‘The blank darkness outside’
Ambrose Bierce and wilderness Gothic at the end of the frontier
in Ecogothic
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This chapter examines the development of wilderness Gothic through the nineteenth century, looking at responses to the environment in the literary and political imagination. It focuses on Ambrose Bierce, whose Gothic horror tales offer an insight into the American imagination and the environment. In order to preserve a civilized world of legal process and rationality William Harker's tale must be excluded from the debate, shut out into the wilderness foreshadowed in the opening paragraphs as a 'blank darkness' of 'unfamiliar noises'. If the story of the expanding frontier articulates a simple dichotomy of civilization against the wilderness, then the end of the frontier marks a more subtle Gothicism, marked by the haunting presence of the past. The Native American and the wilderness have a tendency to be conflated in early American Gothic, and characters have a tendency to be corrupted by contact with either or both, becoming literally 'bewildered'.


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