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Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting Hardcover – September 29, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press (September 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602583145
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602583146
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #438,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

"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, TheoFantastique.com

"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

"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

"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 Americas past."
--J. Gordon Melton, Director, Institute for the Study of American Religion

"From 19th century sea serpents to our current obsession with vampires and zombies, ... Poole plots America's past through its fears in this intriguing ...sociocultural history."
--Publishers Weekly

"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

"After reading Monsters in America, a reader will view monsters in a completely different light. No longer just something that goes bump in the night, Mr. Poole showcases that monsters have more meaning and shed more insight into society than one might have previously suspected. Well-written and engaging, Monsters in America is a must-read for anyone fascinated by history or monsters or both."
--That's What She Read

"While we can never isolate all the elements contributing to our horror stories, Poole looks at the distinct soil that produced Monsters in America. He lurks in the forests and depths that gave rise to Moby Dick, the Headless Horseman and even Bigfoot. Writing from his faculty position at the College of Charleston, Poole locates many of our manias in racial fears and tensions.
--Purple State of Mind

"The story of monsters, Poole rightly observes, is actually the "underground history of the United States.... American monsters are born out of American history." Monsters reveal what simultaneously enthralls and repels us, whether it's leviathanesque sea monsters off the shores of 17th-century New England or Stephenie Meyer's puritanical, defanged Edward Cullen addressing contemporary America's split-personality longing for a supersexy Ozzie-and-Harriet family."
--Jana Riess, Beliefnet

"After reading Monsters in America, a reader will view monsters in a completely different light. No longer just something that goes bump in the night, Mr. Poole showcases that monsters have more meaning and shed more insight into society than one might have previously suspected. Well-written and engaging, Monsters in America is a must-read for anyone fascinated by history or monsters or both."
--That's What She Read

"While we can never isolate all the elements contributing to our horror stories, Poole looks at the distinct soil that produced Monsters in America. He lurks in the forests and depths that gave rise to Moby Dick, the Headless Horseman and even Bigfoot. Writing from his faculty position at the College of Charleston, Poole locates many of our manias in racial fears and tensions.
--Purple State of Mind

"The story of monsters, Poole rightly observes, is actually the "underground history of the United States.... American monsters are born out of American history." Monsters reveal what simultaneously enthralls and repels us, whether it's leviathanesque sea monsters off the shores of 17th-century New England or Stephenie Meyer's puritanical, defanged Edward Cullen addressing contemporary America's split-personality longing for a supersexy Ozzie-and-Harriet family."
--Jana Riess, Beliefnet

From the Inside Flap

The history of America -- one fear, one monster, at a time

More About the Author

W. Scott Poole is the author of numerous books and articles on monsters and mayhem in popular culture.

His forthcoming book _Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror_ looks at the life of 1950s horror host Maila Nurmi (a.k.a. Vampira) to explore the history of American sexuality, gender relations and the rebirth of the horror film in post-WW2 America. Its a story that begins with the history of the dark lady of late night horror and branches out into a discussion of the Beats, Bebop Jazz, the birth of rock and roll and the social protest movements of the 1960s. Novelist Sheri Holman calls the book "a subversive masterpiece."

He is also the author of _Monsters in America_ from Baylor University Press (2011)._Monsters_ explores the American fascination with vampires, zombies, serial killers and even sea serpents, showing how these creatures of our dark obsessions help us to understand the dark and forboding places in American history.

In 2009, Poole published _Satan in America: The Devil We Know__ (Rowman and Littlefield), a cultural history of the image of Satan in American religion, history and popular culture. This exciting work blends the study of horror films, comic books, religious texts and newspaper accounts of "satanic panics" into a highly readable analysis of the concept of the devil in American cultural history. Penn State folklorist Bill Ellis called the book "required reading for anyone who wants to understand the dark roots of America culture." I

Poole is also an associate professor of History at the College of Charleston where he teaches courses on monsters in American history, Satan in folk belief and pop culture and the history of religion and race in American life .

Customer Reviews

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An amazing book for anyone interested in monsters, American history, or both.
Saun
By then, readers will have been treated to a thoughtful examination of monsters in the U.S., and why and how they matter in our history.
Tom
He has a unique understanding of what grabs the attention and imagination of the reader.
E. Murray

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By W. V. Buckley on November 1, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I suppose history could be read into just about any object. Suppose someone wanted to trace American history through the common coffee cup. What would be made of the differences of the heavy, utilitarian coffee cups of the 1940s compared to the cups featuring Gary Larson cartoons so popular in the 1990s? What could we extrapolate on the ways we lived and what we believed during each era?

