Walking Shadows

Reflections on the American Fantastic and the American Grotesque from Washington Irving to the Postmodern Era


Walking Shadows focuses on the American fantastic and the American grotesque, attempting in this manner for the first time to establish an overview of and a theoretical approach to two literary modes that have often been regarded as essential to an understanding of the American cultural canon. The central importance of these two literary forms has been pointed out earlier by important theorists such as Stanley Cavell, David Reynolds, and William Van O’Connor. A number of literary works, from the beginning of the nineteenth to the end of the twentieth centuries, are taken up in order to illustrate the inherent links or family resemblances between the two modes, with special reference to the way in which a Bakhtinian reading may facilitate our appreciation of their status within the canon. These excursions into the House of Fantastic and Grotesque Fiction may be of interest not only to hardcore aficionados, but also to philosophically minded readers in general, in particular perhaps to those who have paid acute attention to debates on late twentieth and early twenty-first century post-structuralism and deconstruction (where the classic positions of Foucault, Derrida, et al. still appear to be relevant).
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Biographical Note

Ib Johansen, emeritus Professor of the English Department at the University of Aarhus, 1971-2008. He published books on Danish Renaissance interludes and on fantastic literature in Denmark from the early nineteenth to the late twentieth centuries, and furthermore edited Fins de Siècle / New Beginnings (Unipress.dk, 2000). Apart from these he has published numerous articles on fantastic literature and science fiction in various critical anthologies and literary reviews, and translated a number of German- and English-speaking poets into Danish.

Table of contents




In the Realm of Theory

Introduction: Theorizing the American

Fantastic and the American Grotesque

Chapter 1: Todorov, Bakhtin, and Other Theorists

Nineteenth-century Phantasmagorias

Chapter 2: Rip Van Winkle’s Fall into History: Framing Washington Irving’s Tale

Chapter 3: Wrestling with God in the Devil’s Territories: Hawthorne and the Fantastic

Chapter 4: The Crowing of the Cock: Melville’s Fantastic Turn in “Cock-A-Doodle-Doo!”

Chapter 5: Convoluted Spaces: The Carnivalesque-Grotesque in Edgar Allan Poe’s “King Pest”

Chapter 6: The Apocalyptic-Grotesque in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”

Chapter 7: In the Empire of Signs: Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” and the Pure Fantastic


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