A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

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A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

Simon Hay This page intentionally left blank Simon Hay Associate Professor, Department of Literatures in English

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A History of the Modern British Ghost Story Simon Hay

A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

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A History of the Modern British Ghost Story Simon Hay Associate Professor, Department of Literatures in English, Connecticut College

© Simon Hay 2011 All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No portion of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, Saffron House, 6-10 Kirby Street, London EC1N 8TS. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. The author has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. First published 2011 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN Palgrave Macmillan in the UK is an imprint of Macmillan Publishers Limited, registered in England, company number 785998, of Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS. Palgrave Macmillan in the US is a division of St Martin’s Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. Palgrave Macmillan is the global academic imprint of the above companies and has companies and representatives throughout the world. Palgrave® and Macmillan® are registered trademarks in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and other countries. ISBN 978–0–230–27832–5 This book is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully managed and sustained forest sources. Logging, pulping and manufacturing processes are expected to conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Antony Rowe, Chippenham and Eastbourne




Introduction: Even the Dead Will Not Be Safe


1 A Failed Modernity: The Ghost Story as the Bad Conscience of the Historical Novel


2 Fragment and Totality: The Ghost Story and Early Victorian Realism


3 Supernatural Naturalism: The Golden Age of the Ghost Story


4 Ghosts That a White Man Can See: The Ghost Story and Empire


5 ‘I had not Thought Death had Undone so Many’: Modernism and the Ghost


6 The Ghost Story and Magic Realism


Conclusion: Ghosts and History




Works Cited






Like many academic works, this book is far more a collective project than its title page suggests. I would like to thank the many audiences in Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States who responded to and helped shape earlier versions of parts of these arguments; the Spring 2009 students of 494Z: The Ghost Story, who likewise smoothed the rough corners of some of this work; the many academics I worked with as a student, but most especially Warwick Slinn and Ian Baucom; Zach Smith, for compiling this book’s index; Steve Levin, who read most of this book and whose commentary improved it no end; Christian Thorne, without whose conversations, prompts, and editing, this book would barely exist; and most of all Cybele Locke, who managed to be both solidly supportive and refreshingly insightful in her responses to my work. Thank you all.


Introduction: Even the Dead Will Not Be Safe

This book is mostly about the form of modern ghost stories, rather than their content. But these can only be separated in an abstract sense, and working out the stories’ form, at different historical moments, will require paying attention to their content as well. At the level of content, ghost stories repetitively address a set of socio-historical concerns that we need to take into account before we can really extrapolate from them anything significant about form. Thus, I am going to take a few pages now to explore and explain those socio-historical concerns, and some of the ways the modern English ghost story addresses them. I will also explain something of what each of these terms – ‘modern,’ and ‘English,’ and ‘ghost story,’ as well as ‘history’ – mean, in the context of this book. I begin with a reading of Charlotte Riddell’s ‘The Open Door,’ a ghost story from the late nineteenth century that is in many ways representative of the genre as a whole. It turns on ideas of trauma, history, class, and Empire, all of which are common stock for ghost stories; this reading provides a framework for the focus on genre that informs the book as a whole. Along the way, I will jump sideways a few times into quick readings of other ghost stories, for comparisons and confirmations. And I will conclude with a summary of the chapters of the book, explaining how its focus moves from the nineteenth-century ghost story, in its various forms, to the literary ghost’s migration, in the twentieth century, from that genre – its birthplace and native home – into modernist and postcolonial novels. Talking about form and about genre raises the always-tricky question of the relation between any single story and the genre as a whole. In what sense is any particular story representative or exemplary of the genre? ‘The Open Door’ is an exemplary ghost story, but ‘exemplary’ here means two precisely contradictory things, and I mean 1


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

both: something is ‘exemplary’ if it rises above the others of its type, if it can be marked out as unique; but something is also ‘exemplary’ if it is a mere example of its type, if it is average and ordinary. Something of this dilemma is at the heart of all representation, I think, but especially representation that has to do with trauma, since traumas are themselves always both unique and repetitive; and the dilemma is also a key to the genre of the ghost story, as to the idea of genre more broadly. Any individual ghost story gives an account of a specific and irreducible trauma; some specific haunted mansion, murdered count, or interrupted inheritance. But ghost stories collectively, ghost stories as a genre, deny precisely the irreducibility of those traumas. To read an anthology of ghost stories is to watch the several traumas of each story accumulate, like the history that Benjamin’s angel watches piling up, to the point where history figures only as a single repeated trauma, the traumatic transition, as I will argue in this introduction, from feudalism to capitalism lived out over and over again. Exemplarity, then, is not just a problem we face when trying to understand a genre through its examples, but rather is the structural logic of the ghost story as a genre. Every ghost story is indeed both the same and unique, and the conclusions I want to draw from Riddell’s story are both specific to that story and representative of the genre as a whole, and the sustained contradictions between those claims are themselves key to work that ghost stories do.

Of doors, their opening and closing In Charlotte Riddell’s ‘The Open Door’ (1882), the door of the story’s title stands in Ladlow Hall, and this door is at the center of the story’s haunting: bolt, wedge, or fix how they may, none of the characters can keep it closed; as soon as they turn away, and turn back, the door stands open again. Ladlow Hall is the property of Lord Ladlow, as we might expect, though it is currently being leased to a Mr Carrison. The story’s haunted space, that is, as so often in ghost stories, is an aristocratic property into which commoners are moving. The story begins, though, not in this genteel countryside, but in another location also crucial to the genre of the ghost story as a whole, a space that the story wants us to imagine as the urban and bourgeois opposite of rural aristocratic property: ‘the office of Messrs Frimpton, Frampton and Fryer, auctioneers and estate agents,’ in London (p. 256). The Dickensian name is clue enough to the mockery here directed at the firm; its pettiness and insignificance, its, if you like, deficiency of the blood, is quickly spelt out. Our narrator and hero, though a clerk in

Introduction 3

this firm of solicitors, quickly claims his distance from and superiority to it, uttering a distaste we are invited and expected to share: ‘I did not like the occupation of clerk in an auctioneer’s office, and I did not like my employers,’ he tells us, in a parenthetical aside, within a page of the opening (p. 257). He also demonstrates a superior ability to know, read, and judge the careful gradations of social hierarchy. Mr Carrison, the current lessee of Ladlow Hall, is identified by one of the firm’s senior clerks as a ‘tea-dealer,’ but our hero, Phil, recognizes the inadequacy of this description, identifying Carrison as ‘a merchant in the China trade, possessed of fleets of vessels and towns of warehouses’ (p. 257). Phil’s social superiority is thus marked, initially at least, not by birth but by his ability to recognize and interpret Carrison’s social rank with precision. We do, however, quickly learn that Phil’s family, though poor, was once ‘better off,’ Phil’s father having ‘owned a small property in the country’ (p. 258). Phil’s sense of the details is appropriately vague – gentlemen do not bother themselves with the details of money, after all – but he does explain that the property was lost ‘owing to the failure of some bank.’ ‘We might have managed on our income, I think, if we had not been so painfully genteel,’ he then remarks (p. 258). Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the largest portion of the income of most solicitors like Frimpton, Frampton and Fryer came from their work around the ownership, rent, legitimacy and inheritance of the property of the aristocracy and gentry (Offer 1981). But in Riddell’s ghost story, the work that Phil does on behalf of Carrison and Lord Ladlow is not the standard work of solicitors and clerks, not drawing up documents of ownership, transference or conveyance, leaseholds and rents, entailment or inheritance. Rather than any of that, Phil rids the manor house of its ghost. And so we run into the first big point about the ghost story that we are going to want to carry with us: ghost stories are often a matter of the law, as long as we understand the law as the profession that helps one to deal with the past, with its burden: the consequences of past actions. A good lawyer is one who can make the past go away and so is indistinguishable from an exorcist. The law-clerk as exorcist: It is not so strange a leap. It turns out many nineteenth-century ghost stories feature lawyers or solicitors like Phil. We eventually learn that Phil’s full name is Theophilus Edlyd, though we also learn that the other clerks call him ‘Sandy’ after ‘an ill-looking Scotchman . . . they had seen at the theatre’ (p. 256). This many-namedness functions as a marker of Phil’s unfixed and uncertain social status; one way of describing the arc of the narrative, then, is its process of ‘fixing’ Phil’s social position to a single name and a single role; no longer


