Cover: Gothicka: Vampire Heroes, Human Gods, and the New Supernatural, from Harvard University PressCover: Gothicka in PAPERBACK


Vampire Heroes, Human Gods, and the New Supernatural

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$31.00 • £26.95 • €28.95

ISBN 9780674725928

Publication Date: 11/18/2013


352 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

14 halftones


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[A] spirited examination of the role of pulp Gothic fiction in contemporary culture… Nelson’s overview of the origins of the Gothic genre and its later ramification into sub-genres such as the ghost story, vampire tale, esoteric thriller and post-apocalyptic survival narrative is lively and sharp. She is equally at home discussing high and low art, and is at her most persuasive when tracing the literary evolution of specific motifs.—Elizabeth Lowry, The Wall Street Journal

In Gothicka, [Nelson] shows how contemporary films, video games, graphic novels and television series have reinvented and transformed the Catholic iconography of the late medieval period and how the Gothic has even offered ‘a vehicle for developing the frameworks of new religious movements.’—Max Fincher, The Times Literary Supplement

Nelson knows her turf and, unlike many academics who dine below the salt, she gives the impression of being genuinely affectionate towards her disreputable subject matter. She is sometimes thought-provoking and has clearly read more proper historians and solid thinkers than most pop-culture pundits.—Kevin Jackson, Literary Review

Gothicka is a well-articulated, compelling argument towards a new understanding of the Gothic as a spiritual portal.—Whitney Borup, Quarterly West

A fun, well-written and original read that offers flashes of insight.—Deborah D. Rogers, Times Higher Education

With this brilliant encyclopedic study of gothic literature, film, and culture, Nelson continues the exploration of the gothic she began in The Secret Life of Puppets. Although (as she states) she does not try to survey, or position herself within, the area of gothic scholarship, her scholarship is solid, referencing major scholars such as Fred Botting. This is not dry, difficult reading; the book can be enjoyed by anyone interested in the gothic, including aspects of it that have not been extensively explored. Nelson focuses mainly on 21st-century examples, while providing an excellent background of earlier works and connecting them to contemporary works in unusual ways. In addition to cultural crazes such as Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series and Dan Brown’s novels, she includes chapters on gothic performance art such as the Christian ‘Hell House,’ which she connects to the medieval European mystery plays. Including extended discussions of Guillermo del Toro’s films, William Young’s unusual Christian novel The Shack, and new interpretations of Lovecraft and his influence, the book provides a refreshing exploration of a subject that has in recent years tended to be overdone.—L. J. Larson, Choice

This highbrow yet accessible analysis of a genre dedicated to ‘outrageousness’ and ‘lowbrow ways’ will appeal to history, literature, and pop culture buffs in addition to studious devotees of the domain.—Jillian Mandelkern, Library Journal

This is an admirable, strong, and original book, a worthy sequel to The Secret Life of Puppets. Nelson’s prose is clear and restrained, very winning and illuminating of the dark corners in 21st-century America and beyond in a stricken world. I can think of no rival works this substantial.—Harold Bloom, Yale University

Where else can Vijay Mishra’s The Gothic Sublime trade shadows with Stephenie Meyer’s vampires and Guillermo del Toro’s grotesqueries except in the mysterium tremendum of Nelson’s astounding Gothicka? A book of delirious erudition that establishes the Gothic at the heart of our civilization and then proceeds to trace in our vampires, our saviors, our zombies, our medieval conspiracies, our superheroes and our monsters how the contemporary Gothic is shedding the dark supernaturalism of its origins, a brightening that not only reveals our present obsessions but also seems to portend the dawning of a new kind of post-Christian spirituality. Provocative, forward-looking and masterful.—Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

There are other books in the field of religion and popular culture, but none really do what Nelson does, that is, point out that strictly secular, Marxist, materialist, or psychological readings will no longer do. This is the real genius or daemon of this book. Nelson’s voice is without peer in this domain—she is carving out a most unique and most brave stance.—Jeffrey J. Kripal, Rice University

Gothicka is a spirited and illuminating successor to Nelson’s highly original previous study, The Secret Life of Puppets. It picks up on many of the lines of thought in Puppets and applies them to opening up some of the most successful books and films of the last three decades, works which, while being read by millions, have not received much critical or scholarly attention. Nelson is preeminent in her knowledge of this field where the study of contemporary religion fuses with mass media and bestseller culture, and Gothicka is a terrific, original, eye-opening, and entertaining work.—Marina Warner, author of Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights

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