CHAPTER 4
Twentieth Century

THE GHOST STORY AS THE END OF GOTHIC?

It was argued in the previous chapter that the ghost stories of Dickens, Henry James, and J. H. Riddell illustrate how ‘evil’ was internalised in the Gothic. Their writings also address social and political considerations relating to money, class, and gender. How to gauge the political vision of the ghost story in the early part of the twentieth century appears to be more difficult. Much of the criticism on the form is coloured by a response to the writings of M. R. James, whose highly influential ghost stories were published in collected form between 1904 and 1931. James’s writings bear an imprint on the ghost stories of E. F. Benson, his brother A. C. Benson, Edmund Gill Swain, A. N. L. Munby, and Richard Malden, who had contact with James at Cambridge University; many of them were present there when James read out his tales in his college rooms at Christmas. However, other writers in the period, such as Algernon Blackwood and May Sinclair, produced tales in a slightly different, less heavily stylised, key. This section explores some selected writings of M. R. James, Blackwood, E. F. Benson, and Sinclair. How some of these writers can be linked to modernism provides a closing context in which a reconsideration of the ghost story’s apparent formalism can be re-evaluated.

The ghost story has posed a problem for scholars working on the Gothic. In its unsettling of the relationship between the living and

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