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

a law-clerk, but a restored landowner. Coming from a family that has fallen from the landholding class, the story propels him towards an ending in which he will regain a property commensurate with his patrician manners and breeding; that is to say, he will become a gentleman not just in manners, education, and family, but also in wealth. Even the resolution of the haunting Phil manages to carry out at the request of both Lord Ladlow and Mr Carrison; Phil’s role is to bring the aristocracy and the middle class together in a shared project, rather than to deepen (or resolve) the divide between them. Phil’s own status by the story’s end, then, serves as the story’s imaginary resolution to a real social crisis. Resolving the problem of haunting is the narrative device by which Phil shifts himself from the ranks of the solicitors to the ranks of the landed gentry, a shift that the story asks us to understand as a restorative move, an undoing of the present in favor of the past, rather than either the continuation of the current order or the development of something new. But let us work through the story’s narrative more slowly, to see how the story gets Phil to where he is going, and with what consequences. Carrison wants out of his lease at Ladlow Hall; it turns out that the old Lord Ladlow, uncle to the current Lord, was murdered in his study, though by whom is unknown. It is the uncle’s ghost, it seems, that keeps the door open. Putting the ghost to rest, then, will require solving the mystery surrounding his murder (p. 274). Here then is the next basic thing to say about ghost stories: in them, the ghost is something that comes back, the residue of some traumatic event that has not been dealt with and that therefore returns, the way trauma always does. To be concerned with ghost stories is to be concerned with suffering, with historical catastrophe and the problems of remembering and mourning it. Trauma, as many theorists have observed, leads to failed narratives, gaps in consciousness, slippages in epistemology (for example, Caruth 1996). A traumatic history has trouble saying what causes those gaps, failures and slips, though they can perhaps be reconstructed retrospectively; in the first instance, a traumatic history is more likely to point to its own repeated referential failures. Ghost stories are a mode of narrating what has been unnarratable, of speaking such history belatedly, of making narratively accessible historical events that remain in some fundamental sense inaccessible. The figure of the ghost as a present-absence, there and not there both at once, visible and yet invisible, makes the ghost story singularly well-suited to such a narrative task. To say that the ghost in a ghost story comes back because some traumatic past event remains unfinished, has been improperly inherited in

Introduction 5

the present, might suggest a particular kind of psychoanalytic understanding of the form. But I do not think Freud can help us explain ghost stories, even if psychoanalytic readings dominate the criticism. The main reason to insist on social and historical understandings of the trauma that the ghost story addresses, rather than psychoanalytic ones, is that Freud’s psychoanalytic categories are fundamentally ghostly already. In his 1915 letter on transference love, for instance, Freud describes psychoanalysis as a kind of séance, charged with the ‘task of re-creating the repressed’ by ‘summoning up a spirit from the underworld’ (Freud 2006, p. 341, 345; Thorne 2010, p. 133). And his model of the psyche is equally the product of Victorian and Edwardian ideas of the supernatural: Plato described the well-regulated psyche in terms modeled on the well-regulated city-state (and vice versa); for Freud, in contrast, the psyche was modeled on the classic haunted house, both its attic and its cellar populated with ghosts and other monsters in the shape of repressed traumas and desires, just waiting for the right moment to pop up the cellar steps or out of the closet in the form of neurotic symptoms or slips of the tongue (Edmundson 1997, p. 7; Buse and Stott, 1999, p. 12).1 In other words, Freud’s version of the psyche and of the psychoanalytic process are so thoroughly modeled on the ghost story, that to try to turn around and explain the ghost story in terms of psychoanalysis is a circularity that will get us nowhere. Yes, we will be able to say; this ghost story looks like it references the psyche; but only because Freud’s conception of the psyche was always built out of references to ghost stories anyway. But another reason to look for historical rather than psychoanalytic explanations of how trauma functions in ghost stories is because the stories themselves demand to be understood thus. In ‘The Open Door,’ the wife of the murdered Lord Ladlow, we learn, was much younger than him; three days before he died he wrote a new will leaving his money to the nephew rather than the wife; and as he was killed he was writing a letter to the nephew, offering him an explanation of why the will was changed, involving the uncle’s honor and the destruction of his peace (p. 275). But the new will is lost, and so the inheritance goes to court. The suggestion is clear that the young wife took a lover, was discovered and disinherited, and then committed this murder to retain control of the title and wealth; but in not following up or filling in this narrative, it is equally clear that the story is not so much concerned with that aspect of events. At the end of the story, Phil realizes the widow is searching for the will in order to destroy it. He tells Ladlow where he should look to find it (hidden in the furniture, which needs to be destroyed to release its secret), and with the recovery of the will, the court case is resolved, and


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

the nephew, the new Lord Ladlow, gets the wealth to go with his title. In other words, the story is not interested in the jealousy or the love, the anger or the hatred – the psychoanalytic categories – but rather in property, and especially inheritance. Rather than family trauma, I want to argue that the key concern of the story is class mobility, which is not to say, of course, that class mobility does not produce and invoke all sorts of psychic distress, but only that the story’s concern is not with psychological categories but rather with the trauma as social. Insistently, as we will see, the trauma demanding to be accounted for (remembered, mourned, redressed) is not presented as an exception to some general rule, but rather as an instance of the general rule of the transition from feudalism to capitalism.2 Let me quickly offer a second example. In George MacDonald’s story ‘Uncle Cornelius His Story’ (1869), our narrator is telling us the story of Uncle Cornelius telling his story to his nieces and nephew (and such displacements of narrative frame are also typical of the ghost story). Cornelius, staying at the manor-house of his friend’s father (the local squire), encounters the ghost of an old-fashioned old woman, hunched at an ‘ancient bureau, elaborate and ornate,’ that is the only piece of non-modern, non-commonplace furniture in his room. The ghost is going over some old account books, not of pounds but merely shillings and pence. This is how Cornelius reflects on the ghost’s activity: No doubt pounds and farthings are much the same in the world of thought – the true spirit-world; but in the ghost-world this eagerness over shillings and pence must mean something awful! To think that coins which had since been worn smooth in other pockets and purses, which had gone back to the Mint and been melted down, to come out again and yet again with the heads of new kings and queens – that dinners, eaten by men and women and children whose bodies had since been eaten by the worms – that polish for the floors inches of whose thickness had since been worn away – that the hundred nameless trifles of a life utterly vanished, should be perplexing, annoying, and worst of all, interesting the soul of a ghost who had been in Hades for centuries! It needs no treasured hoard left behind, no floor stained with the blood of the murdered child, no wickedly hidden parchment of landed rights! An old account-book is enough for the hell of the house-keeping gentlewoman! (p. 145) The ghost has a very specific relationship to Laetitia, the squire’s daughter with whom Cornelius is falling in love, and who shows a propensity

