ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Review of Frontier Gothic

Updated on March 13, 2020
satomko profile image

Seth Tomko is a writer, college-level educator, and adventurer.

Ichabod pursued by the Headless Horseman by F.O.C. Darley
Ichabod pursued by the Headless Horseman by F.O.C. Darley

Anthology of Critical Writing about Literature at American’s Edge

This book is devoted to understanding the themes and changes in American literary interpretations of the frontier from the colonial period until the twentieth century.

The implicit thesis is that transformation from an encounter with supernatural or irrational forces on the physical, mental, or spiritual frontier should be considered one of if not the preeminent experience in American literature. This idea is an extension of the American Experience, which is one of perpetual movement into a frontier space. The anthology aides such an argument by showing how frequently this theme appears in genres as seemingly unrelated as western novels, short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, and 1980’s science-fiction.

The book also examines overlaps of theme such as how this type of literature treats traditional expressions of class and gender systems. Therefore, the suggestion appears to be that frontier literature, particularly with gothic elements, also constitutes an almost inexhaustible subject for fiction because it is in a constant state of transformation and renewal. On a related note, to American involvement in the frontiers of the human mind, technology leading to cyberspace, and the exploration of the solar system represent a continuation of this same activity of encountering frontier territory.

The Handcart Pioneer Monument, a statue commemorating Mormon handcart pioneers, found on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. The original 1926 bronze by Torleif Soviren Knaphus was reproduced life-size in 1945 for The Church of Jesus Christ of Lat
The Handcart Pioneer Monument, a statue commemorating Mormon handcart pioneers, found on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. The original 1926 bronze by Torleif Soviren Knaphus was reproduced life-size in 1945 for The Church of Jesus Christ of Lat | Source

New and Old Frontiers

The book succeeds for the most part and admirably so given the chronological breadth the authors and editors span in a slim volume; any overview of American Literature is bound to run into problems, even when self-limited by a particular theme. The authors show the frequency and development of their topic and even make an argument that Flannery O’Conner’s Southern Gothic represents a type of frontier literature.

One of the more interesting arguments concerns Mogen’s inclusion of “cyberpunk” fiction such as William Gibson’s Neuromancer as Mogen sees the next frontier—as both a historical and literary development—as the uncharted and ever-expanding new realities created by contemporary advances in technology and computer science. This new frontier will still have at least one problem American frontiers have always possessed: human beings and the flawed ways in which they interact with each other. Whenever people encounter a frontier they are also encountering themselves. Advances in technology do not equal to advances in human understanding or behavior.

Obscure Authors and Other Missteps

Minor complaints with the book concern its occasional obscurity and a prolonged focus on Charlotte Perkins Gilman. For every reference to a widely recognizable work such as Moby-Dick, The Last of the Mohicans, or even Alan LeMay’s The Searchers (likely known because of the movie adaptation with John Wayne) there is another to Gerald Vizenor’s Bearheart, O. E. Rölvaag’s Giants in the Earth, or another book of specialized interest. One should expect this development when discussing such a specific topic; however it is discouraging for a reader to believe he or she has sufficient exposure to familiar texts to follow along only to be confronted by references to a work that has hitherto been read only by a handful of specialists.

On a similar note, nearly twenty pages are devoted almost solely to Gilman’s “The Giant Wistaria.” While the work fits the theme, it is doubtful that it is such an exemplar of frontier gothic to deserve such treatment. To have a substantial helping of Gilman lumped together slows down the reading. This complaint may be more a matter of organization than anything else.

American Expansion into the Wilderness

The book’s strongest feature is its commitment to its subject and belief in its importance. To this end it seriously treats the subject matter and produces ample scholarly support. As such it provides a viewpoint on American literature that might otherwise be marginalized and supports the perspective by showing how prevalent the theme was and has continued to be in American literary forms.


Mogen, David, Scott Sanders, and Joanne Karpinski. Frontier Gothic: Terror and Wonder at the Frontier in American Literature. Toronto: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1993.

© 2010 Seth Tomko


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • satomko profile imageAUTHOR

      Seth Tomko 

      10 years ago from Macon, GA

      Thank you for your comments, trackarl99. This was one of the better critical theory books I've read about American Literature.

    • tracykarl99 profile image


      10 years ago from San Francisco

      A really interesting article. I would like to read the book! Also, I like your writing style ~


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)