Howard Kerr Quotes

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Howard Kerr Quotes

(W.D.) Howells asserted that the Americans love of the supernatural is their common inheritance from no particular ancestry. Their fiction, he added, often gathers in the gray twilight of the reason, on the borderland between experience and illusion. Howellss geographical metaphor was derived, of course, from Hawthornes idea of a moonlit neutral territory, somewhere between the real world and fairy-land, where the Actual and the Imaginary may meet, and each imbue itself with the nature of the other. Whether literally, as in Coopers The Spy, or metaphorically, as in Hawthornes works, the neutral territory/borderland was the familiar setting of the American romance. As American writers came to realize, not only was there a borderland between East and West, civilization and wilderness, but also between the here and the hereafter, between conscious and unconscious, experience and illusion - psychic frontiers on the edge of territories both enticing and terrifying.
— Howard Kerr —

Psychic change, as Todorov has recognized, subverted the genre in another way, by revoking the cultural taboos, the social censorship, that had prohibited the overt treatment of psychosexual themes, which then found covert expression in the supernatural tale. 'There is no need today to resort to the devil [or to posthumous reverie] in order to speak of excessive sexual desire, and none to resort to vampires in order to designate the attraction exerted by corpses: psychoanalysis, and the literature which is directly or indirectly inspired by it, deal with these matters in undisguised terms. The themes of fantastic literature have become, literally, the very themes of the psychological investigations of the last fifty years.

— Howard Kerr

(W.D.) Howells asserted that the Americans' 'love of the supernatural is their common inheritance from no particular ancestry.' Their fiction, he added, often gathers in the gray 'twilight of the reason,' on 'the borderland between experience and illusion. Howells's geographical metaphor was derived, of course, from Hawthorne's idea of a moonlit 'neutral territory, somewhere between the real world and fairy-land, where the Actual and the Imaginary may meet, and each imbue itself with the nature of the other.' Whether literally, as in Cooper's The Spy, or metaphorically, as in Hawthorne's works, the neutral territory/borderland was the familiar setting of the American romance. As American writers came to realize, not only was there a borderland between East and West, civilization and wilderness, but also between the here and the hereafter, between conscious and unconscious, 'experience and illusion' - psychic frontiers on the edge of territories both enticing and terrifying.

— Howard Kerr

But the recurrent ambiguity of the American tale of the supernatural reveals both a fascination
with the possibility of numinous experience and a perplexity about whether there was, in fact, anything numinous to be experienced. Writers often delighted in leading readers into, but not out of, the haunted dusk of the borderland.

— Howard Kerr

(Washington) Irving was only the first of the writers of the American ghostly tale to recognize that the supernatural, exactly because its epistemological status is so difficult to determine, challenged the writer to invent a commensurately sophisticated narrative technique.

— Howard Kerr

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