Halloween has never been simply about trick-or-treating and spooky stories; it’s about transgression, inversion, the uncanny, and even about social and political parody. That’s according to history Prof Nick Rogers who has recently published a book called Halloween: Pagan Ritual to Party Night.
“There are a number of reasons why I wrote this book,” says Rogers. “As a child I never went trick-or-treating because Halloween was not a recognized holiday in England (unlike Scotland and Ireland). So when I came to Canada I was very curious about it. For some time I have had a scholarly interest in urban festival and this ‘holiday’, which has deep roots in the pagan and Christian past, inevitably spiked my curiosity.
“I also wanted to write a book that would be accessible to the public: a cross-over book that was both academic and of general interest to people interested in history and cultural studies, in the question of how we play.”
In his book Rogers traces Halloween from its Celtic and Christian origins to its arrival in North America, and its development into the festive occasion it is now. He also tracks the way in which Halloween has been appropriated and reshaped in the late 20th century in particular, when it became a parable of urban anxiety, a site of gay identity politics, and a new horror genre.
“The book ends with a discussion of Halloween after 11 September 2001, when Americans were faced with the dilemma of celebrating a fright night after a traumatic terrorist attack,”he says.
York University Bookstore and Oxford University Press recently held a book launch for Halloween at the book store on campus. For more information about the book, check the Media Relations news release: http://www.yorku.ca/ycom/release/archive/100302.htm.