By Bryna Campbell
While “the rural” has many associations in popular and literary culture, one of the most enduring and fascinating is its affiliation with the gothic and horror. One need look no further than – well, basically any horror flick – to recognize how often the empty spaces of the countryside have conjured up all kinds of creepy crawlies. Sometimes horror is found in the vast desert of the southwest, sometimes the empty plains, and often at a house or cabin in the middle of the woods. This terror might come in the form of a transient stranger who is out of place in that location, or it it might be toothless family living in the big old house at the end of a dirt road. Sometimes the protagonists are the outsiders, and sometimes its the farm family – perhaps dealing with some kind of outsider or mystical force. This month we are exploring these associations with an October series that we are calling the “Rural Gothic.”
What is the Rural Gothic? In her book by that title, Bernice Murphy argues that the Rural Gothic can be traced to North America’s first white settlers, and a complex and often negative association with nature that still lingers in various ways to this day. In our series we hope to lay out some of those traces and explore the stereotypes they foster, even as we also indulge in the allure that the Rural Gothic has had on us as well. Among the topics that William is interested in exploring is a particularly terrifying event that occurred several decades ago in our region. I look forward to indulging that question that we often had as farm kids – why do cornfields summon such mysterious fascination, anyway?
This is a work in progress, so we are not quite sure exactly where this will take us, but it’s a topic that has fascinated us since we started this blog last spring, so we’re excited to see where it will go. And we want to hear from you too! Are you from a rural part of the US? How do you feel about the Rural Gothic, and how has it shaped your view on rural America?