“Devils in the Wilderness”: The Character of Wilderness in American Horror Fiction

Cole William Nelson


The concept of “wilderness” as a location and an idea has changed over time to fit different rhetorical purposes. This essay argues that while “wilderness” is used repeatedly throughout the American horror genre to explore cultural conceptions of marginal practices and ideologies, shifts in the implementation of “wilderness” in each text emphasize important changes in what concepts are considered marginal during that text’s period. This study examines how the concept of “wilderness” is utilized within the American horror story genre to explore the boundaries of society’s values by analyzing three texts through New Historicist, Marxist, and Ecocritical theories. These texts include the short story “The Devil and Tom Walker” by Washington Irving, the short story “The Dunwich Horror” by H. P. Lovecraft, and episode 22 of the contemporary podcast Welcome to Night Vale, titled “The Whispering Forest”. This study attempts to broaden our understanding of ecological descriptions, specifically within the horror genre, and to examine how studying these descriptions deepens our understanding of cultural attitudes towards social marginalization.


Ecocriticism; Green Theory; New Historicism; Marxism; Washington Irving; H. P. Lovecraft; Welcome to Night Vale

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