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.
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.
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.
Sibling Rivalry in Elizabeth Gaskell‘s The Old Nurse‘s Story
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.
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.
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.
In February 1848 Dickens reviewed
Catherine Crowe’s The Night Side of Nature; or, Ghosts and
Ghost Seers (1848) for The Examiner . Crowe’s
collection of supposedly verifiable ghoststories was dismissed by
Dickens on two grounds: the metaphysical and the literary. Dickens
argued that spectres were not metaphysical entities but the product of
organic disease by
‘A basic policy of ultimate good taste’: the
One of the key challenges in the
presentation of the Gothic on television has to be the representation of
the unrepresentable. Whether that be an invisible ghost passing through
a room, manifesting as a change of temperature or a barely perceptible
shadow in the corner of one’s eye, or an indescribable
Guppy’s eager response suggests a familiarity with
ghoststories – that they are stylised and conventional but
nevertheless generate narrative expectations. However, there is also
ambivalence here because Guppy has just realised that Esther Summerson
resembles the portrait of Lady Dedlock, and his question thus infers a
relationship between them. For Mrs Rouncewell the ‘story has
nothing to do with a
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.