Simon Hay (auth.)'s A History of the Modern British Ghost Story PDF

By Simon Hay (auth.)

ISBN-10: 0230316832

ISBN-13: 9780230316836

ISBN-10: 1349326151

ISBN-13: 9781349326150

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These early ghost stories regularly put between readers and ghost – between readers and historical trauma – such redoubled narrative frames, through which we are then asked to see the haunting. Rarely in this genre do we get a simple present-tense first- or even third-person narrative of some midnight encounter; rather, we get displacements in time, through different narrators and often generations, and also through different media; a layering and a distancing. Scott’s historical novels, especially one like The Antiquary, sometimes set up such narrative layers, but not to the same effect.

Luckhurst points out that the thrust of such theory aims ‘for a “repoliticization” ’ (Derrida’s term) of reading practices, and depends upon the claim of such critics that a generalized ‘spectral process,’ a specific form of the more general category of limit-breaching, is somehow inherently political, a claim that Luckhurst disputes. In other words, Luckhurst argues (and I agree) that the recent turn in theory to the spectral has not politicized reading practices, as Derrida seems to have hoped it would; if we are going to read politically by paying attention to ghosts, then, Luckhurst argues, we need to read ghosts politically, that is, to pay attention to the specific meanings and contexts of any particular ghost: ‘surely we have to risk the violence of reading the ghost, of cracking open its absent presence to answer the demand of its specific symptomatology and its specific locale’ (‘London Gothic’ 542).

In Grace’s novel the telling of stories (and histories) is both the problem and the resolution at the center of the haunting. Throughout, I have picked examples of stories that fit my argument. But these choices are also, I hope, representative of the genre as a whole. Not every ghost story features a pair of binoculars made from the distilled essence of the dead that allow one to literally see the past, as does M. R. James’s ‘A View from a Hill,’ but that story literalizes what is structural about ghost stories as a whole, their focus as a genre on the relationship between the present and its history, and in particular traumatic history, and on how we relate to the dead.

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A History of the Modern British Ghost Story by Simon Hay (auth.)


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