Introduction 7

for the same kind of domestic accounting, an inappropriately intense concern with the pennies and shillings of manorial management. But the horror of the situation is clearly nothing to do with the uniqueness of that position but rather the increasingly widespread commonality of it. And this horror is twofold: on the one hand, a horror at the general mundanity of life, of the requirement for such accounting, of the capitalist-Protestant ideology that teaches us to ‘take care of the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves’; and on the other hand, a horror that a gentlewoman should (need to) concern herself with the mechanics of survival, that the daughter of a squire inherits not wealth and plenty but rather mortgaged land, debts, and a world structured around a market economy rather than a feudal one. The concern of ‘The Open Door’ with class mobility is clear at the very outset, back in the offices of Messrs Frimpton, Frampton and Fryer, when Phil gets fired, as his employer Mr Fryer puts it, because ‘Since you have been in this place you have never known your position’ (p. 260). Ghost stories are hardly on their own, here: class boundaries are a central anxiety for much eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature. A declining aristocracy, insistently troubled with failed or interrupted inheritance, and an emergent middle class concerned to establish its legitimacy are the stuff of the novel from at least Defoe onwards. In ‘The Open Door,’ the particular over-stepping of his position that tips the balance for Phil involves Mr Carrison, who wants the lawyers to get him out of his lease at Ladlow Hall, where he has found the presence of the ghost intolerable. The lingering presence of the aristocracy is too troubling for the bourgeois renter. Phil bypasses his recalcitrantly bourgeois employer, and goes direct to Mr Carrison, offering to close the door at Ladlow Hall and thereby end the haunting and erase the traces of the building’s aristocratic past. Carrison, not sure whether to trust Phil, asks for a recommendation; Phil suggests his uncle, a tradesman, a man rejected by the Edlyd family for being of low birth. Of his uncle, Phil says ‘He had risen, not quite from the ranks it is true, but if ever a gentleman came ready born into the world it was Robert Dorland, upon whom at our home everyone seemed to look down’ (p. 265). Phil, then, is marked off from the snobbery of his genteel family by his recognition of the value of the self-made man, the gentleman of manners and dignity rather than of birth and blood, just as he is marked off from the other clerks by his own birth, by his refusal to understand himself as ‘merely’ a clerk, and by his nuanced recognition of social rank. Phil’s own ‘proper’ gentility


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

is further marked when he declares himself ‘one of the few people left on earth who love the country and hate cities’ (p. 267). The uncle’s business integrity is respected by Carrison – Carrison, as a good merchant, like Phil recognizes value in integrity and hard work and good manners rather than simply birth – and so Phil gets the commission. Before we even get to the ghost, then, it is clear that class is a central concern of the story, both in the anxiety around Carrison as a merchant inhabiting a lordly hall and around Phil’s own position as a petit-bourgeois clerk who is also fallen-gentry, on his way (through the ‘open door’) to re-establishment. But when we get to the story’s haunting, the other aspect of its anxiety about class becomes clear, and it is here that we see most clearly the version of trauma that the story is concerned with. That the current Lord Ladlow is named as his uncle’s heir indicates a failure of primogeniture; there is no son. An even greater threat hangs over the property, however, with the old Lord’s widow contesting its ownership, in which case the estate might pass out of the family altogether. Property and title are about to split apart, representative of anxieties about the inability of the aristocracy to pass on their inheritance. Saving this relationship between land and title is then the specific achievement that Phil manages for the Ladlow family name. Here then is the next central point we can make about ghost stories generally: modern ghost stories are fundamentally narratives of class identity, in a particular register. Ghost stories are consistently set in spaces like Ladlow Hall: aristocratic residences, either fallen into decay or newly-inhabited by the bourgeoisie. Such homes are spaces where struggles over class identity are going on throughout the transition to modernity. As Anne McClintock has argued, the key labor performed by many nineteenth-century bourgeois homes was the erasure of labor; middle-class women and their servants worked at appearing not to work. In contrast, in earlier aristocratic homes servants were displayed prominently, since they vouched for their masters’ aristocratic status. In the middle-class home, servants were newly invisible, and so ghost-like: absent presences (Lynch 2004). Nineteenth-century fictions contain two classes of being who flit about great houses unseen – ghosts and servants – and sometimes a story even pauses to mark the affinity. In ‘The Open Door,’ for instance, the story actually centers around two adjacent doors: one to the uncle’s study, which cannot be closed, and the other to the uncle’s servant’s room just off his study, which is locked and cannot be opened.

Introduction 9

The ghost story is thus concerned with articulating a middle-class identity in distinction from both the working-class that it depends upon but renders invisible, and the landed gentry that it is simultaneously replacing and becoming absorbed into, and at different moments and in different ways the ghost functions as marking middle-class anxieties about its identity formation in either or both of these directions. The British ghost story is preoccupied with status inconsistency, that nagging sense – pervasive, in fact, across some two centuries of British fiction – that wealth and lineage had become two competing standards of eminence or power, that rank and money had been cruelly dissociated from each other. The come-down aristocrat and the nouveau-riche vulgarian are the stock characters of much British fiction, whose business it is to close the gap announced by their very existence. It is notable how often ghost stories will close the gap by engineering an aristocratic restoration. Still, as ‘The Open Door’ demonstrates, the aristocracy can only be restored in changed form, and Phil’s success demonstrates that the aristocracy can accommodate the more educated and sophisticated elements of British capitalism, primarily the financial sector, the elite merchants, and military officers, and the top ranks of civil servants and imperial administrators of London (Cain and Hopkins 2002). Phil, that is, will come to represent the ‘gentlemanly capital’ ideal, thus resolving what the opening pages establish as an opposition between the aristocratic rural space of Ladlow Hall, whose haunted open door attests to the problems of inheritance that the aristocracy cannot solve for itself, and the bourgeois urban space of Messrs Frimpton, Frampton and Fryer, whose social ignorance is clearly not going to provide a solution to the problem of this ghost, either. And managing to close the door – only after, in a more figurative sense, he has himself passed through it, into the ranks of the landed gentleman –and thus resolve the problem of haunting is how Phil will resolve the contradiction that is at the heart of the story’s haunting, a contradiction, as we will see, between the aristocratic and the mercantile systems, both of which Phil is working for, and thereby bring the story to a close. So how does Phil manage to close the door? Commissioned by Carrison to investigate the open door at Ladlow Hall, he sets off from London, aided and encouraged by his cousin Patty, ‘the blithest, prettiest, most useful, most sensible girl,’ whom he will in the end marry. He dresses in his ‘volunteer garments,’ takes his volunteer rifle and a borrowed pistol, and rides the train to Ladlow Hall (pp. 261, 266). And it is this volunteer rifle that provides him with his first clue to the mystery.


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

The Victorian Volunteer Movement was a key institution of Victorian imperial ideology (Morton 1986), and ghost stories, it will turn out, have more to do with Empire than we might expect, and than criticism has accounted for. In this story, Phil is a volunteer, his father and brother are both in the military, and the military’s primary spheres of engagement by the 1880s were in the far reaches of Empire, rather than Europe. The floor of the haunted room of Ladlow Hall is pointedly described as covered with a ‘Turkey carpet’ (p. 270); Carrison’s money, which underwrites Phil’s attempt at resolution, comes from the China tea trade, which is to say, from access to Chinese markets forcibly opened up to British merchants by the Opium Wars; and Mr Fryer suggests to Phil, when he fires him, that he had ‘better go to Australia’ (p. 263). Empire is visible in the story, in other words, but only in seemingly marginal or background ways. But the only-marginally-visible is precisely the central concern of ghost stories in general. And in general, this is the next key point to make about ghost stories – that they are, in complicated ways, insistently about Empire. We can begin here by extending Said’s well-known argument about Mansfield Park (1993) – that nineteenth-century British novels can make the British Empire, on which the way of life depicted in such novels absolutely depends, visible only as a kind of structuring absence – to nineteenth-century ghost stories like Riddell’s ‘The Open Door.’ Riddell’s story too celebrates a way of life and a set of values that make invisible and simultaneously depend upon the whole colonial system of the British Empire. The structural totality of the Victorian worldsystem includes Empire, even or especially when Empire is invisible. But because ghost stories systematically focus on invisible presences, on liminality generally, such invisibility is actually central, while seeming marginal. An example: in Sheridan Le Fanu’s ghost story ‘Green Tea’ (1869), an Anglican minister is haunted by a monkey who appears to him only upon drinking large amounts of green tea. Jack Sullivan (1978) insists that any attempt to explain the story – the two options he considers are via Freud (the monkey is ‘the product of schizoid neurosis’), and in Christian terms (it is ‘dark and hairy with original sin’) – is to ruin the ‘mystery and menace’ of the story (p. 17). For Sullivan, the story’s success lies in its refusal of explanation, in its ‘fundamental irony: the awful disjuncture between cause and effect, crime and punishment’; the story’s protagonist ‘is ceaselessly pursued and tormented for no discernible reason’ (p. 18). But Sullivan is himself oblivious to the obvious, determined to marginalize what is central. Tea, an iconically ‘English’

