Dead is Not Better: The Multiple Resurrections of Stephen King’s Revival

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Stephen King’s 2014 novel, Revival, plays with its title in several respects. It is first a familiar Frankenstein-esque narrative about a mad scientist who seeks to revive the dead. It is also, however, about religious revivals, both in the specific sense of the religious gatherings held by minister and main antagonist Charles Jacobs, and in the more general sense of attempting to find something in which to place one’s faith in a world where accidents can claim the lives of loved ones. Beyond this, Revival plays with its title in two more senses. First, it elaborates on the recurring theme in King of existentialist angst precipitated by the death of a child or loved one, which King uses to question God’s benevolence or existence. In order to ask these questions, King also resurrects the spirit of Mary Shelley, taking from Frankenstein the theme of reanimation of the dead. The narrative’s conclusion, however, offers yet another revival as it transitions us from the horror of Shelley to the weird fiction of Arthur Machen and H. P. Lovecraft. Thus, through these various revivals, King’s novel charts the evolution of twentieth-and twenty-first-century horror from Shelley to Lovecraft and our contemporary ‘weird’ moment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-203
JournalHorror Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2021


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