Superpower: Heroes, Ghosts, and the Paranormal in American Culture

Overview


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 ...
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Overview


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?
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803232891
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2010
  • Series: Extraordinary World Series
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author


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.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Culture of Longing—The Supernatural in American Culture ix

Chapter 1 Not Just a Job: The Longing for Adventure in American History and American Culture 1

Voyages of Discovery: American Adventure from Columbus to Jean-Luc Picard 3

The British Invasion: Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter Make It Big in America 27

Cool Magic: The American Postmodern Epic Fantasy 40

Chapter 2 Heroism in America: The Longing for Heroes in American History and American Culture 49

American Heroes and Antiheroes: Kings of the Wild Frontier 50

Hard-boiled Magic: The Vampire Detective 67

Girls Kick Butt: The Female Action Hero 82

Buffy Keeps It Cool 89

Teenagers from Outer Space: Teen Angst and the Superhero Narrative 101

Our Others, Our Selves: The Mutant Superhero 110

Chapter 3 U.S. vs. Them: American Paranoia and the Longing for Evil in American History and American Culture 129

Rosemary's Baby and the Horror Boom of the 1970s 133

The X-Files and the Postmodern Conspiracy Narrative: Mapping the Apocalypse 142

Apocalyptic Television at the Turn of the Millennium 149

Finding that Special Place: The Strange Enclave Narrative from Twin Peaks to Lost 161

Conclusion: The Contradictory Compensations of Popular Culture 171

Notes 177

Works Cited 183

Films Cited 189

Television Series Cited 195

Index 199

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