Introduction 11

commodity that is a product of imperial trade, is what causes the veil to be torn between the visible world and the invisible world whose structure underlies the visible. The ghost takes the form of a monkey, an animal European sailors often brought back from Asia, Africa, or the Americas because it has no natural home in Europe. Together, these key icons for the story suggest straightforwardly that neither Freudian psychology nor religion but rather empire is the anxiety that structures the story. The story shares its basic point with Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism (1972), that through his relationship with colonialism or empire an ordinary man becomes an ‘everyday monster’ (p. 47). The story’s horror is not the lack of a discernible causality, but rather the existence of empire as the structure underlying the availability of green tea to English ministers. If empire is a structural absence rather than a central concern for much nineteenth-century British literature, then in the ghost story structural absences are themselves a central concern. Nineteenthcentury British social reality – that is to say, the network of relationships, interdependencies, flows of bodies, trade goods, money, ideas and information, the social totality that structures the world of the ghost stories, the truth underlying the mere experiences of the lives of characters and readers – this social reality has included from the genre’s beginnings absolutely the hard facts of empire. The social relationships that the ghost story addresses, as it tries to imagine solutions for the social crises these relations increasingly find themselves confronting throughout modernity, are insistently imperial ones. There are straightforward examples of ghost stories that address empire directly, as we shall see in Chapter 4 – Arthur Conan Doyle’s fantastically racist ‘The Brown Hand,’ say. Worth mentioning now because I neglect them later are William Fryer Harvey’s ‘Sambo,’ in which an African fetish-doll, given to a young English girl, forces her to sacrifice all her other dolls and worship only him; and Somerset Maugham’s ‘Taipan,’ in which an Englishman in Singapore, happily looking forward to a retirement in that city, is suddenly confronted with a ghostly vision of some locals digging his own grave, and learns to ‘properly’ experience the dislocations of empire as horror. But even stories like Riddell’s make central the changes to English society that are being wrought by the project of imperialism: ‘English’ ghost stories, it is worth reminding ourselves, are written largely by the non- or complicatedly English. Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson (Scottish), Henry James and Edith Wharton (Americans), Joseph Conrad (Polish), Hugh Walpole (born in New Zealand), Arthur Machen (Welsh),


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

and Sheridan Le Fanu and Elizabeth Bowen (Irish) are all central figures. Many other central figures, most crucially Rudyard Kipling, but also Saki, Somerset Maugham, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and F. Marion Crawford, were engaged more or less directly with the British imperialist project, and so were English mostly in the beyond. Ghost stories are, in their classic form, more interested in some invisibilities than others: not so much the remote presences of the British empire, but rather with the protoplasmic absences of the English past. ‘The Open Door’ recognizes a social contradiction structuring the Victorian ruling class, namely, that status still lies with the landed aristocracy but money, power, and initiative all lie with the tea merchant and his class. Already in that formulation, though, we can see that empire is a key part of that social contradiction, even as the story focuses our attention on aristocratic order and its inheritance rather than imperial order. But imperial order is part of what makes the story’s resolution possible. The problem at the center of ‘The Open Door,’ then, is this one of aristocratic inheritance. In this, again, it is typical of ghost stories generally (Parkin-Gounelas 1999, p. 134). Literally, the disputed inheritance of the Ladlow estate, which might or might not be passed on to the next Lord Ladlow, nephew of the murdered man, whose ghost now holds open the mysterious door. More figuratively, the inheritance that the story addresses is the inheritance of a past figured as feudal by a present figured as capitalist. The story offers an imaginary solution to the contradiction between aristocratic status and bourgeois wealth in two main ways. First, the restoration of the broken link in the Ladlow family inheritance, when Ladlow Hall is restored to the new Lord Ladlow; and second, the Edlyd family’s return to landed comfort, in the figures of Phil and his cousin-now-wife Patty. That it is the monetary agency of Carrison that makes all this possible is the story’s gesture at the structures that have produced this social contradiction, namely, the increasing success of and dependence on imperial and capitalist modes of trade and indeed agriculture in pursuing and sustaining national wealth. The final characteristic by which I want to describe ghost stories, then, and one that will perhaps seem obvious by this point, but which bears emphasis, is that they function as narrative examples of one of Adorno’s aphorisms: ‘The expression of history in things is no other than that of past torment’ (1974, p. 49). In ghost stories, the key figure for the history-as-suffering is precisely the haunted house: houses are loci of a

Introduction 13

history of suffering and trauma, instantiated in the persistence of such feudal property as aristocratic mansions, manors, castles and abbeys. Modern ghost stories figure history as suffering by engaging with a model of historicity that becomes available only in the early nineteenth century, the same model of historicity that structures the historical novel. We can, in a kind of shorthand, talk about ‘modernity’ as characterized in part by an increasing sense of the present as a distinct category from the future but especially from the past. The word ‘modernity’ emerges, says Hans Robert Jauss, ‘at a time when our perception of the familiar historical world is separated from a past that is no longer accessible to us without the mediation of historical knowledge’ (2005, p. 329). This new relationship between the past and the present is always complexly up for grabs in both the historical novel and the ghost story; each in different ways questions and addresses the status of the present as both the inheritor of the past and as well something utterly distinct from it. This relationship between past and present can perhaps most easily be framed in terms of two of the more standard lines about ghost stories. The first is the epigraph to L. P. Hartley’s The Go-Between: ‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’ And yet, of course, that ‘different country’ is nonetheless and at the same time our history, what we inherit: as Faulkner put it, ‘the past is never dead. It’s not even past’ (1961). The ghost story, like the historical novel, consistently negotiates in its narrative the contradiction between these two relationships with the past, questioning how the present inherits that past, how it relates to it, how it follows from that past, how we get from there to here. And in ghost stories it is precisely the figure of the ghost that marks both the present as distinct from the past and at the same time the persistence of the past into the present. An Edith Wharton ghost story, ‘Kerfol,’ illustrates one of these ways that the ghost story asks us to think about history. The story’s narrator, an American on tour in Europe, remarks on the sense of history visible to him in the very landscape and especially in the property that he observes, instantiating a stereotypically American attitude to Europe: Europe is characterized not so much by the possession of history, insofar as ‘history’ then means ‘traditions of aristocratic possession,’ a possession that America by comparison lacks, but rather by the idea of history as the transition from such a feudal-aristocratic state to a modern one. (Such a characterization in turn implies that only white people ‘have’ history, or only white history matters, a claim even more visible in ghost


