Convincing Other Teachers to Utilize King

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Joswrita

Member
Jul 5, 2013
19
46
Montgomery, AL
For a long time, I've objected to the label of King as a "horror" writer. Not that he doesn't frequently present horrifying situations or sometimes just scare readers for the fun of it. But I also consider him a very serious craftsman, and much of his writing reminds me of Nathaniel Hawthorne (who also grew up in Maine, though it was then still Massachusetts).

Not only do I regularly assign his books and stories, but I've started to give presentations at academic conferences. I spoke on The Green Mile in February and have just sent a multiwork proposal (reproduced below) to another conference.

I would like to turn these presentations into published papers, and so I ask for HELP. I haven't found much scholarly writing on King. (What is Stephen King's X? Is it any good? Would it help me?) So I need input from other Constant Readers.

For the GM piece, which focuses on the compromises we make to keep our jobs, I keep wondering about the connection between Percy and Brad. Paul keeps telling us ways in which Brad reminds him of Percy. Can I consider Brad a sort of Divine punishment on Paul for having allowed Percy to torment so many? One respondent says no, that Brad just shows us how every workplace has some bad people, but I want to hear from more than one person.

For the other piece, I need help locating all the RF characters. And does anyone know why King uses those initials? I also need help remembering all the alcoholic writers. I know they appear in The Shining, Tommyknockers, Desperation, and Doctor Sleep, but I think I'm leaving some out.

Thank you in advance for your feedback. Here is the proposal I just sent to a conference:

Stephen King’s Demons

In his writings, Stephen King does not present the Devil himself, although Randall Flagg, in The Stand, introduces himself, “Pleased to meet you. Hope you guessed my name.” Flagg not only represents Evil, with supernatural abilities, but he also reappears in other King works, sometimes under the same name, sometimes with a different name but still the initials RF. These demonic characters control many and tempt all. Others must resist them to remain Good. And while Good ultimately triumphs, not all who battle against Evil survive the confrontation. The good characters do not join any particular religious group, but often they do pray more and more, and they shift from cynics to the position that maybe a Good, Higher Power DOES exist out there.

At the same time, King frequently presents another kind of devil/demon in his writings: alcohol. Alcoholic characters, especially alcoholic authors heavily populate King’s stories. King has said in the nonfiction On Writing that not until he himself sobered up did he recognize these characters as himself. Generally these writers join those who perish in the fight for Good—except the protagonist of his recent Doctor Sleep. This character has actively joined AA, and he succeeds at conquering both demonic forces in the story: those within and those without.

Rather than rejecting King as a horror writer, believers should embrace him as a moralistic, Hawthornian writer. He asserts that we must conquer inner demons in order to defeat outer ones. He also insists that Evil is real.
 

Lily Sawyer

B-ReadAndWed
Jun 27, 2009
6,622
14,978
South Carolina
Here's a list of what I remember without having the books beside me:

Randall Flagg = ...

'Salem's Lot - Kurt Barlow
Firestarter - John Rainbird
It - Pennywise
Needful Things - Leland Gaunt
The Talisman - Morgan of Orris/Morgan Sloat
Black House - Charles Burnside
Bag of Bones - Max Devore
Insomnia - the Crimson King
Storm of the Century - André Linoge
Under the Dome - Big Jim Rennie

Hope this helps.
 

skimom2

Just moseyin' through...
Oct 9, 2013
15,683
92,147
USA
Here's a list of what I remember without having the books beside me:

Randall Flagg = ...

'Salem's Lot - Kurt Barlow
Firestarter - John Rainbird
It - Pennywise
Needful Things - Leland Gaunt
The Talisman - Morgan of Orris/Morgan Sloat
Black House - Charles Burnside
Bag of Bones - Max Devore
Insomnia - the Crimson King
Storm of the Century - André Linoge
Under the Dome - Big Jim Rennie

Hope this helps.
WHOA! I wouldn't have equated most of these to Flagg. Bad, yes, but not Flagg. Interesting how differently people can see things :)
 

GNTLGNT

The idiot is IN
Jun 15, 2007
86,328
349,298
58
Cambridge, Ohio
...convincing others to utilize King?....good luck with that...the truly open minded in academia are few and far between, despite whatever tripe they espouse...King is without question one of the best and most prolific writers of all time...sadly though, he will fall short in the minds of those in front of the chalkboards and overhead projectors, because most can't get their narrow minds part what King cut his teeth on...the man is brilliant and is "of the people" not "above the people"...I wish you well in your quest, and applaud your efforts...
 

Joswrita

Member
Jul 5, 2013
19
46
Montgomery, AL
Here's a list of what I remember without having the books beside me:

Randall Flagg = ...

Insomnia - the Crimson King
Storm of the Century - André Linoge
---------------------------------------------------
Bringing up the Crimson King reminds me of another tangent I want to look at another time: All of the Dark Tower references in other books. Insomnia also contains an artist who is still a small boy but becomes a muted adult near the end of Dark Tower.

