Joyce Carol Oates's 2013 novel The Accursed deals with the scourge placed on the founding families of Princeton University, where Oates teaches.
From the author's Q & A with Jane Ciabattari for The Daily Beast:
What made you think of Princeton as the setting for a gothic novel?Learn about the book that changed Joyce Carol Oates's life.
As soon as I moved to Princeton in 1978, I became fascinated by local history, much of it Revolutionary War-era; and I became fascinated by the presidency of Woodrow Wilson at Princeton University. The phenomenon of the rich white Christian community that becomes afflicted by a "curse"—the emergence of the repressed, the denied, and unconscionably cast-off moral responsibilities to protect Negroes—(as African Americans were called at the time) from the harm of racist threats, intimidation, and mob violence. White Christian leaders might have spoken out against racism, and against extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, but did not. The Accursed is also about the roiling struggle of women's rights—politically, socially, psychologically, sexually. Wilhelmina and Annabel are heroines, of a kind. And they don't surrender romance and love, but end the novel married, we are to assume happily.
You wrote a draft of The Accursed in the early 1980s, then abandoned it. Why did you wait thirty years before returning to it? Did you use a new focus while working on the final draft?
I'd returned to the manuscript a number of times over the years, worked on it but set it aside; the challenge was to find a point of entry, a narrative "voice" that wasn't so 19th century, and a structure that could accommodate numerous characters and perspectives. I had not ever "abandoned" the novel—it was rather more that I wanted to totally rewrite it, but had not quite the key to structuring the story. For some reason, in 2011, when I returned...[read on]