The IUP Journal of English Studies
Gothicizing American History: Religion, Race, and Politics in Joyce Carol Oates' The Accursed

Article Details
Pub. Date : June, 2020
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES20620
Author Name : Nilanjana Ghosal
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : Arts & Humanities
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 11

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Abstract

Racist politics and white moral superiority are persistently parodied and subverted in Oates's recent Gothic novel, The Accursed. The novel turns back to early twentieth century Princeton, an elite society struggling under the "Crosswicks Curse," and reconsiders history through the Gothic lens to critique the discriminatory ideology of America's classic Religious Right. Appropriately, this paper isolates the recurring problematic of racism in the novel first to demonstrate how through the creation of the "other," racist politics and white moral superiority were rationalized by the powerful, and second to recognize how national leaders obsessed with ideas of purity lead double lives engendering a duality that emerges from their warped interpretations of Christianity. Further, by addressing the duplicity inherent in American history, religion, and its socialist/secularist discourses, this reading defines The Accursed as a postsecular reflection seeking to re-vision the nation's past.


Introduction

Gothicizing American history from the vantage point of the current millennium, Joyce Carol Oates' (2013) The Accursed harks back to early twentieth century to appropriate Princeton and the Progressive Era as the spatiotemporal locus of the narrative. The novel facilitates a critique of the dark underbelly of a bigoted, white American society that proverbially has functioned on the ideals of industrial advancement and social reformation. In this novel, Oates deliberately populates the Progressive Era with spells, curses, demons, vampires, nightmares, and elusive slithering creatures that symbolize racism and political corruption practiced by treacherous white politicians and social leaders. The novelist questions all historical authenticity and officially documented elements of America's past by attributing the novel's narrative voice to an amateur fictionalized historian, M W van Dyck II, who crafts monologues on history-making and outlines the horrors of the "Crosswicks Curse" afflicting Princeton. The plot first exposes the double standards of


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