Höglund is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Linnaeus University, Sweden. He is a member of Linnaeus University Centre for Concurrences in Postcolonial Studies and his most recent publications include Transnational and Postcolonial Vampires: Dark Blood (2012), ‘Parables for the Paranoid: Affect and the War Gothic’ in Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies (2013) and ‘Black Englishness and the Concurrent Voices of Richard Marsh in The Surprising Husband’ in English Literature in Transition (2013).
  • Reviews: ‘Ranging from the Cold War to the recent “War on Terror”, Dr Johan Höglund’s precise, ambitious and thought-provoking study marks the return of (contemporary) politics to where it has always lurked, darkly – in the very heart of Gothic literature.’
    Tabish Khair, Aarhus University, Denmark

‘Original, timely, and solidly researched, The American Imperial Gothic challenges orthodoxies about American culture and casts the American Gothic in a new and darker light, revealing the complex collusion between the entertainment industry and America’s history of militarism in the long twentieth century. Höglund’s book offers an important contribution to American Studies and Gothic Studies alike!’
Agnieszka Soltysik Monnet, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

  • Imprint: Ashgate
  • Published: April 2014
  • Format: 234 x 156 mm
  • Extent: 224 pages
  • Binding: Hardback
  • Other editions: ebook PDF, ebook ePUB
  • ISBN: 978-1-4094-4954-6
  • ISBN Short: 9781409449546

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