The American Imperial Gothic : Popular Culture, Empire, Violence book cover
1st Edition

The American Imperial Gothic
Popular Culture, Empire, Violence

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ISBN 9781409449546
Published April 18, 2014 by Routledge
224 Pages

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Book Description

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.

Table of Contents

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.

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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).


"In an epoch defined by ongoing concerns regarding terrorism, justice and the need to prevent further humanitarian disasters, Höglund’s work serves as a stark reminder of the conservative and reactionary possibilities of the gothic. As the conclusion of this work suggests, the West is perhaps not as far removed from its imperialistic tendencies as it may hope."— Kaja Franck, University of Hertfordshire, The British Society for Literature and Science