The Genesis of the Victorian Ghost Story

Brewster, Scott (2020) The Genesis of the Victorian Ghost Story. In: The Cambridge History of the Gothic Volume 2. Cambridge University Press. ISBN UNSPECIFIED

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Abstract

The Victorian culture of mourning and fascination with death is only partly responsible for the rise of the ghost story as a distinct genre in the period. More fundamentally, it can be contextualized in relation to an array of interleaving discourses of the unseen: the perceived invisibility of money and the financial markets; the advent of new, invisible technologies (telegraphy, telephony) that constituted a form of modern supernatural; spiritualism and the pseudo-scientific investigation of the paranormal. Many ghost story writers explored, even embraced, the spectral effects of modernity and the ghost story flourished in an historical moment when scientific and technological progress was shadowed by the occult. For women writers, the ghost story is a tale of increasing visibility and opportunity: in a climate of social and political reform, women occupied a prominent role in the genre, exploiting the growing appetite for popular and marketable writing, particularly in shorter forms, afforded by a burgeoning periodical culture. The chapter will conclude by considering the impact of this changing publication context on the development of the ghost story, including the institution of the Christmas ghost tale, networks of writers and ghost story cycles. The main writers to be discussed will be Charles Dickens, Amelia Edwards, Sheridan Le Fanu, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry James, M. R. James, Vernon Lee, Edith Nesbit, Margaret Oliphant and Charlotte Riddell.

Keywords:Ghost Story, Gothic, Victorian Literature, Literature and science
Subjects:Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q321 English Literature by period
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q323 English Literature by topic
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:36647
Deposited On:20 Aug 2019 12:34

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