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

stories with imperial settings.) In the logic of the ghost story, history resides in architecture and landscape; time and memory take on physical embodiment: I sat down on a stone and lit a cigarette. As soon as I had done it, it struck me as a puerile and portentous thing to do, with that great blind house looking down at me, and all the empty avenues converging on me. It may have been the depth of the silence that made me so conscious of my gesture. The squeak of my match sounded as loud as the scraping of a brake, and I almost fancied I heard it fall when I tossed it onto the grass. But there was more than that: a sense of irrelevance, of littleness, of futile bravado, in sitting there puffing my cigarette smoke into the face of such a past. I knew nothing of the history of Kerfol [the house] . . . but one couldn’t as much as glance at that pile without feeling in it a long accumulation of history. What kind of history I was not prepared to guess: perhaps only that sheer weight of many associated lives and deaths which gives a majesty to all old houses. But the aspect of Kerfol suggested something more – a perspective of stern and cruel memories stretching away, like its own grey avenues, into a blur of darkness. Certainly no house had ever more completely and finally broken with the present. As it stood there, lifting its proud roofs and gables to the sky, it might have been its own funeral monument. ‘Tombs in the chapel? [which he has been told to be sure to visit] The whole place is a tomb!’ (93–4) Even the ‘littleness’ of the narrator is marked by his modernity – not just the squeak of the match, but that it sounds like a braking automobile. The history of the house is tangible to the narrator as something ‘stern and cruel,’ as something that has ‘broken with the present’; the aristocratic house of antiquity stands as its own funereal monument, marking its own death even as it persists into the present, disrupting everyday modernity. A ghost story like ‘Kerfol’ very precisely understands the history instantiated in the persistence of such feudal property as this house to be a history of trauma, of suffering. Historical novels are what we can call modernity narratives: they recount the successful separation of present from past – as reassuringly announced in the subtitle of Waverley: ’Tis Sixty Years Since – and then the successful but selective inheritance of the now distant past, figured here as feudal, by the present, figured here as capitalist. The point is

Introduction 15

clearest in Scott’s Scottish novels, in which regardless of the historical specificity of the temporal setting, the Scottish Highlanders are feudal remnants whose eradication makes possible the arrival of capitalist modernity into Scotland, even though those same Highlanders will bequeath to some moderns their habits or tastes or sensibilities. But the ghost story is, unlike the historical novel, a failed modernity narrative. The importance of this point is hard to overstate. And I mean it in both senses: as narratives, ghost stories typically fail to account for modernity; and what they are struggling in vain to account for is a failed (or at least, endangered) transition to modernity. The modernity on display in the ghost story has not successfully distinguished itself from its past; indeed, the whole point of the ghost story is that the present cannot wrench free of the past and so has not become fully modern. The ghost story, in other words, holds to a model of history as traumatically rather than nostalgically available to us. It is of course this anxiety about the failure to be modern that most marks the ghost story as modern, though the entire paradigm will get more complicated once there is no longer an easy feudal space in which to stage the failure of modernity – once the genre moves, that is, away from castles and country mansions to the metropolis, and to the imperial outpost, as we shall see. So: the traumatic past, and especially the traumatic transition from feudalism to capitalism. If we factor in now the question of empire, we see, first, that nineteenth-century ghosts stories focus on the parts of Britain belatedly making the transition to capitalism, or more to the point, spaces onto which the values of feudalism can be projected, from the urban, bourgeois space of writer and reader: Scott’s Highlanders, or Le Fanu’s Irish peasants, paradigmatically, but also any corner of rural England. Later ghost stories, by writers both imperialist and colonized, make clear the centrality of this traumatic transition in their depiction of the structure of empire as a series of repetitions of Europe’s bloody transition into modernity, as though Britain kept going out to re-experience (and re-inflict) its foundational trauma over and over again (Orlando 2006, p. 228). To return, one more time, to Riddell’s ‘The Open Door,’ and to the clue proffered by Phil’s volunteer rifle. Having come to the conclusion that the door in question must kept open by some supernatural agency, Phil nonetheless also finds that his rifle, when left alone, ‘had been tampered with,’ and he thinks he sees, but cannot quite be sure, a ‘girl or a woman’ running off into the undergrowth (274, 276). He concludes, therefore, that there are in fact two mysteries here; that the door is kept open through ‘no human agency,’ but that as well there is someone else in the


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

house with him: his papers are disturbed, there are other footprints, and finally he finds a hairpin near the locked door to the valet’s room. He decides to set a trap for this mysterious other person, and though weakened by a poisoning attempt, he keeps vigil outside the valet’s room, the room just off the study to which he has no key. At dawn he sees the dowager widow enter the haunted room from the valet’s room and begin to search through a cabinet, evidently looking for the missing will and letter. Confronting her, they grapple, and in his weakened state she is on the verge of overpowering him when they both see ‘an awful figure, with uplifted hand’ standing in the doorway. She shoots Phil in the shoulder and flees. Discovered in a pool of blood by the postman, Phil is nursed back to health by Lord Ladlow, who hushes up the scandal by allowing the dowager to flee overseas; at Phil’s direction, the will and letter are found, and Ladlow allows Carrison to give up the lease, restoring the hall to aristocratic rather than mercantile inhabitants. The story ends some years further on, with Phil happily married to Patty, the owner of ‘a farm which I manage, and make both ends meet comfortably’ (282). But this resolution, though it ties up the loose ends of the dowager’s evil deed, restoring both the legal inheritance of the aristocrat and Phil’s own return to the status of landed gentry, in no absolute sense puts to rest the ‘awful figure’ of the ghost, and the story’s final paragraph, in a fashion typical of the genre, refuses comfortable resolution: Patty is the best wife any man ever possessed – and I – well, I am just as happy if a trifle more serious than of old; but there are times when a great horror of darkness seems to fall upon me, and at such periods I cannot endure to be left alone. (282) The paragraph is a single, though fractured, sentence, its first disjuncture coming with the introduction of the narrator’s self into it, and it ends on the word ‘alone.’ The resolution is unsettled, both in the sense that the story ends without the promised happily-ever-after (and this is typical of ghost-story endings), with a sense of more story to be told, more knowledge remaining hidden away from us. The ghost, it turns out, has not been properly exorcised. And also unsettled in the sense that the restoration of class stability which the ending has brought about is itself shaky: as well as Phil’s persistent anxiety, there is Lord Ladlow, whose inheritance, in a failure of primogeniture, comes from his uncle, himself without a son, and so Ladlow Hall will once again make for a complicated, solicitor-mediated, and indirect bequest. A story, then, of

Introduction 17

historical trauma, of the interrupted inheritance both of property and of the past; a story, despite its title, not of class mobility but rather of the restoration of ‘proper’ class relations, but an unsettled version thereof. The tea merchant goes back to London and to trade, giving up on the idea of living in the countryside; the aristocrat is reunited with the money and property that the old lord’s sexually unreliable young wife had diverted; and the scion of the fallen gentry, useless for a clerkship, is restored to modest gentility.

