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2.10 - The Genesis of the Victorian Ghost Story

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2020

Catherine Spooner
Affiliation:
Lancaster University
Dale Townshend
Affiliation:
Manchester Metropolitan University
Angela Wright
Affiliation:
University of Sheffield
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Summary

The development of the Victorian ghost story can be contextualised in relation to an array of interleaving discourses of the unseen: the science of optics; the advent of new, invisible technologies that constituted a form of modern supernatural; and the rise of 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. The chapter explores how the Victorian ghost story provided an often oblique vision of gender and class inequalities, and raised fundamental questions about faith and knowledge.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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