Gothic Realities

The Impact of Horror Fiction on Modern Culture


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About the Book

Eighteenth-century critics believed Gothic fiction would inspire deviant sexuality, instill heretical beliefs, and encourage antisocial violence—this book puts these beliefs to the test. After examining the assumptions behind critics’ fears, it considers nineteenth-century concerns about sexual deviance, showing how Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dorian Gray, and other works helped construct homosexuality as a pathological, dangerous phenomenon. It then turns to television and film, particularly Buffy the Vampire Slayer and David DeCoteau’s direct-to-video movies, to trace Gothicized sexuality’s lasting impact. Moving to heretical beliefs, Gothic Realities surveys ghost stories from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol to Poltergeist, articulating the relationships between fiction and the “real” supernatural. Finally, it considers connections between Gothic horror and real-world violence, especially the tragedies at Columbine and Virginia Tech.

About the Author(s)

L. Andrew Cooper is assistant professor of Film and Digital Media at the University of Louisville, Kentucky. His work has appeared in The Quarterly Review of Film and Video and Gothic Studies. His co-edited anthology targeted for composition classes, Monsters, appeared in summer 2012, and his next book, Dario Argento, is scheduled to appear in November 2012. Visit his website at

Bibliographic Details

L. Andrew Cooper

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 248
Bibliographic Info: 21 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4835-7
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5788-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Bad Influences and Gothic Realities      1

Part One: Gothic Threats      23
1. The Threat in the Gothic’s Foundation: From John Locke to Horace Walpole      25
2. Gothic Threats and Cultural Hierarchy: The Critical Evaluation of The Monk and The Mysteries of Udolpho      39

Part Two: Gothic Sexualities      57
3. Pathological Reproduction: The Emergence of Homosexuality through Nineteenth Century Gothic Fiction      59
4. Romps in the Closet: The Persistence of Nineteenth Century Notions in Contemporary Pop Culture      81

Part Three: Gothic Ghosts      115
5. Ghost Stories and Ghostly Belief: Conventional Horrors That Make Good Truths      117
6. Ghost Epistemology: Five or Six Ways to Haunt the Senses      144

Part Four: Gothic Violence      159
7. Fictions That Kill: Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Stephen King’s Only Out-of-Print Novel      161
8. Violent Self-Reflection: Natural Born Killers, Wes Craven’s Nightmares, and Torture Porn      184

Chapter Notes      209
Selected Bibliography      223
Index      233

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “astutely explores the ways that original fears regarding the corrupting influence of eighteenth-century Gothic texts continue to resurface in modern works and real-life occurrences of horror…sophisticated and engaging from the start, Cooper’s prose style makes for a lucid and enjoyable read”—Gothic Studies
  • “this book is both useful and provocative”—Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts
  • “Gracefully written…worth reading…valuable…a book that belongs on the shelves of anyone who is interested in the Gothic, in film studies, and in cultural studies as well as on the shelves of people who enjoy a well-crafted argument.”—Carol Senf, professor/associate chair Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Communication, and Culture. Author of The Vampire in Nineteenth Century English Literature and Science and Social Science in Bram Stoker’s Fiction