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Kaleidoscopic: such is the way I have aimed to envision King’s narratives, a multiplicity of viewpoints and interpretations offered to the readers to lead them in a transfixing danse macabre. In his essay, “The Literature of Exhaustion,” John Barth has pointed out thatthe conventional modes of literary representation had been overused, that modernism had exhausted itself and he foreshadowed the notion of rewriting as a leitmotiv in postmodern works.In this article, I situate myself in the wake of postmodern studies –being aware of the controversial term itself- to try and account for the fact that King has not literarily exhausted himself in spite of his thirty-nine years of writing and that his appeal has not ebbed away among the readers.
In A Poetics of Postmodernism (1988), Linda Hutcheon points out the ironic quote marks characterizing the postmodern fiction.
In Dissecting Stephen King: From the Gothic to Literary Naturalism (2005),Heidi Strengell shows the reworking of common myths, fairy tales or the Gothic literary genre by King. In King’s first eponymous novel, Carrie (1974), the heroine, who has been the scapegoat of her mother and her peers at school all her life, discovers her telekinetic abilities.
The outer world is considered as a locus of sins for the maternal figure and the only place of salvation is the sacralised house; the closet Carrie is enclosed in as a punishment is transformed into a symbolic womb, in which Carrie would die after being confronted with the trials of loneliness and fainting before being reborned after her supposed communion with God and her access to the sacred dimension. The crucifixion holds a masochistic view with the insistence on blood and suffering, creating horror in the spectator. The Christ figure is associated with an image of blasphemy, taking the role of the villain monk or patriarch pursuing the heroine in the labyrinthine Gothic castle or abbey. The notions of subversion, parody, intertextuality and the theme of the Grim Reaper appear as leitmotivs throughout King’s novels and, in most cases, death is, in a reverse way, the beginning of a new life. Her back arched like a bow, and her mouth stretched open until it seemed her jaws must break. The reader perceives a hyperbolic style with the use of the superlative, the comparisons and the metaphors. Susan’s body is depicted as an impure double of her former self referred to in terms of negation: “the total impression was not of angelic loveliness but a cold, disconnected beauty. Marsten House appears as a beacon of evil overlooking the town of Salem as a reminder of Poe’s House of Usher. King blurs the frontier between life and death, rationality and irrationality, even good and evil.
Yet, Danny’s utter love for his father is recurrently emphasized: Jack is both his father and a monster and Danny has to separate love and hate for a same person. The Overlook is the entrance into a world of doom and destruction where the double nature of man is enlightened and physically perceived with the omnipresence of mirrors.
King transforms Jack into a parodic Bluebeard and the room 217 into a forbidden room hiding the living corpse of a woman, a grotesque, decomposing figure of seduction. King’s strength lies in the fact that he convinces us that monsters do exist and surround us in our daily lives. In this narrative, King chooses a modern technological device -the cell phone- as the vehicle of a virus metamorphosing people into “crazies.” The protagonist, Clayton Riddell, who is immune as he owns no cell phone, sees a man chewing a dog’s ear or a young girl biting a woman’s neck. The theme of entrapment and the exploration of the evil nature of men are equally ubiquitous in Under the Dome (2009).
The protagonist not only desires to stop Kennedy’s assassination but to reverse the cruel shooting of one of his students’ family -Harry Dunning’s- that left the latter with a limp. Jake’s relation with a teacher, Sadie Dunhill, during his third time in “the Land of Ago” provides the romance and the double tragic turn of the story.
The narratives are haunted by the return of the dead and on a larger scale by the return of the past. King’s novels offer a multiplicity of viewpoints on common elements for they are, in fact, based on the bottomless pit of thematic, narrative, identical, linguistic instability. My PhD obtained in 2011 at the University of Reunion Island has been the stepping stone for a research work on the notion of abjection and the treatment of the body in the wake of postmodern theories. The Gothic Imagination is based at the University of Stirling, Scotland and provides an interdisciplinary forum for lively discussion and critical debate concerning all manifestations of the Gothic mode. This would be in part explained by the postmodernist touch brought to his narratives implying the absence of a unique interpretation and, therefore, the kaleidoscopic effect they create.
