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Fear: A Cultural History (London: Virago and Emeryville, CA: Shoemaker and Hoard2005)


Fear. The word itself conjures the appropriate response. With a dark cacophony of associated words – fright, dread, horror, panic, alarm, anxiety, terror – fear is universally understood as one of the most basic and powerful human emotions, obtaining a nearly palpable and overwhelming substance in today’s world.

Joanna Bourke covers the landscape of fear over the past two hundred years: from the nineteenth century dread of being buried alive – a subject close to the heart of Edgar Allen Poe – to the current worry over being able to die when one chooses; from the diagnosis of phobias and anxieties produced by psychotherapists and lovingly catalogued, to the role of popular culture and media in inciting panic and dread; from the horrors of the nuclear age to the cold fear of twenty-first century terrorism. Blending social, cultural, and military history with psychology, philosophy, and popular science, this book brings to the fore the terrified voices of hundreds of individual Britons and Americans. Fear tells the compelling story of anguish in modern times.

It has been translated into Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Greek.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Fear

Afterword to the Introduction: The face of fear

Part One: Worlds of Doom

1. Death

2. Disasters

Afterword to Part One: Emotionology

Part Two: Spheres of Uncertainty

3. The child

4. Nightmares

5. Phobias

Afterword to Part Two: Spheres of Uncertainty

Part Three: Whorls of Irrationality

6. Social hysteria

Afterword to Part Three: Fear versus anxiety

Part Four: Zones of Confrontation

7. Combat

8. Civilians under attack

9. Nuclear threats

Afterword to Part Four: Narrativity

Part Five: Realms of Anxiety

10. The body

11. Strangers

Afterword to Part Five: Aesthesiology

Conclusion: Terror