Evil in/and Stephen King: Essay Volume

deadline for submissions: 
November 6, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Hong Kong Baptist University
contact email: 

The concept of evil received much attention throughout the 20th century. Despite the industrial scale atrocities committed in Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and Maoist China, alongside the genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Rwanda, as well as the explosion of serial killers like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Andrei Chikatilo in the latter part of the 20th century, the first two decades of the 21st century have been largely unconcerned with rigorous discussion of such evil. Indeed, the very term “evil” has been ostensibly erased from our contemporary lexis; in lieu of recognizing and defining evil in the light of the present, the consensus seemingly remains that “evil” is too vague or too simplistic a descriptor, and is therefore inappropriate.

Surely, however, language usages like “very bad,” “atrocious,” and “egregious’” fall far short of seriously encapsulating the gravity—or, rather, depravity—of certain human acts? Consequently, the recent Evil-scepticism vs. Evil-revivalism debate has re-emerged to consider such questions as: What constitutes an act of evil? How often must an individual commit said acts of evil for them to be deemed an evil person? Are acts of evil necessarily active, or is the passive, gleeful observance of pain inflicted on another sufficient to be considered evil? Are intention and volition required or does indifference to the suffering of others qualify as evil? Is witnessing the perpetuation of evil yet refusing to interject on behalf of the victim when one is capable of doing so itself tantamount to evil?  

The objective of this Stephen King essay volume is the serious, academic consideration of evil as manifested in popular fiction (and the popular imagination). How has King framed—and even naturalised, given his normalization of supernatural realism—evil in contemporary western pop culture? Has evil been sanitised? Or aggrandised? And what might be the appeal of evil to what Harold Bloom described as the (King-derived) post-literate reader of contemporaneity? As America’s most popular purveyor of “horror” fiction (or as he himself prefers, “suspense” fiction), Stephen King is naturally the authorial point of reference. How, then, is the concept of evil addressed in King’s oeuvre?

The following list of non-exhaustive approaches is meant to be suggestive rather than prescriptive:

-          Evil as pathogen

-          Evil and theology

-          Evil and pleasure

-          Evil as radical

-          Evil and the sacred

-          Evil as aporia

-          Evil and affect

-          Evil and free will

-          Evil as trace

-          Evil and deontology

-          Evil as environmental destruction

-          Evil and collectivism

-          Evil and eschatology

Please submit 200-word abstracts, along with a very brief CV, by 6 November 2020 to both m.wallbanks@hkuspace.hku.hk and jspolley@hkbu.edu.hk under the heading “Evil King.”  Successful applicants/contributors will be notified by mid-November 2020. The deadline for full papers (6000-8000 words in APA) is 15 March 2021.