This theme of remolding, revisiting common landmarks is one of the red threads allowing the author to weave the intricate cloth of his narratives. The feeling of entrapment running through the veins of the Gothic genre is transposed to Carrie White’s familial house. As Carrie has her period for the first time at the age of 16 in the girls’ shower at school and she has no understanding of why she bleeds, the monstrous figures represented by her classmates bombard her with tampons and sanitary towels, chanting “plug it up” (King 1974, 13). Indeed, Carrie, perceived as evil by her mother, defies the maternal law and denies her mother’s extreme interpretation of the bible.
Just lately these dreams had evolved into something less understandable, but more sinister.
King has clearly stated the influence of Bram Stoker’s Dracula for his novel but the reader perceives the hyperbolic rewriting of the original work. A huge explosion of darker blood issued forth from the wound the stake had made -almost black in this chancy, lunatic light: heart’s blood. It corresponds to what Denis Mellier calls in his thesis “hypermonstration” to refer to an excessive monstration. In The Shining (1977), the Overlook hotel is another version of Salem Lot’s Marsten house, a modernised Gothic castle isolated in the Colorado Mountains.In its maze-like corridors, an innocent hero, Danny, and his mother, Wendy, strive to escape from the lethal grip of the villain represented by the father, Jack Torrance. A total evil character at the end of the narrative, Jack Torrance’s ghost is nevertheless benevolent in Dr Sleep (2013) as he helps his son defeat the leader of the True Knot, quasi immortal beings who feed from the psychic essence produced by children endowed with the gift of the shining.
King has this power of having the reader go beyond the looking-glass and step into an impossible but accepted reality, at least for the time of the reading. In Cujo (1981), the unfamiliarisation of the familiar, the uncanny, emerges through a reworking of the signified “dog” normally assimilated to a friendly companion of men.
He revisits the field of monstrosity and uses unexpected auxiliaries: a dog in Cujo, a clown in It (1986), a car in Christine (1983) or From a Buick 8 (2002) or a cell phone in Cell (2006).


This new form of vampirism engendered by a cell phone enlightens the mingling of traditional themes and incongruous elements. Confinement affects the whole town of Chester’s Mil separated from the rest of the world by an impenetrable, alien dome. The dome is generated by a little box that has been set up by aliens which are depicted as unclear shapes and defined by what they are not. King combines an historical event -John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s assassination- with a tragic romance.
The atrocious murder of Harry’s family by the villain father figure takes place on Halloween night; on Jake’s second journey to the 60s, Dunning uses a sledgehammer and Jake is powerless to stop all the murders. Sadie’s over religious violent husband John Clayton -a modern villain who grotesquely used a broom to separate his space and Sadie’s in the marital bed- assaults her in her house, causing her to be badly disfigured.
There is nevertheless a spiralling vision of the past: “the past does not want to be changed. His texts are suffused with intertextual references and his writing can be likened to the oscillation of a pendulum having a hypnotic effect on the reader. The notion of deconstruction constitutes a break from this form of rationalism, questioning the univocal meaning of texts. The Author's Lounge provides social media, marketing and publicity tips for authors and industry pros from an experienced team of literary publicists.
Stephen King is the most successful horror author in the world, and with over 55 novels in publication, he has shaped the horror genre more than anyone else.
In the interview below, advertised as the first interview with the author, we get some interesting insights into Stephen King the man and the author.
As a hybrid movement, postmodernism stresses the mingling of unexpected, incongruous elements often depicted by the term “kitsch.” Postmodernism is also associated with the notion of the “grotesque’ in the Bakhtinian sense of the carnivalesque liberation of repressed elements and reversal of values.
I will consider here some of King’s long form narratives being aware of the impossibility to cast a light on each of their intricate recesses.