In a way, that's the task W. Scott Poole sets for himself in Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting when he deconstructs what scares us by looking at what was happening at a specific time in our history that hid beneath the particular monster du jour. The early portions of the book - those starting with Colonial America and running through the 19th century - are especially fascinating. Maybe that's because we are further removed from the subjects of sea monsters, witches and Native American curses. But that doesn't mean theses subjects didn't scare our forefathers. Poole deftly draws lines connecting Colonial boogymen to hotbutton issues of the day like slavery, the removal and eradication of indigenous populations, and religious conflicts. Poole's scholarship allows readers to view history from new perspectives.

Where Monsters in American isn't quite as successful is in conjuring up 20th century monsters. The ideas in later chapters seem less thought-out; almost as if they were either not fully formed or had to be made to fit within the author's framework. Or possibly that monsters have been such frequent products of the modern mass media. A frequent subject in Monsters in America is the religious right. Poole defines a number of his late 20th century monsters in relation to religious conservatives of the Reagan years.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Abbie Herrick on April 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I heard the author on Coast to Coast, and even though he had that dry, flat Midwestern accent (sort of like Margaret Hamilton in "The Wizard of Oz") I knew I had to get the book. What is it that rumbles in the American unconscious that relates to the figures we see on the screen. In his comments on the 1931 "Frankenstein" W. Scott Poole, relates that the idea of the "abnormal brain" that Fritz grabs for Henry Frankenstein being the cause of the monster's murderous mentality being a reflection of the "scientific rascism" of the day. Just about all the scarey things that crawl into popular media hail from the leaf-littered shadowy forests that haunt the American mind. The kind of monsters depends on the era. Frankenstein (1931) happens when somebody tries to make a more perfect human. Dracula (1931) is based on the fear of foreigners and disease. Newer movies like "Terminator," shows what happens when we place our trust in machines. And I don't have to mention the meaning of all the zombie movies.

This book is great if you want a good read that sorts out all the socialogical issues springing forth like new shoots under the mold of old horror movies (and like a good metaphor). It's also an easy and informative read for anybody having to to a paper on the history of race and racism and how it's reflected in the popular culture. Poole is brutally honest about the horrors of our past and how it been softened by the big (and little) screen. The book also (maybe unintentionally) has insights for every aspiring horror filmmaker.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Gagne on October 14, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Poole offers an insight on America's fascination with monsters. The author radically departs from the notion that monsters are a metaphor for our fears through the ages. Instead of representing the "us vs them" mentality, monsters are much closer so home: they are us. They are manifestations of our society. More than mere metaphors, they are creations of human fears and human ignorance.
Taking a rather more historical and anthropological approach to the subject matter, this book is not at all a collection of accounts of sightings. From monster movies to witch hunts, from serial killers to fossil hunting Washington, this book tries to broaden our understanding and appreciation of the very term "monster". Wonderfully engaging, Poole masterfully pushes the analysis of monsters in our society beyond the often uni-dimensional theses other authors have set. Instead of leaning on a single interpretation (such as Freudian psychology, for example), he explores a plethora of underlying sources to these monster myths and realities.
Do seek out this book in your nearest bookstore!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tom on May 15, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Poole walks readers through the American history of monsters, matching horror trends to American epochs, where it turns out our sociopolitical climate influences the monsters we laud and follow in fiction, film, and the media. His footnotes have left me with a massive pile of additional books to read. Highly recommended for horror or monster fans with an interest in American history; slightly less so for American history buffs with a hobby in monster entertainments. I took copious notes in the margins, and will be using this book frequently as I continue to work on my own YA horror fiction (e.g. "Sick," published by Abrams/Amulet).

The last chapter struck me as slightly rushed, but the content is good and conclusions solid throughout. Poole refuses to define the term "monster" from the beginning, and only in its last pages does his reason become clear. By then, readers will have been treated to a thoughtful examination of monsters in the U.S., and why and how they matter in our history. Excellent work. I would love to take one of Poole's classes.
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