Andrew Smith. the Ghost Story 1840-1920: A Cultural History

By Tyler, Daniel | Dickens Quarterly, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Andrew Smith. the Ghost Story 1840-1920: A Cultural History


Tyler, Daniel, Dickens Quarterly


Andrew Smith. The Ghost Story 1840-1920: A Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2010, Pp. 256. 55.00 [pounds sterling].

Andrew Smith's book, The Ghost Story 1840-1920: A Cultural History, s an ambitious and versatile work of scholarship and interpretation. It draws on a thorough knowledge of the latest writing on ghost stories, indicative of Smith's expertise in the field. The book investigates numerous writers across a wide historical range and reads their ghost stories in relation to several different cultural contexts: economic, national, colonial, gendered and literary.

The first chapter begins with an investigation into the significance of the gothic and the ghostly in economic writing, and then chapters on Dickens and Wilkie Collins pursue the theme. Gender issues are foregrounded in a chapter on three women writers of ghost stories: Charlotte Riddell, Vernon Lee, and May Sinclair, which focuses specifically on "ideological and historical factors such as love, money and history" (69). This is followed by a stimulating chapter on the way in which ideas about literary inspiration and creativity were influenced by, but also themselves influenced, the way that the spiritual world was thought about. It refers to familiar works such as Eliot's The Lifted Veil (1859) and Browning's poem, "Mr Sludge 'the Medium' " (1864), as well as less likely texts including the explicitly spiritualist fiction, The Book of the Golden Key (1909), by Hugo Ames and Flora Hayter, and Sir Oliver Lodge's novel, Raymond (1916). A chapter on Henry James persuasively situates James's accounts of ghosts in the context of his thinking about imagination and writing. It focuses on the trope of the "haunted house" as a point of contact between ideas about imagination, ghosts and the past: a gothic reworking of his "house of fiction," as it were. There is a return to Dickens in the penultimate chapter, this time to consider colonial, rather than economic, ghosts, when American Notes is read alongside tales by Le Fanu and Kipling: "How ghosts can be discussed in a colonial context helps to illuminate the complex relationship which existed in the period between the colonial gaze and the apparently subaltern subject" (143). The final chapter on M. R. James's "gothic revival" discerns in the disjunction between narrator and plot in James's tales a "critique of modernism" and of the ghost story tradition itself.

The cover declares the book to be a cultural history of the ghost story, and yet one of its best achievements is to show the intriguing presence of the language of ghosts and "spectrality" beyond the confines of the ghost story, to develop a "discourse of spectrality." This is apparent in some of M. R. James's more generally uncanny stories and, compellingly, in the spectral language in Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White (1860) and No Name (1862). Foundationally for this study, Smith points to Marx's recourse to gothic language, in Das Kapital (1867) and elsewhere, and to Freud's reading of the ghostly in Hoffmann's The Sand Man" in his 1919 essay The Uncanny. Their use of the gothic shows its pervasiveness and it establishes some of the connections between ghosts, the economy and the psychological self that the book goes on to explore.

The book is too multi-faceted, cognisant of too many cultural contexts, to have a dominant central argument, but one of its most recurrent commitments is to read the genre of the ghost story alongside economic discourse. This focus is less central in later chapters, where economic concerns are less pressing, in the stories of the two Jameses, for example, but in Dickens and Collins in particular, Smith shows that figures are haunted often when they are dislocated from a capitalist, consumerist culture.

Smith's readings often raise questions about whether the cultural significance that he traces in the ghost stories is present in the stories themselves, available to their first readers, or only discernible to the later critic.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Andrew Smith. the Ghost Story 1840-1920: A Cultural History
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.