I'm not counting Linoge because I don't consider vampires the same as demons. I see King's vampires in another class. Though I'm not sure what to consider the Nazi in "Apt Pupil."
Thank you, Lily, for the list of bad guys. I KNOW that some of the books do have baddies whose initials are RF. I'm just too tired to recall at the moment.
Deborah
 
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Joswrita

Member
Jul 5, 2013
19
46
Montgomery, AL
...convincing others to utilize King?....good luck with that... most can't get their narrow minds part what King cut his teeth on...the man is brilliant and is "of the people" not "above the people"...I wish you well in your quest, and applaud your efforts...
I know that Oxford students of Shakespeare's day hated him because he'd never finished high school but his plays were more popular than theirs. I've often wondered if academics paid any attention to Dickens or Twain during their lifetimes. Yeah, a lot of my colleagues won't look seriously at any popular, living author. Unless they call their field "Popular Culture." But even then, most of them are just "slumming." One of the snootiest teachers I ever had wrote lots of papers on Madonna, but I don't think she even liked Madonna much. I have read almost all of King's works. Still need to get Misery, Cujo, Pet Sematary, and Cristine. A few I've read but don't own copies of. With my classes I have used Green Mile, Different Seasons, "Here There Be Tygers," and the one about the magic computer ("something of the Gods"). I have to argue with my students that I really don't think the tiger in the bathroom is the boy's wishful thinking . . . though I understand why many of them think so. For me, King is a writer I can't start reading unless I know I've got a couple of free days. Because once I get past the first few pages, I can't put the book down (and I get very cranky if interrupted--which I'm sure never happens to any of you . . .).
 

skimom2

Just moseyin' through...
Oct 9, 2013
15,683
92,147
USA
Word Processor of the Gods :)

I'm not sure at what level you teach, but it seems to me that a sticking point for a lot of teachers of kids younger than 11th grade (US) is language. Not that the kids haven't heard all of those 'naughty' words before, but educators of younger kids always have parents to contend with, and schools not willing to risk lawsuits. I was aghast this year to find out that my daughter's 9th grade honors English teacher has to fight tooth and nail every year to teach Of Mice and Men, an acknowledged classic. "Laws-a-my! Steinbeck uses the words, 'd**n', 'h**l', and 's**t'!" Can't imagine what the administration and parents would make of Mr. King's liberal dropping of the f-bomb--lol. I'm not complaining, you understand: my kids have all read King (and many other 'scandalous' writers), and I understand that he does not write down for kids (perhaps that's the source of his continuing interest to successive generations). There is much value to be had in his writing, but it's a hard sell in education.
 

Joswrita

Member
Jul 5, 2013
19
46
Montgomery, AL
Thank you, Skimom2. All that would come to mind was "laptop," and I knew that was an anachronism. :)

To All,
I just received notice that the organizers have accepted my conference proposal. I have to look up the exact date, but I think the conference is just after Halloween, at Gordon College in MA.

That Randall Flagg Wikipedia link is helpful but incomplete I think. I recall more RFs than just in The Stand, The Dark Tower, and The Talisman, but memory fails me and I lack time to reread King's entire opus. I suppose I could skim through summaries. Wiki on that too? Or does anyone have a better source? Can I also find summaries of the short stories and novellas? Of course I need more demonic characters in general. If, as in It and Desperation, the Evil force is also alien, would that still qualify as demonic (It Came from Outer Space ...)? I don't consider the aliens of Under the Dome Evil, and as I said earlier, I classify the vampires (except the ones in Doctor Sleep) as different than demons.

Trying to remember. Does the writer in Dark Half drink? Certainly he is his own demon. In which other story do we learn that his marriage fell apart?

This post begins to sound like an SK Trivia Quiz. Better close.

BTW, still no feedback on my Green Mile question ...
 

Shoesalesman

Well-Known Member
Aug 12, 2010
1,814
4,091
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
With all respect intended, Stephen King's books need to stay out of the classroom. Certain books, movies, music, take your pick, should remain in a dark, dingy hole on the outskirts of town, so that when your head is filled with dissection, order and logic for the day, you can leave school, hop on your bike and go to that place where mama says not to go. I'm all for getting kids charged up on new things, especially reading, but some things need to be 'felt' rather than studied.

Not knocking your endeavors, Joswrita, just jumping on my soapbox. Cheers!
 
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Joswrita

Member
Jul 5, 2013
19
46
Montgomery, AL
Today, just outside Boston, I delivered my presentation on Randall Flagg and Good fighting Evil. Afterwards, I heard many people telling each other that they wanted to start reading King, that they hadn't realized he has important things to say."

Thank you all for your help in putting this talk together, especially Spidey for the Flagg link. Maybe academia is not beyond hope after all. :nerd::blues::apple: (Should I avoid smileys after reading Mr. Mercedes?)
 

skimom2

Just moseyin' through...
Oct 9, 2013
15,683
92,147
USA
Today, just outside Boston, I delivered my presentation on Randall Flagg and Good fighting Evil. Afterwards, I heard many people telling each other that they wanted to start reading King, that they hadn't realized he has important things to say."

Thank you all for your help in putting this talk together, especially Spidey for the Flagg link. Maybe academia is not beyond hope after all. :nerd::blues::apple: (Should I avoid smileys after reading Mr. Mercedes?)
SO glad that it went well! Mr. King has some fascinating things to say about faith, human nature, and how we relate to one another. I'd also be interested in seeing/hearing/reading a serious study of his continuing appeal to 'middle America'--what cultural notes he's hitting over and over to both draw a very specific readership and what engenders such fierce loyalty in those readers. As a lifelong and wide ranging reader, I've never encountered a fanbase quite like this one.
 

Grillo

Active Member
Sep 18, 2012
28
99
Bravo to you, Joswrita, for introducing King's work in an academic setting. I think there's a great deal to analyze there, and would similarly group him solidly among the pantheon of American greats, not unlike the early New England writers, Hawthorne, Melville, and Poe. Here's a review written by Margaret Atwood that explores this somewhat. I read it shortly before this, and she makes a similar point: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/22/books/review/stephen-kings-shining-sequel-doctor-sleep.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
 
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