Dissecting Stephen King
From the Gothic to Literary Naturalism
By Heidi Strengell
(Popular Press 3, Hardcover, 9780299209704, 320pp.)
Publication Date: June 2005
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
In a thoughtful, well-informed study exploring fiction from throughout Stephen King's immense oeuvre, Heidi Strengell shows how this popular writer enriches his unique brand of horror by building on the traditions of his literary heritage. Tapping into the wellsprings of the gothic to reveal contemporary phobias, King invokes the abnormal and repressed sexuality of the vampire, the hubris of Frankenstein, the split identity of the werewolf, the domestic melodrama of the ghost tale. Drawing on myths and fairy tales, he creates characters who, like the heroic Roland the Gunslinger and the villainous Randall Flagg, may either reinforce or subvert the reader's childlike faith in society. And in the manner of the naturalist tradition, he reinforces a tension between the free will of the individual and the daunting hand of fate.
Ultimately, Strengell shows how King shatters our illusions of safety and control: "King places his decent and basically good characters at the mercy of indifferent forces, survival depending on their moral strength and the responsibility they may take for their fellow men."
Heidi Strengell is director of the Language Center at the University of Lapland, Finland.
"Meticulously researched and argued, Strengell's work offers original insights on King's treatment of gender and sexuality, his use of Gothic tropes and themes, and the literary and mythological influences he has freely adapted. This book is particularly valuable as a resource for defining King's place as a specifically American artist."- Tony Magistrale, University of Vermont, author of Hollywood's Stephen King and Landscape of Fear: Stephen King's American Gothic, recently reissued by the University of Wisconsin Press.