Monsters in America
Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting
335 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: July 2018
Monsters arrived in 2011—and now they are back. Not only do they continue to live in our midst, but, as historian Scott Poole shows, these monsters are an important part of our past—a hideous obsession America cannot seem to escape.
Poole’s central argument in Monsters in America is that monster tales intertwine with America’s troubled history of racism, politics, class struggle, and gender inequality. The second edition of Monsters leads readers deeper into America’s tangled past to show how monsters continue to haunt contemporary American ideology.
By adding new discussions of the American West, Poole focuses intently on the Native American experience. He reveals how monster stories went west to Sand Creek and Wounded Knee, bringing the preoccupation with monsters into the twentieth century through the American Indian Movement. In his new preface and expanded conclusion, Poole’s tale connects to the present—illustrating the relationship between current social movements and their historical antecedents. This proven textbook also studies the social location of contemporary horror films, exploring, for example, how Get Out emerged from the context of the Black Lives Matter movement. Finally, in the new section "American Carnage," Poole challenges readers to assess what their own monster tales might be and how our sordid past horrors express themselves in our present cultural anxieties.
By the end of the book, Poole cautions that America’s monsters aren’t going away anytime soon. If specters of the past still haunt our present, they may yet invade our future. Monsters are here to stay.
In Monsters in America, Scott Poole expertly weaves together folklore, media studies, and some of the more disturbing moments in American history to remind us of the vital roles monsters play in our culture. The new edition extends this analysis to shed light on some of the darker developments in recent American political culture. From early American ghost stories to Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017), Scott Poole expertly tracks the importance of monsters and monstrosity in American culture.~Kendall R. Phillips, Syracuse University, author of A Place of Darkness: The Rhetoric of Horror in Early American Cinema
... one of the best reads of the year.~Dave Canfield, Fangoria
From 19th century sea serpents to our current Publishers Weekly session with vampires and zombies,... Poole plots America's past through its fears in this intriguing... sociocultural history.~Publishers Weekly
[Poole’s] book is sufficiently clear and engaging for general readers to enjoy and would make a worthwhile addition to undergraduate course in American history or culture.~Aaron John Gulyas, Nova Religio
With Monsters in America, W. Scott Poole has given us a guidebook for a journey into nightmare territory. Insightful and brilliant!~Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Patient Zero and Dead of Night
A well informed, thoughtful, and indeed frightening angle of vision to a persistent and compelling American desire to be entertained by the grotesque and the horrific.~Gary Laderman, Professor of American Religious History and Cultures, Emory University
An unexpected guilty pleasure! Poole invites us into an important and enlightening, if disturbing, conversation about the very real monsters that inhabit the dark spaces of America's past.~J. Gordon Melton, Director, Institute for the Study of American Religion
Monsters in America does a bang-up job of demonstrating how our culture helps us achieve some sort of understanding about our world and our lives. Poole's examples are well-chosen and well-explicated. It is a frightening world we live in, yet the horrific things in our literature and culture play a vital part in helping us reach some understanding, and even some peace about them.~Greg Garrett, Faithful Citizenship blogger and author of One Fine Potion: The Literary Magic of Harry Potter
Poole's connection of the monster to American history is a kind of Creature Features meets American cultural history. Here we not only meet such monsters but also discover America's cultural monstrosity.~John W. Morehead, editor, www.TheoFantastique.com
Monsters in America is lively and entertaining throughout. The book's unusual range is one of its contributions; its freshness of juxtaposition is another.~Elizabeth Young, American Historical Review
Poole... has set the bar ridiculously high for any future research exploring the locus of historical and cultural studies, particularly as it pertains to the horrific.... Monsters In America challenges, enlightens, and, quite honestly, frightens in its prescient view of American history, as well as the seeming ubiquity of the monsters of our past and probable future.~The Crawlspace
Historian W. Scott Poole distinguishes himself by focusing on the American context, providing a history told through the personified expressions of our anxieties and fears. In the follow-up to his first book, Satan in America, Poole has now turned his attention to the monsters that inhabit American cinema and American imaginations.~Christopher James Blythe, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture
… Monsters in America is an important contribution, and it will be enjoyed by literary and cultural historians alike.~Nicole K. Konopka, American Studies
Numerous scholars explore the cultural and political implications of monster and horror films for the times from which they emerge.... Few scholars connect such implications across broader expanses of time to reveal how intrinsically monsters and the horrific have been bound up in the history of America. Even fewer scholars do so as adeptly and as entertainingly as W. Scott Poole.~J. Ryan Parker, Pop Theology
Poole brings to life American horror stories by framing them within folk belief, religion, and popular culture, broadly unraveling the idea of the monster. Thanks to Poole's insights we see the ubiquity of the monster lurking in and around us.~John David Smith, Charles H. Stone Distinguished Professor of American History, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte