Heroes, Ghosts, and the Paranormal in American Culture

M. Keith Booker

Extraordinary World Series

232 pages


May 2010


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Supernatural and superhuman elements have been prominent in American culture from the time of the New England Puritans’ intense emphasis on religion. Superpower surveys the appearance of supernatural and superhuman elements in American culture, focusing on the American fascination with narratives involving supernatural adventure, superhuman heroes, and vast conspiracies driven by supernatural evil. In particular, M. Keith Booker suggests that the popularity of such themes indicates a deep-seated dissatisfaction with the rationalized world of contemporary American society. Booker details the development of the national myths underlying the characters of Superman, Batman, and Spiderman; television hits from Star Trek to Lost; and the franchises of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lord of the Rings.
This culture-spanning investigation begins with a historical survey of supernatural and superhuman themes in American culture and concludes with the recent upsurge that began in the 1990s. It then turns to various works of recent popular culture with supernatural and superhuman themes such as Twin Peaks, The X-Files, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, organized according to the desires to which these works respond. What do these fantasies reveal about what it means to be American today—and what we want it to mean?

Author Bio

M. Keith Booker is the James E. and Ellen Wadley Roper Professor of English and the director of the program in comparative literature and cultural studies at the University of Arkansas. He is the author of several books, including Alternate Americas: Science Fiction Film and American Culture and From Box Office to Ballot Box: The American Political Film.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Culture of Longing--The Supernatural in American Culture
Chapter One: Not Just a Job: The Longing for Adventure in American History and American Culture
  Voyages of Discovery: American Adventure from Columbus to Jean-Luc Picard
  The British Invasion: Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter Make It Big in America
  Cool Magic: The American Postmodern Epic Fantasy
Chapter Two: Heroism in America: The Longing for Heroes in American History and American Culture
  American Heroes and Antiheroes: Kings of the Wild Frontier
  Hard-boiled Magic: The Vampire Detective
  Girls Kick Butt: The Female Action Hero
  Buffy Keeps It Cool
  Teenagers from Outer Space: Teen Angst and the Superhero Narrative
  Our Others, Our Selves: The Mutant Superhero
Chapter Three: U.S. vs. Them: American Paranoia and the Longing for Evil in American History and American Culture
  Rosemary's Baby and the Horror Boom of the 1970s
  The X-Files and the Postmodern Conspiracy Narrative: Mapping the Apocalypse
  Apocalyptic Television at the Turn of the Millennium
  Finding that Special Place: The Strange Enclave Narrative from Twin Peaks to Lost
Conclusion: The Contradictory Compensations of Popular Culture
Works Cited
Films Cited
Television Series Cited

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