Questions of genre and methodology Learning to read ghost stories is an exercise in learning to read dialectically, which is to say, learning to see objects as characterized not just by their physical characteristics, but rather as embedded in social and historical relations. Often such dialectical reading practices are foregrounded by the ghost stories themselves, as in Algernon Blackwood’s ‘The Empty House,’ in which the uncanniness of the house is a result, precisely, of the difference made by its history, despite it being empirically indistinguishable from its neighbors: There was manifestly nothing in the external appearance of this particular house to bear out the tales of the horror that was said to reign within. It was neither lonely nor unkempt. It stood, crowded into a corner of the square, and looked exactly like the houses on either side of it. It had the same number of windows as its neighbours; the same balcony overlooking the gardens; the same white steps leading up to the heavy black front door; and, in the rear, there was the same narrow strip of green, with neat box borders, running up to the wall that divided it, from the backs of adjoining houses. Apparently, too, the number of chimney pots on the roof was the same; the breadth and angle of the eaves; and even the height of the dirty area railings. And yet this house in the square, that seemed precisely similar to its fifty ugly neighbours, was as a matter of fact entirely different – horribly different. (222) In Blackwood’s story, our protagonist is conceptually incapable of dealing with the ghost: all of his practices of observation get him nowhere. ‘Shorthouse had already begun to notice everything, even the smallest details’ (225), we are told, but such noticing and such details are precisely irrelevant to the mode of knowing capable of making sense of the ghost. Empiricists will never understand the ghosts; ghosts are uncanny,


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

even horrific, precisely because they mark a difference perceivable only historically, or rather, a difference that is, precisely, the presence of history in an environment fundamentally hostile to history as such, to the idea of continuity between past and present, to the persistence of the past into the present. If modernity is first of all rupture, then the past manifests only as either nostalgia or horror; the ghost story functions as a critique of such imposed present-mindedness, or more particularly, in the case of the first modern ghost stories, Sir Walter Scott’s, as a kind of negative image of the historical novel. Or to put this in slightly different terms, the ghost functions in these stories as a figure for not so much the past itself as for the kind of relationship to the past no longer available from within modernity. The ghost’s insubstantiality, then, its status as both visible and invisible, tangible and intangible, is a crucial feature of the epistemological and representational roles it plays. The ghost’s primary role is to signify what can no longer be experienced directly, a lived relationship to the past; to make present that absence. One specific marker of this ‘modernity,’ in these terms, is the rise of the novel and indeed of printing and publishing generally, as they have come to displace and then replace both oral narrative traditions and the manuscript culture of the aristocracy. That ghost stories so emphatically and repetitively frame themselves as reported or enacted oral narratives merely foregrounds this feature (Beer 1978, p. 261). For example, George MacDonald’s story already mentioned, ‘Uncle Cornelius His Story,’ draws particular attention to both the dull winter evening at the farmhouse that provides the context for the tale; and to Uncle Cornelius, the teller of our tale, because, as our frame narrator carefully points out for us, ‘I am such a believer in words, that I believe everything depends on who says them’ (130). The modern ghost story in this sense presents itself in a complex relation with its folkloric predecessor. On the one hand, it represents itself as such a folk-tale, asks to be read as something vernacular or not quite literary, cheerfully employing stock characters and scenes, as though the story were itself handed down. But on the other hand, the ghost in modern ghost stories figures the now-absent space where, in the folk tale, the lived traditions of the pre-modern world would have featured. It is not, that is to say, simply that the past comes back in the figure of the ghost; rather, the ghost figures the past’s different sense of history, the past’s different relationship with its past; the ghost is not-at-home in the house that it haunts because the social environment no longer has a lived relation to the idea of the past that the ghost comes from and represents.

Introduction 19

Ghost stories are, no doubt, a marginal genre within literary history, though at the peak of their popularity, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they were understood as a more significant genre than they are now. But paying attention to the ghost story has more significant implications for genre history than does equivalent attention to other marginal genres. If it is one of my aims to sketch out the shifting ways that the ghost story as a genre addresses questions of history, then it is significant that genres themselves are, in an important sense, ghostly. To think about genre is to note how even literary history operates according to a logic of haunting. Genres are temporally complicated. Any genre needs to be understood as both historically specific and also persisting – or recurring – through time. ‘Synchronically present in a given moment, genres also link that moment, diachronically, to earlier moments, earlier times. At the level of form, then, genre is the presence of the past in the present’; ‘genres not only emerge from specific historical situations but carry that ideology in themselves as a ghostly aftereffect, even when the circumstances have changed’ (Baucom 2001a, p. 162–3). Why are there, say, Westerns – cowboy movies! – about the Cold War or Vietnam? Genres cannot help but try to make sense of the present by using narrative devices inherited from the past; to that extent, they are the past rising up to claim the present. Thinking about the genre of the ghost story makes visible a set of analogies between the figure of the ghost and the idea of genre. The ghost story is the genre centrally concerned with the persistence of the past in the present, and genre is one form of the persistence of the past in the present; or put differently, if genres have ghostly aftereffects in the sense that they carry ideologies from the past along with them into the present, then the ghost story can helpfully serve as a kind of ur-genre, the genre of genre theory, the genre that explicitly questions how genre works. If genres are ghostly, in this sense, it is nonetheless true that not all genres are equivalently about the ghostly. The ghost story makes most sense, I argue in the chapters that follow, understood in relation to the particular literary genres with which it has been contemporaneous: the historical novel, mid-century realism, naturalism, modernism, and magic realism. The genre whose project most explicitly addresses problems of spectrality, of the visible and the invisible, of the way that the not-present haunts the present (whether that is meant spatially or temporally), is realism, understood in the broadest Lukácsian sense, that is to say, narratives concerned with the representation of the social and structural totality that underlies, invisibly, the experiences of the


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

everyday. And it is in relation to the various modes of realism that this book explains the work of the ghost story.3 What do I mean when I say realism addresses problems of the visible and the invisible? Most basically, that the project of realism is to provide us with what Jameson calls ‘cognitive mapping.’ A piece of literature maps, Jameson argues, to the extent that it provides for us an understanding of the social relations that structure our society, social relations that, in the ordinary course of our lives, remain invisible to us. As that social structure continued to become more complex and more abstract, however, there developed an intense contradiction between ‘lived experience’ and ‘structure,’ that is, a contradiction ‘between a phenomenological description of the life of an individual and a more properly structural model of the conditions of existence of that experience’ (Jameson 1988, p. 349). So, Jameson explains, there is a truth of experience involved in taking tea with sugar in a tiny corner of London; but ‘the truth of that experience no longer coincides with the place in which it takes place. The truth of that limited daily experience of London lies, rather, in India or Jamaica or Hong Kong; it is bound up with the whole colonial system of the British Empire that determines the very quality of the individual’s subjective life. Yet those structural coordinates are no longer accessible to immediate lived experience and are often not even conceptualizable for most people’ (1988, p. 349). The realist novel sets out to provide its readers with these structural coordinates; or, in spectral terms, to make visible what is invisible to ordinary experience – with the important proviso that the novel was always better at doing this for a single city or single nation than for the empire as a whole. But if such cognitive mapping is the triumph and aim of the realist novel, it is the horror of the ghost story. Haunted characters usually experience ghosts as horrifying, and their terror enacts the sudden visibility of the structures normally invisible beneath the surface. Sometimes the sociological function of the ghost (as structural truth) is foregrounded, as in Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘The Watcher,’ in which the protagonist explains that this spiritual world is ‘a system whose workings are generally in mercy hidden from us – a system which may be, and which is sometimes, partially and terribly revealed’ (28). But more often, this structural role is implicit, as in ‘The Open Door,’ where the social factors that underlie the lived experience of the characters – the role of empire, of merchant capital behind and beneath but also comingled with the landed gentry, but also history itself – are all figured in the ghost story through the process of haunting.