The house plays the role commonly held by the Gothic castle which “confines, walls up and tortures by its mere architectural presence” (Levy 2002, 10). The adjective “bloody” is meaningful for the blood images give King’s narrative its circularity: Carrie bathes in her menstrual blood at the beginning, she is soaked in pig’s blood at the promp. There is a grand-guignolesque undertone as King seems to go one step further in the paradigm of excess. During the initiation, the neophyte is confronted to different trials, monstrous figures, ending with both a symbolic death and rebirth as the candidate is ushered into the secrets of the Sacred. The Jesus impaled upon it was frozen in a grotesque, muscle-straining rictus of pain, mouth drawn down in a greaning curve. The scream that welled from the sounding chamber of that gaping mouth came from all the subcellars of deepest race memory and beyond that, to the moist darknesses of the human soul. King’s assimilation of Susan’s lips to ribbons, her shrieks to hell’s clarion, her hands to birds, the insistence on her wolf like fangs -thus her objectification and animalisation- highlight the shattering of her identity but also give a grotesque hue to her death. The process of subversion affects Father Callahan who is unable to fight against the Dracula figure, Count Barlow, because he lost his faith in God; brandishing a cross is of no avail.
The gothic underground vault is transformed in King’s narrative into a boiler room situated in the basement of the hotel where Jack discovers notes on the past of the hotel. King combines the theme of the doppelganger with that of possession and the reshaping of the body. It was not his daddy, not this Saturday Night Shock Show horror with its rolling eyes and hunched and hulking shoulders and blood-drenched shirt. In one of the rooms,Danny sees a grayish-white tissue in the wallpaper: “it was like a crazy picture drawn in blood, a surrealistic etching of a man’s face drawn back in terror and pain, the mouth yawning and half the head pulverized” (King 1977, 101).
Suffering from rabies, a Saint Bernard is transformed into a monster, into an insane creature -even assimilated to a vampire- after being bitten by a bat.
The very way of behaving, the common law is slowly destroyed by the invisible, unnamable barrier.
They are perceived as leatherheads “leaning together and laughing in obscenely childish conspiracy” (King 2009, 605). King revisits, communizes the literature of time travel.[5] The action takes place in 2011 and King inserts a gateway for September 9, 1958 in the kitchen of Al Templeton’s diner. The emphasis is laid on the bloody, repulsive aspect of one of the murders: “Dunning brought the sledge down on Tugga’s head. On the chessboard of postmodernism, King advances the pawns of intertextuality, rewriting, irony, parody, and deconstruction. There is no longer one universal truth as the key words are instability and shifts in meaning.
The use of the term “quote marks” by Hutcheon suggests that postmodern works are related to past references, leading to the notion of intertextuality in an echo to Kristeva’s depiction of texts as all being interwoven in a web.[2] Works of the past are revisited, often deconstructed. Carrie’s house is depicted as the lair of a monster, a devouring cave where even daylight doesnot get through. Sue Snell finds out Carrie dying from the wound inflected by her mother and this blood-circling image ends up with Sue having her period. There is a reworking of the signified of hygienic towels which are used by Carrie to blot her lipstick and are no longer means of protection but weapons and the scene becomes all the more grotesque when one of the napkins remains stuck on Carrie’s pubic hair as a stigmata of both her innocence and humiliation. The candidate, who is in a trance, is separated from the community and the initiation usually takes place in a cave or a hut.
Jack was already a deviant father and a deviant husband, verbally abusing his wife and breaking his son’s arm. King revisits Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” intertwining the images of entrapment, craziness with murder and repulsive bodily fluids.


The sunlight becomes unbearable and it is obsessed with drinking the blood of its preys it keeps under a quasi hypnotic state.
The deconstruction process is achieved at several levels: the community, the body, identity and language.
If the Gothic castle had an understandable, concrete shape, the dome is defined by its very unknown origin.
