This book examines the British ghost story within the political contexts of the long nineteenth century. By relating the ghost story to economic, national, colonial and gendered contexts it provides a critical re-evaluation of the period. The conjuring of a political discourse of spectrality during the nineteenth century enables a culturally sensitive reconsideration of the work of writers including Dickens, Collins, Charlotte Riddell, Vernon Lee, May Sinclair, Kipling, Le Fanu, Henry James and M.R. James. Additionally, a chapter on the interpretation of spirit messages reveals how issues relating to textual analysis were implicated within a language of the spectral.
Wallace explores nineteenth-century ghost stories written by Elizabeth Gaskell, and later tales by May Sinclair, and Elizabeth Bowen. Using ideas drawn from Modleski and Irigaray she argues that such tales explore how a patriarchal culture represses/buries images of the maternal. She further argues that the ghost story enabled women writers to evade the marriage plots which dominated the earlier Radcliffean Female Gothic, meaning that they could offer a more radical critique of male power, violence and predatory sexuality than was possible in either the realist, or indeed Gothic, novel. Wallace argues that the ghost story functions as the ‘double’ or the ‘unconscious’ of the novel, giving form to what has to be repressed in the longer, more ‘respectable’ form.
Vernon Lees supernatural fiction provides an interesting test case for speculations about the function of spectrality for women writers on the cusp of the modern era. This article argues that spectrality, in line with Julian Wolfreys’ theories about the ‘hauntological disturbance’ in Victorian Gothic (2002), is both disruptive and desirable, informing the narratives we construct of modernity. It traces the links between the ‘unspeakable’ spectral encounter and contemporary attitudes to gender and sexuality in stories in Vernon Lees collection Hauntings (1890), as well as her Yellow Book story ‘Prince Alberic and the Snake Lady’ (1897). The ghostly encounter is erotic and welcomed as well as fearful, used to comment on the shortcomings of heterosexual marriage and bourgeois life, though this often results in the troubling spectacle of the ravished, mutilated or bloody female corpse. Lees negotiation of unspeakability and the desire for the ghostly is compared to the more graphic depictions of the dead female in stories from E. Nesbits Grim Tales (1893). Representations of the female revenant are considered in relation to the psychoanalytic readings of the otherness of the female corpse put forward by Elisabeth Bronfen (1992).
This article explores Riddells representational strategies around gender: in particular her male narrators and her female characters made monstrous by money. It argues that Riddell, conscious of social prohibitions on financial knowledge in women, employs male protagonists to subversive effect, installing in her stories a feminine wisdom about the judicious use of wealth. Her narratives identify the Gothic potential of money to dehumanise, foregrounding the culpability of economic arrangements in many of the horrors of her society. While they contain pronounced elements of social critique, they ultimately however defend late-Victorian capitalism by proff ering exemplars of the ethical financial practice by which moneys action is to be kept benign.
By exploring how laughter is represented in Kipling‘s ghost stories this article attempts a re-evaluation of how colonial and postcolonial identities can be theorised within the Gothic. Laughter, and the disorientation that it provokes, is accorded a Gothic function that destabilises images of colonial authority.
Elizabeth Gaskell s The Old Nurse s Story (1852) occupies a shadowy middle ground between Gothic tale and case history. Concerning sibling rivalry and parental abuse recollected from the vantage of old age, it is both a ghost story and a narrative of maternal absence, paternal domination, transference, and the return of the repressed. Using both psychoanalysis and Gothic genre criticism, this essay traces, in miniature, the Victorian movement from spirits to sexual psychology.
This article examines the effects of distracted sight, peripheral objects and hazily-perceived images in the ghost stories of M. R. James. It argues that the uncanny illumination produced by the accidental glance in his tales bears affinity with many Gothic narratives, including those of E. T. A. Hoffmann and Margaret Oliphant. James‘s work has often solicited only a casual look from critics, yet his exploration of the haunted edge of vision not only grants his work a hitherto neglected complexity, but also places him firmly within the Gothic tradition.
Throughout the nineteenth century, the term ‘uncomfortable houses’ was used to describe properties where restless spirits made life unpleasant for any living persons who tried to claim these supernatural residences as their own. This article uses the idea of ‘uncomfortable houses’ to examine how this ghostly discomfort related to larger cultural issues of economics and class in Victorian Britain. Authors such as Charlotte Riddell and Margaret Oliphant used the haunted house story as a means of social critique which commented on the financial problems facing many lower- and middle-class Victorians. Their stories focus on the moral development of the protagonists and reconciliation through the figure of the ghost, ultimately giving readers the happy endings that many male-authored ghost stories lack. Riddell‘s ‘The Old House in Vauxhall Walk’ and ‘Walnut-Tree House’ and Oliphant‘s ‘The Open Door’ serve as important examples of this ‘suburban Gothic’ literature.
The close relation between concepts of nation and landscapes is well-established in cultural and literary studies. This book considers how the geological substance of national territory itself is used to support ideas of nationhood. The focus of much of the book is on Cornwall (the region located at the far south-west of Britain) and 'primitive' rocks found in this region as an in-depth case study in the context of 'Celtic' Britain. The book begins by focusing primarily on an emerging consciousness of Cornwall as a distinctively rocky territory as depicted in nineteenth-century geological journals, poetry, folklore, travel narratives, gothic and detective fiction. It then looks mainly at twentieth-century ghost stories, Cornish nationalist and New Age writing, and modernist and romance novels. The book reflects how the categories of science and literature were only beginning to take shape in the nineteenth century. It does so by building on well-established connections between these fields to show how geology and poetry together engage with rocks as a basis for perceiving Celtic nations and native races as distinct from England. Finally, the book takes on a more distinctly fictional engagement with the Cornish nationalist imagination and its ghosts.
The last decade has seen a diffusion of the Gothic across a wide range of cultural sites, a relative explosion of Gothic images and narratives prompting a renewed critical interest in the genre. However, very little sustained attention has been paid to what we might term 'Gothic television' until this point. This book fills this gap by offering an analysis of where and how the genre might be located on British and US television, from the start of television broadcasting to the present day. In this analysis, Gothic television is understood as a domestic form of a genre which is deeply concerned with the domestic, writing stories of unspeakable family secrets and homely trauma large across the television screen. The book begins with a discussion on two divergent strands of Gothic television that developed in the UK during the 1960s and 1970s, charting the emergence of the restrained, suggestive ghost story and the effects-laden, supernatural horror tale. It then focuses on the adaptation of what has been termed 'female Gothic' or 'women's Gothic' novels. The book moves on to discuss two hybrid forms of Gothic drama in the 1960s, the Gothic family sitcoms The Munsters and The Addams Family, and the Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. Finally, it looks at some recent examples of Gothic television in the United States, starting with a discussion of the long-form serial drama, Twin Peaks, as the initiator of a trend for dark, uncanny drama on North American television.