Excavating Stephen King: A Darwinist Hermeneutic Study of the Fiction combines approaches from science and literary theory to examine the canon of Stephen King’s fiction work in a single critical study. James Arthur Anderson has devised the concept of Darwinist Hermeneutics as a critical tool to combine evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, biology, and literary Darwinism with other more conventional critical theory, including structuralism, narratology, semiotics, and linguistic analysis. Using this theory, Anderson examines King’s works in terms of archetypes and mythology, human universals, affective emotions, and the organization of story to create maximum suspense. This method brings new insights into King’s stories and broader implications for storytelling as a whole.
James Arthur Anderson is professor of writing and literature at Johnson & Wales University’s North Miami campus.
Introduction: Stephen King, Fast Food or Five Star?
Part 1: Archetypes: Structuralism Meets Darwin
Chapter 1: The Hero’s Quest
Chapter 2: The Trickster: King’s Tricks and Treats
Chapter 3: In the Beginning… The Creation of the Multiverse
Chapter 4: Silenced by Science: the Anthropocene Apocalypse in Cell
Part 2: Human Universals
Chapter 5 : The Stand: Survival of the Ethical Fittest
Chapter 6: Religion: King as the “Dark Theologian"
Chapter 7: Free Will: Robots or Wildcards
Chapter 8: Time and 11/22/63
Chapter 9: Nostalgia and Things Past
Part 3: Affective Emotions
Chapter 10: The Battle of the Sexes
Chapter 11: What’s Love Got to Do with It?
Chapter 12: Family and Children
Chapter 13: Rage and Sweet Revenge
Chapter 14 : Fear: Why We Like Scary Stories
Part 4: Darwinism and the Arts
Chapter 15: The Symbolic Animal: Imagination and Creativity
Chapter 16: The Arts: Soothing the Savage Beast
Chapter 17: The Addiction of Language and Story
Chapter 18: The Thematic King
Chapter 19: The Literary King
Conclusion: Darwinist Hermeneutics and Stephen King
About the Author
James Anderson’s Excavating Stephen King is a welcomed addition to the ever-growing field of studies devoted to the work of the Master of the Macabre. Anderson is, above all else, a knowledgeable and refreshingly humble voice within the field (the conclusion to this text is worth the price of the entire book), and his genuinely unique approach to King’s creations allows us to see, with clear, specific, and exceptionally well-reasoned analyses, that being a Constant Reader is hardly an exercise in the “dumbing down of American culture,” as some snobbish critics have suggested. Indeed, with Anderson’s help, we are able to see King in a new light, and ourselves as well, which is to say that the spotlight Anderson provides here ultimately reveals a keen and critical understanding of the self. To put it another way, Anderson’s examination confirms King’s sentiments that “Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.
In the forty-six years since Carrie was published, Stephen King has had a prolific career, producing scores of novels and short stories. Critical books assessing his works started appearing in the early 1980s, and his stories started entering school and college curricula not long thereafter. Doctoral theses have been written about aspects of his work. Few books, though, have done as thorough a deep dive into literary criticism of King's novels as James Arthur Anderson has achieved in Excavating Stephen King. Although The Stand appears frequently in his analysis, Anderson covers the full range of King's works up to The Institute, including a thorough evaluation of the recent short story "Cookie Jar." He combines methods from the humanities and scientific fields such as neurology, evolutionary psychology, sociology and anthropology into a critical tool he calls Darwinist Hermeneutics. Even longtime fans of King's work may find themselves looking at his work in a different light after reading Excavating Stephen King.