Colonial Horrors: Sleepy Hollow and Beyond

Pegasus. Oct. 2017. 400p. ed. by . ISBN 9781681775296. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781681775906. HORROR
OrangeReviewStarThe literature of the uncanny and weird, despite periodic critical disregard, is deeply rooted in American history and culture. Popular novelists such as Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, and Peter Straub are on record citing the influence of the pioneers of American supernatural fiction. Editor Davis, who was the line editor for Colonial Gothic, Rogue Games's conspiracy-horror game set in early America, has gathered 17 selections, published between 1684 and 1927 and featuring authors (from both the colonial era and later) of widely disparate visions—among them Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Henry James, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, and even Cotton Mather, supporter of the 1692 Salem witch trials. Unsurprisingly, much short fiction and novels of the colonial period bear indelible traces of Puritanism. What distinguishes this anthology from others is the historical contextualization given to each tale. European settlers, confronted by vast forests and indigeneous peoples, viewed anything remotely unknown or "spiritual" as pagan—hence evil. This mind-set and its demonization of wild nature resulted in horrors, both historical and literary.
VERDICT For lovers of American literature and horror fiction fans, this important anthology reveals how the religious beliefs, historical events, and folktales of the colonial period influenced the writerly imaginations that led to the evolution of the modern horror genre.
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