"The Dark Descent" assembles 15 original essays that consider King from a variety of intellectual orientations, addressing contributions to American letters and elevating King scholarship to a new level of critical discourse. This volume places King firmly within the canon of contemporary American fiction. The essayists are concerned with explicating the meanings of individual narratives and creating critical contexts for their interpretation. While covering a broad range of his works and using multiple theoretical approaches - including reader-response, mythic, psychoanalytic, and structuralist criticism - to offer insights into King's fiction, most of the essayists reflect on one of two central theses: that King's body of literature may be seen as having been deeply influenced by the mainstream traditions of 19th- and 20th-century American and European fictions, and that the narratives may be read as profound commentary on the major political and social tensions shaping contemporary American life. King's supernatural horrors reflect actual horrors, and his compelling style makes art out of horror fiction. A King chronology, bibliography and an expository introduction flank the analytical essays.