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210 × 148 mm
160 pages
Paperback with flaps
6 illustrations
01 Nov 2006

Stalking Bran Nicol

Stalking is very real and very pervasive. In recent years more and more people have been harassed by strangers or persecuted by ex-lovers. Almost any celebrity you care to mention has been stalked. Numerous films and novels revolve around the figure of the stalker. But, though seemingly everywhere, it is only since the 1990s that the term ‘stalking’ has begun to be widely used.

This unprecedented study reveals the cultural dimension of this obsessive behaviour and examines stalking in the context of contemporary media-saturated culture. Moving from novels of previous historical periods such as Richardson’s Clarissa and Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, to classic Hollywood cinema such as Play Misty For Me and Taxi Driver, to more recent stalking films and novels, Fatal Attraction, One Hour Photo and Enduring Love, Nicol skilfully shows how stalking has pervaded human society for over two hundred years. He also considers famous cases of celebrity stalking such as Jodie Foster, John Lennon, Monica Seles and Jill Dando and related issues such as the internet and TV shows.

By examining the depiction of stalking in books, films and the news, and drawing on forensic psychology, psychoanalysis and cultural theory, this book reveals how fears and desires are expressed in contemporary culture. Stalking offers a unique analysis and history for anyone who wants to make sense of this contemporary phenomenon.

‘Stalking, as a criminal offence and as an obsessive psychological state, has only recently been identified but it has a long and vivid history in literature and film from the schoolteacher Bradley Headstone in Dickens's Our Mutual Friend to Alex Forrest, the bunny boiler in Fatal Attraction. A fascinating mix of psychology, film studies, literature and cultural theory.’ – The Times

‘It’s a new name for an old crime, and Nicol spends some illuminating portions of the book away from modern stalkers, slasher films and their inverted rom-com fellows, to dig into the 19th century. Particularly intriguing is his identification of a line of inheritance from the Baudelairean flaneur, to Poe's prototypical detective, to the modern-day stalker: all creatures of “the crowd”, and of the modern metropolis, which enforce a combination of anonymity and intimacy, grist to the stalker's mill. City of Glass, indeed. ’ – The Guardian

‘Historians define us by our obsessions, and if Bran Nicol is right, these troubled times will be known as the Age of Stalking. It doesn’t quite compare with the Age of Enlightenment, alas. But then the narcissistic attitude Nicol targets in this short, sharp analysis of our deviant cultural psychology isn't much interested in the old profundities. Though a self-absorbed distortion of love is hardly new . . . Nicol builds a strong case that our era has aided and abetted a peculiar obsession to the point where it is accepted as an everyday phenomenon. ’ – Globe and Mail, Toronto

‘Nicol offers a fascinating analysis of one our epoch's most ubiquitous and fascinating facets. What is clear is that regardless of how much we may speak of the phenomenon, and how ubiquitous a phenomenon we may think it, stalking is more ingrained in our culture than we think it, or wish it, to be.’ – Culture Wars

‘While stalkers have been around for centuries, it wasn't until the 1990s that the act was defined, pathologised and criminalised. Stalking is an illuminating study of why stalking became prominent at this time and the role culture has played in feeding this phenomenon. The rise of stalking, Bran Nicol suggests, is the product of a postmodern world rife with mixed messages about what constitutes acceptable behaviour. ’ – The Age, Melbourne

To read an article on stalking by Bran Nicol in US on-line magazine American Sexualities please click here

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Bran Nicol is Professor of English Literature at the University of Surrey, and the author of Iris Murdoch: The Retrospective Fiction (1999), Postmodernism and the Contemporary Novel (2002) and The Private Eye: Detectives in the Movies (Reaktion Books, 2013).