Haunting Reads for Halloween

As literature professor Jeffrey Jerome Cohen wrote in his seminal tract, Monster Culture: Seven Theses, “The monster dwells at the gates of difference… Any kind of alterity can be inscribed across (constructed through) the monstrous body, but for the most part monstrous difference tends to be cultural, political, racial, economic, sexual.”

In this spookiest of seasons, NYU Press humbly beseeches you to step into our creepy crypt of academic texts dealing with difference in its most monstrous forms. Whether you get your scares from true crime, horror movies, paranormal activity, or existential quandaries, we have a book to satisfy all you scholarly spooks.

Image of a black person with fur and horns on the top of their head. The text on the image reads "Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World."

Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World by Zakiyyah Iman Jackson

This award-winning book argues that Blackness disrupts our essential ideas of race, gender, and, ultimately, the human. Public Books praised Jackson’s work, saying, “Within Western philosophy, Black people historically have been ‘animalized’… Becoming Human shows us how trauma to the Black body is haunting. That is to say, ‘the black body,’ Jackson explains, ‘is an essential index for the calculation of degree of humanity and the measure of human progress.'”

Illustration of a woman in a black dress, surrounded by flames, demons, and mountains. The text over the illustration reads "The Forbidden Body: Sex, Horror, and the Religious Imagination by Douglas E. Cowan."

The Forbidden Body: Sex, Horror, and the Religious Imagination by Douglas E. Cowan

From creature features to indie horror flicks, find out what happens when sex, horror, and the religious imagination come together. “Horror fans will find much to be excited about in this book,” says Nova Religio, and will likely appreciate Cowan’s other book exploring the intersection of religion and horror in popular culture: America’s Dark Theologian: The Religious Imagination of Stephen King.

Blurry black and white photograph of a man running away from the camera. Text reads "The New True Crime: How the Rise of Serialized Storytelling is Transforming Innocence, Diana Rickard."

The New True Crime: How the Rise of Serialized Storytelling is Transforming Innocence by Diana Rickard

With a focus on some of the most popular true crime podcasts (Serial, Atlanta Monster) and streaming series (Making a Murderer) of the last decade, Rickard provides an in-depth analysis of the ways in which this new version of true crime media makes crime into a public spectacle and conveys ideological messages about the law, police, and punishment to its audience.

Illustration of a golem: a large, man-shaped creature made of clay, with Hebrew letters inscribed on its forehead. There are flames and smoke in the background. The text over the illustration reads, "Golem: Modern Wars and Their Monsters, Maya Barzilai."

Golem: Modern Wars and their Monsters by Maya Barzilai

Why did this story of a powerful clay monster molded and animated by a rabbi to protect his community become so popular and pervasive in the international Jewish community? The Jewish Chronicle praised this award-winning book, saying, “Barzilai painstakingly analyses films, books and comics to reveal the Golems enduring cultural presence and influence. And the violence of this appealing creature, especially the idea of Jewish violence, is what makes it simultaneously so threatening.”

Illustration of a Frankenstein monster standing in a doorway, wearing a suit with American stars and stripes on it. The cover reads, "Black Frankenstein: The Making of an American Metaphor, Elizabeth Young."

Black Frankenstein: The Making of an American Metaphor by Elizabeth Young

Despite the wealth of scholarship devoted to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, few have analyzed its racial resonance within American culture. Choice explains, “As the author recounts, the figure appears in both racist and antiracist discourses, exhibiting the powerful mobility of the monster metaphor as well as its popular appeal… this book provides a compelling new vision of the monster we thought we knew so well.”

Illustration of a large UFO beaming light onto a man with his arms stretched out in a field. Text on the cover reads, "Paranormal America: Ghost Encounters, UFO Sightings, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture, Second Edition, Christopher D. Bader, Joseph O. Baker, and F. Carson Mencken."

Paranormal America (Second Edition) by Christopher D. Bader, Joseph O. Baker, and F. Carson Mencken

Given the popularity of television shows such as Finding Bigfoot, Ghost Hunters, and American Horror Story, there seems to be an insatiable public hunger for mystical happenings. But who actually believes in the paranormal? Based on extensive research, the authors reveal that a significant number of Americans hold these beliefs, and that we undoubtedly live in a paranormal America. The Journal of Religion and Culture calls the second edition, “a rare delight… both engrossing and intellectually stimulating.”

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