The nights darken, the wind howls, and branches (or ghostly fingers?) tap against your windowpane. This can only mean one thing – Halloween approaches! To celebrate the day of ghouls, ghosts and other creatures which go bump in the night, we’ve compiled a list of University Press Scholarship Online’s most spine-chilling chapters (available free for a limited time). Join us as we take a frightful tour around the darker parts of UPSO.
‘The Zoophagous Maniac: Madness and Degeneracy in Dracula’ in The Most Dreadful Visitation: Male Madness in Victorian Fiction by Valerie Pedlar (Liverpool)
The infamous Prince of Darkness was first introduced to us in Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula, apparently inspired by a hideous nightmare the author had had. Its heady interplay between realism and fantasy, and its overt fin-de-siècle fears about gender and sexuality, caused great sensation on its first publication. Here, Pedlar examines how the notion of insanity relates to the novel’s conception of masculinity, and focuses on the horror which comes as the text consistently breaks down the fragile demarcation between sanity and madness.
‘Yōkai Culture: Past, Present, Future’ in Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai by Michael Dylan Foster (California)
The Japanese folkloric tradition is littered with strange creatures, ghosts, and monsters known as yōkai. These supernatural beings can be traced back to some of the oldest of Japanese literatures, but this chapter examines the renaissance they began to undergo during the 80s and 90s, and continue to do so to this day. It begins with a section on the J-horror genre; Japanese horror films that entered the global market during the late 1990s and reworked yōkai into contemporary settings with terrifying results. It also goes on to examine the yōkai behind the massively-popular cultural phenomenon, Pokémon (pocket monsters).
‘Hell in Our Time’ in Hell in Contemporary Literature: Western Descent Narratives since 1945 by Rachel Falconer (Edinburgh)
Since its very conception, Hell has both fascinated and horrified Western writers, philosophers, and artists alike. In this introductory chapter of her monograph, Rachel Falconer examines modern imaginings of Hell. Beginning by asking “is Hell a fable?” she quotes an exchange in Marlowe’s Dr Faustus. After selling his soul, Faustus tells Mephistophilis “I think Hell’s a fable”, to which the demon replies “Ay, Faustus, think so still, ‘till experience change thy mind.” Shudder.
‘Touched by a Vampire Named Angel’ in From Angels to Aliens: Teenagers, the Media, and the Supernatural by Lynn Schofield Clark (Oxford)
The stake-wielding vampire-hunter and wise-cracking school girl Buffy the Vampire Slayer burst onto television screens in 1999, and has since gone on to become a much-beloved cult-classic. Joss Whedon’s series, as well as later spin-off Angel, draws heavily on the myths and narratives of organised religion and vampire lore. Clark investigates this further, positioning the religious themes within the context of mainstream popular entertainment. The chapter ends with the show’s embracing of the individual’s need for community, and her capacity for transformation.
‘Zombie Movies and the “Milennial Generation”’ by Peter Dendle in Better off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human, ed. Debroah Christie and Sarah Juliet Lauro (Fordham)
The image of the B-movie Hollywood zombie — a slow and shuffling corpse with dubious designs on your cranial cavity — is one that still exists today. This chapter, however, charts the rise of a new and arguably more terrifying breed of undead: the fast zombie. Made famous by indie hits such as Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, this zombie disrupts all the expected conventions laid by its older ancestors, and is… well… fast. Dendle seeks to explain the speed of this new breed in a world of instant downloads and immediate gratification, and our own sped-up expectations.
Barney Cox is Marketing Executive for University Press Scholarship Online and Oxford Scholarship Online.
University Press Scholarship Online (UPSO) brings together the best scholarly publishing from around the world. Aggregating monograph content from leading university presses, UPSO offers an unparalleled research tool, making disparately published scholarship easily accessible, highly discoverable, and fully cross-searchable via a single online platform. Research that previously would have required a user to jump between a variety of books and disconnected websites can now be concentrated through the UPSO search engine.
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Image credit: Halloween party balloons. © Matt Chalwell via iStockphoto.