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Randall Kenan Beyond the Final Frontier: Science Fiction, Superheroes, and the South in A Visitation of Spirits

Randall Kenan Beyond the Final Frontier: Science Fiction, Superheroes, and the South in A... Randall Kenan Beyond the Final Frontier: Science Fiction, Superheroes, and the South in A Visitation of Spirits by Brannon Costello Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits (1989) opens with two epigraphs, one from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and another from William Gibson’s landmark 1984 cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. Critics have frequently remarked upon the significance of the Dickens quotation, noting that it anticipates the Scrooge- like evening of visions endured by protagonist Horace Cross as part of his attempt to come to terms with his homosexuality in a traditional religious culture that abhors any form of sexuality it deems aberrant. The quotation from Neu- romancer, however, has drawn almost no comment at all. This omis- sion may seem minor, yet it becomes more glaring when we consider how densely the novel is woven with allusions to science fiction tales and superhero comic books — literary genres that we might include along with fantasy narratives under the broad category of speculative fiction. Although such narratives are not conventionally associated with the rural southern settings and African American folkways that figure prominently in Kenan’s work, A Visitation of Spirits implicitly argues for a reconsidera- tion of those conventions. At the heart http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

Randall Kenan Beyond the Final Frontier: Science Fiction, Superheroes, and the South in A Visitation of Spirits

The Southern Literary Journal , Volume 43 (1) – Mar 16, 2011

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 the Southern Literary Journal and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of English.
ISSN
1534-1461

Abstract

Randall Kenan Beyond the Final Frontier: Science Fiction, Superheroes, and the South in A Visitation of Spirits by Brannon Costello Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits (1989) opens with two epigraphs, one from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and another from William Gibson’s landmark 1984 cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. Critics have frequently remarked upon the significance of the Dickens quotation, noting that it anticipates the Scrooge- like evening of visions endured by protagonist Horace Cross as part of his attempt to come to terms with his homosexuality in a traditional religious culture that abhors any form of sexuality it deems aberrant. The quotation from Neu- romancer, however, has drawn almost no comment at all. This omis- sion may seem minor, yet it becomes more glaring when we consider how densely the novel is woven with allusions to science fiction tales and superhero comic books — literary genres that we might include along with fantasy narratives under the broad category of speculative fiction. Although such narratives are not conventionally associated with the rural southern settings and African American folkways that figure prominently in Kenan’s work, A Visitation of Spirits implicitly argues for a reconsidera- tion of those conventions. At the heart

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Mar 16, 2011

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