Introduction 21

I am thus arguing against one of the more widespread explanations of the work that ghost stories do. Here is the typical line: Science fiction and detective stories progress toward clarity, transparency, and explicit illumination of a puzzle or concept. They depend on the power of reason and logic; they invariably explain themselves. Ghost stories, however, sabotage the relationship between cause and effect. The parts are self-consistent, but they relate to an inexplicable, irrational whole. (Sullivan 1978, p. 134) This is right in insisting that we understand ghost stories as relating to (and relating to us) a ‘whole’ picture of their and our social world, and even in understanding that totality as irrational, but wrong in suggesting that ghost stories refuse to explain or illuminate. The truth of any story is its structure; but the truth of any structure is its history, which is to say, the ghost story changes over time. Any given story can be explained in primarily formalist terms: some of the key ones in the chapters that follow are tropes and figures, the construction and role of the narrator, the shape and function of introductory frames, and the completeness of the narrative. But it is the project of this book as a whole to give those formalist readings historical depth: what matters about the structure of a given story is not necessarily something in and of that story’s structure itself, but rather its relation to the structure of other stories contemporaneous with it, as well as the structures of stories that came before and that come after. The ghost story is, as I use the term, not a positive term, but one defined only relationally. This book will consider the genre through a series of relationships: the ghost story and the historical novel, the ghost story and modernism, and so on. In a certain sense, the categories I have chosen are optional: choosing different genres and their relationships to the ghost story would give a different picture of what the ghost story is. But though optional, they are not random, in that they are the genres that dominated the literary scene during the period of the ghost story’s flourishing. Let me then explain my terms. ‘Modern’ ghost stories begin with Walter Scott in the early years of the nineteenth century. Certainly there were ghost stories before then, as far back as the Greeks and Romans, and they were common enough through the middle ages in many parts of the world, but ghost stories only take on their modern form when they begin to be concerned with history, and especially with the particularly modern mode of historiography described earlier, which is to


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

say, when Scott starts writing them at the same time as, and in tandem with, his historical novels. And ‘British’ ghost stories are precisely not ‘English,’ if only because so many of the key writers of ghost stories in the nineteenth century were not English. British ghost stories are insistently concerned with the margins of Britishness that they themselves occupy; and indeed, it will surprise no one that marginality is a key concern of ghost stories generally, given the liminal characteristics of ghosts themselves, between life and death, visibility and invisibility, presence and absence. The ghost story is a loose category. A ghost story need not even have a ghost, since many of them describe what seem to be hauntings but turn out to be hoaxes or misunderstandings. The overlapping characteristics that a ghost story might have, then, would be a ghost or the appearance of one, a concern with trauma, with history, with class, and with inheritance; a sense of terror or horror, though ghost stories as much as any other horror genre indulge in a high level of camp that sometimes substitutes for fear (Clover 1992, p. 41–2). The chapters that follow argue that the ghost story provides an alternative to the novel, a form, that is, where the same ideological battles are being fought out, but in different terms; that the resolutions proposed by these stories, and the frameworks they presume as background to these battles, contain and propel forward the ideological contradictions and resolutions that structure any particular historical moment. But ghost stories are an alternative to novels only in the sense that they are engaged in the same project, the project of cognitive mapping. Realist novels (understood most broadly, again, as including the historical novel, Dickensian realism, naturalism, even modernism in a certain sense) and ghost stories alike are engaged in a project of teaching us how to think about, giving us a language and a cognitive framework for understanding, the social forces that make up our everyday reality. In certain circumstances, at certain moments, the ghost story performs this function better than the realist novel; at other moments, it functions as a critique of the realist project. If this book does what I want, it will change the way we think about the history of the novel. Focusing on the ghost story as the underside of or the alternative history of the novel makes visible a series of ideas about the novel, ideas otherwise invisible. We could say, if the metaphor were not going to get out of hand almost immediately, that the history of the ghost story haunts the history of the novel, and paying attention to those ghosts tells us as much about what they haunt as they tell us about themselves.

Introduction 23

This book is also a contribution, in a certain sense at least, to the increasingly well-populated field of gothic theory. ‘Gothic theory,’ though, means two quite different things. There is, first of all, the theory of the gothic, theorizations of gothic literature and culture, with which this book largely avoids any direct engagement. The ghost story is in all sorts of ways a sub-genre of the gothic; in some ways, such as its central concern with both the trauma of the transition from feudalism to capitalism and with the repetition of that trauma through processes of imperialism, the ghost story is a paradigmatic gothic narrative. But for the most part, the relationship between the ghost story and the gothic is less interesting to me, and to this book’s project, than the relationships between the ghost story and realist literature, in part because the gothic and the ghost story’s relationship to it has been so thoroughly explored already, and in part because, as the chapters to follow make clear, it seems much more productive to think about the ghost story as something distinct from the gothic more generally. Second, ‘gothic theory’ means not the theory of the gothic but the gothic in theory. All sorts of gothic monsters, but especially ghosts, have found their way into the annals of high theory, in what Roger Luckhurst calls theory’s ‘spectral turn.’ This turn is most visible in such texts as Derrida’s Specters of Marx and Avery Gordon’s Ghostly Matters, but more broadly in Stephen Greenblatt’s claim, at the opening of his Shakespearian Negotiations, that ‘I began with the desire to speak with the dead.’ 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). My project is one version of a response to Luckhurst’s demand: a historicized, and therefore politicized, reading of the genre of the ghost story, reading ghosts for the history and politics of which they are the sedimented residue.


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

Summary of chapters Here, then, is the road map, meant mostly for readers who may want to travel only part of the way. I start this book with Sir Walter Scott and what gets called the first modern ghost stories in English because Scott is the first writer to develop a narrative mode that articulates a peculiarly modern idea about history, about the relationship between past and present. In Scott’s historical novels, the transition from a feudal past to a modern present is always a traumatic one. When Scott looks at the Scottish Highlanders he sees, and his narratives render comprehensible to his readers, both their heroic virtue and the historically necessary trauma of their decline. His readers are invited into a nostalgic remembrance of, even a celebration of, a way of life whose traumatic erasure is the grounding condition of modernity. Scott’s key achievement is narrating the past so as to make visible its radical difference, and at the same time to make clear the ways that the present is the product of that past. Scott’s readers are, through the process of reading, made into the proper inheritors of the past they thereby consume. But Scott’s ghost stories have a different idea about history, about the possibility of so settled a relationship between past and present. They insist that no settled inheritance across the divide between past and present is possible, because for them there is no stable divide between past and present. Both the ghost story and the historical novel show us the traumatic difference between past and present, especially between the feudal and the modern. But the two genres present different ways of relating to that past. Where the historical novel sees a benign inheritance glossed by nostalgia and justified by modernity and progress, the ghost story insists that all we can do with the past is repress it: board up its rooms, try to forget its events, but know that it will always be there, and will always come back. The second chapter turns from the ghost story’s relationship with the historical novel to its relationship with the mid-nineteenth century version of realism, early Victorian novels that foreground the realist project of depicting in as complete a form as possible the essential social factors that determine the world depicted. It is the project of realism generally to make visible for us the otherwise-invisible structural truth that underlies the everyday experience of a society, and put in these terms, it is a project that realism clearly shares with the ghost story. Realist novels visibly struggle to access an epistemology that makes visible the otherwise-invisible social structure underpinning a lived experience. But the ghost story makes the encounter with hidden truths

Introduction 25

seem spontaneous, effortless, unbidden. It is simply a matter of being haunted, of happening upon the ghost, something almost never desired but rather stumbled into. Or rather, perhaps, often sought, by ghost hunters and those who think themselves safe from the dangers of the ghost, but who end up nonetheless suitably terrified, hence repentant. The knowledge gained, the truth accessed, is horrific. These mid-century ghost stories are dialectically engaged with the realist project, in pursuit of the same end – the representation of the structural truth of society – but going about that in a very different way, not convinced that access to this kind of knowledge is without consequences. The third chapter looks at the ghost stories of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in relation to the literary genre of naturalism. Naturalism, on the whole, turns away from the realist project of structural truth and is concerned instead with its own virtuoso ability to depict visual detail; it has a corresponding tendency to depict conditions in the world as accomplished social facts rather than historical processes. And while naturalism is generally talked about as not really having happened at all in England, George Gissing aside, I argue in this chapter that naturalism did happen in Britain; however, not in the genre of the novel, but rather in the counterintuitive genre of the ghost story. And this naturalist supernatural became the dominant mode of ghost story writing over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the period generally considered the ‘golden age’ of the ghost story. M. R. James’s ghost stories are exemplary here, in foregrounding their naturalism but also in terms of Horkheimer and Adorno’s argument that the perfection of a style marks that style’s failure, its capitulation to the existing order (2002, p. 103). The perfection of the ghost story in its ‘golden age’ naturalist form, that is, is also the foreclosure of the genre’s possibility of critique. The fourth chapter begins with some basic questions about empire and the ghost story. On the one hand, empire is as we have seen central to the modern ghost story throughout its history, even as the setting of those stories is typically either the countryside of the English elite or the urban spaces of the English bourgeoisie. But on the other hand, there are a large number of naturalist ghost stories that take as their setting the hinterlands of the British Empire. If the historical trauma at the core of the English ghost story’s meaning is consistently the violent transition from feudalism to modernity, then this is a trauma that plays itself out differently but repeatedly as the shock of imperial modernity around the world. If a version of imperialism understands itself as bringing the light of civilization, then there is always another version that understands