Al has regularly travelled through time for four years buying his meat from the 1960s; he has compiled enough evidence in his blue notebook to assert Oswald’s guilt in Kennedy’s assassination and ask the hero, Jake Epping, to save the president’s life. It is this very entanglement, this absence of compartmentalization that may account for an apparent cornucopia of creation. Jacques Derrida,[3] father of the deconstructionist movement, implies by this notion the absence of a unique meaning, of an absolute link between signifiers and signified.[4] Postmodern works reveal different layers of interpretations, blur narrative genres and confuse the readers’ expectations. The abusive, sadistic male figure is replaced by Carrie’s fanatically religious quasi castrative mother, Margaret White, who wishes to control Carrie and shuts her out from the surrounding world. The expression “plug it up” commonly designates the fact of filling up a hole; it is assimilated to cracks, leaks. The omnipresence of blood marks a rupture in Carrie’s status; yet, her ordeal takes place in an ordinary place, a girl’s shower, and the monstrous figures are represented by her classmates. The problem is he only pretends to believe and he even doubts the existence of evil, which was for him desacralised because of the consumerisation of religion, its use for social action and the psychoanalytical theories. The evil force in the hotel feeds from this deviance, magnifies it until Jack’s former identity is entirely ruined. The feeling of confinement traditionally permeating the Gothic castle is transposed into a symbol of the consumption society, a car stuck in a garage’s yard. If the Gothic castle challenged the 18th century rationalism and was the let out of repressed desires, the dome is a barrier which goes one step beyond by magnifying the villainy of characters and normalizing their deviant and abject behaviours. It is an example of what Linda Hutcheon calls “historiographic metafiction,” a fictionalisation of actual historical events or figures. Bone fragments and clumps of hair leaped high in the air; droplets of blood splattered the overhead light fixture” (King 2011, 149).
The figure of the villain itself appears as multiplied: Sadie’s husband, Lee Harvey Oswald and Jake himself who becomes a spy to stop Oswald and kills Frank Dunning.
Kennedy did not withdraw all the troops from Vietnam; there were no civil rights reforms in the 1960s but race riots.
This emphasis on repetition likens Jake to a prisoner in Piranesi’s carceri, a character condemned to an endless wandering on the vertiginous, maze-like halls and stairs of time. Dealing with the instability of the body, with the rupture of boundaries or with the unfamiliarisation of the familiar, King’s span for the exploration of our fears seems then as endless and as transfixing as his hero’s quest in The Dark Tower series.
The town of Chamberlain itself is a locus of entrapment where Carrie tries to escape from people’s prejudices. For Julia Kristeva, bodily waste or the feminine (menstrual blood, lactation) are auxiliaries of abjection. Here it is associated with Carrie’s vagina perceived as a monstrous hole, a cave whose entrance has to be obstructed. Forced to drink Barlow’s “cursed” (King 1975, 329) blood, he is then ironically forbidden to enter his own church. For instance, Junior Rennie’s natural violent temper leads him to kill two women but this deviancy also drives him to keep their bodies in a cellar and consider them as “his girlfriends.” There is no necrophilic act but the cellar is a shelter in which the corpses constitute a new cure for Junior’s migraines.
As the explosion of a meth lab makes the air unbreathable and car tires are used as a source of oxygen by some survivors, a character, Julia Shumway, mentally communicates with one of the alien child. Oswald’s violent behavior towards his Russian wife, Marina, is stressed as well as his hubris and desire for recognition.
King’s hourglass of creation is bound to know no finitude, trapping the reader at each reading beyond its magical kaleidoscopic glass. Abjection marks a preoccupation with the body and the self threatened by a split, a collapse in meaning; this split is the sign of the primary anxiety of the separation with the mother.
The neophyte Carrie is not the one submitted to a trance but her classmates are the ones entranced by the parodic incantation ’PER-iod, PER-iod, PER-iod!’” (King 1974, 12) The initiatory process is even hinted at in relation to Carrie’s own house. The mark of his sin, of his soiled status, is having his hand burnt on the doorknob of his church.
The evolution is highlighted between the friendly Cujo at the beginning and the merciless sick beast craving for blood, eventually defeated by a mere baseball bat, a grotesque lethal weapon.
The whole USA becomes a locus of entrapment, haunted by crazies who are monstrous figures, grotesque versions of their former selves. Big Jim (Junior’s father) is a heartless, cupid villain, a deus-ex-machina taking advantage of the death of the only law-enforcement official to quench his thirst for dominion and fame. Thus, the encounter with the Other rimes with a self rediscovery and a resilience of repressed traumatic events. Carrie constantly rejects her mother while searching for her forgiveness; she perceives her own body as a waste when she makes no attempt at stopping her survival fluid flow out of the wound inflicted by Margaret White. Al’s pantry door is a time tunnel replacing Alice’s rabbit hole, an entrance to the Land of Ago” (King 2011, 276).



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