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

that imperial violence makes empire a thing of horror; Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is the most famous narrative showing the dependence of each on the other, but it is the project of imperial ghost stories, too, to strap the two together. In these explicitly imperialist ghost stories, the colony and its people are horrors; but so too is empire. The fifth chapter reads the ghost story in relation to modernism. Though it begins with a reading of Henry James’s ghost story ‘The Jolly Corner,’ it turns away from ghost stories proper and looks at ghosts outside their home genre, in the works of modernists like Joyce and Eliot and the Australian poet Kenneth Slessor. The argument here is that in these modernist texts the ghost begins to figure not the past returning to the present, but rather the present itself: Eliot’s ‘unreal city’ or Walter Benjamin’s claim that ‘The world dominated by its phantasmagorias – this . . . is “modernity”’ (1999a, p. 26). Modernity, for these writers, is something different in either form or intensity from what it was for Scott, though their stories continue rather than reverse or challenge the ghost story’s concern with the category. Modernity is characterized by ghostliness, a ghostliness that consists not of the past’s persistence into the present but rather of the insubstantiality of the modern itself: of the market, the city, technology, the bourgeois home, and relationships premised on these institutions. The final chapter of the book continues to investigate the work that ghosts do outside of the genre of the ghost story, and looks at ghosts in three postcolonial novels. The question here is: how does the British ghost story interact with various local, non-European ghost traditions, in which ghosts mostly stand in not for history in Scott’s sense, history as a narrative of how the present inherits the past, but for an a-temporally distinct, pre-colonial organization of the social. NonEuropean ghosts are often the indigenous spirits of the land, more like wood sprites than restless souls. In Amos Tutuola’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954) the ghosts are primarily the grotesque representatives of indigenous culture in a Nigeria rapidly modernizing and moving towards independence, and so function in relation to some idea of history and inheritance; in Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo (1955) the ghosts are primarily what a community becomes under the modernity of post-revolutionary Mexico. But in both cases the ghosts are more complicated; Tutuola’s ghosts also wield modern technology and introduce colonial practices to the spirit world; Rulfo’s story, on the other hand, might be the more modernist but his ghosts are the more Edwardian. These two novels, and their intersection of modern with indigenous modes of the ghost story, set the stage for magic realism, in ways that

Introduction 27

scholarship still has not reckoned with; magic realism is something rather more than a postcolonial version of postmodernism. The chapter and the book closes with a reading of a Maori novel, Patricia Grace’s Baby No-Eyes, in which the ghost is a figure for an increasingly usurped indigeneity, the recurrence of a physical and social trauma, and modern alienation all at once. 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. Offering models for how we relate to the dead is then one of the central projects of the ghost story. This introduction’s title comes from Walter Benjamin’s argument for the practice of a radical history writing (2003). Radical historians are not interested in articulating the past ‘the way it really was,’ but rather in making use of the past ‘as it flashes up in a moment of danger.’ The danger is that history can easily ‘become a tool of the ruling class’: radical history-writing is, for Benjamin, a counterhegemonic alternative to empiricist history-writing (p. 391). If radical history-writing loses its struggle with empiricism, Benjamin argues, the cost will be not only to the present and indeed to imaginably different futures, but also to the past. The masters who oppress the living will get to dictate what can be said about the ones who came before: ‘even the dead will not be safe’ (p. 391). The project of this book is not to make the dead safe, but rather to remind us of their peril: Benjamin is right to insist that the past is not safe from us; but it is just as true, as ghost stories remind is, that the past is not safe for us, either.

1 A Failed Modernity: The Ghost Story as the Bad Conscience of the Historical Novel

Introduction This chapter focuses on Sir Walter Scott’s ghost stories, chiefly on his most famous story, ‘The Tapestried Chamber’ (1828). But it begins with another, less well-known tale, ‘The Highland Widow’ (1827), because a reading of that story helps to establish the relationship between ghost stories and historical novels. It is the underlying argument of this book that the ghost story, like any genre, needs to be understood in relation to other genres with which it is, at any given historical moment, in conversation or competition. And the first such genre, with which the modern ghost story is contemporaneous and that it sets out to complicate, to counter, or even to contradict, is the historical novel. This chapter, then, begins by identifying some of the characteristics of the form through a reading of ‘The Highland Widow’; it then draws a set of comparisons with Scott’s historical novels as a means of highlighting the specific work of the ghost story; and it ends with a closer examination of ‘The Tapestried Chamber’ to demonstrate the significance of the differences between the two genres. But why start with Scott at all? Ghosts have been a feature of European literature since at least the Romans. In another of Scott’s stories, ‘Aunt Margaret’s Mirror’ (1828), one of the characters explains to the narrator the kind of narrative setting required for the enjoyment of a ghost story: ‘All that is indispensable for the enjoyment of the milder feeling of supernatural awe is that you should be susceptible of the slight shuddering which creeps over you when you hear a tale of terror – that well-vouched tale which the narrator, having first expressed his general disbelief of all such legendary lore, selects and produces, as having something in it which he has always been obliged to 28

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give us as inexplicable’ (p. 44). Even in these earliest stories, that is, the genre presents itself as having an awareness of its own generic formulas, and relies on a certain bemusement. Repetition and belatedness are characteristics of the ghost story from the very beginning. A hundred years before Scott, Daniel Defoe’s ‘A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs Veal’ is something we might call a ghost story, though generically it bears little relation to the tales that are the focus of this book. Perhaps more compellingly, Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto and Clara Reeve’s Old English Baron recognizably form a pre-history to Scott, providing a narrative paradigm that he draws on. Nonetheless, I begin with Scott because these earlier narratives become comprehensible as precursors to the ghost story only in the light of Scott’s works; in their own terms, their primary generic relationships are with quite different kinds of narrative particular to their own historical moment, like the Gothic novel. It is hardly unusual for a scholar writing on ghost stories to begin with Scott, but he serves my argument unusually well, because the ghost story first took shape in the orbit of historical novels, and Scott is the first major British writer of those, too. The ghost story and the historical novel, it will turn out, share two major concerns. The first is an interest in representing history: both draw our attention to the historical past and the mode of its representation. The ghost is always a figure for some aspect of the past that returns to interrupt the present, while for Lukács, the historical novel works to ‘bring the past to life’ (1983, p. 53). As Jameson describes this shared project, there is a generic kinship between the ghost story and that older genre with which and against which it so often constitutively defines itself, namely, the historical novel. What is the latter, indeed, if not an attempt to raise the dead, to stage a hallucinatory fantasmagoria in which the ghosts of a vanished past once again meet in a costumed revel, surprised by the mortal eye of the contemporary spectator-voyeur? (1990, pp. 90–1) The historical novel and the ghost story both stage history for us by bringing the dead before us as a spectacle. The second concern that the ghost story and the historical novel share is an understanding of modernity that is fundamentally dependent on this project of bringing the past to life. Jameson is again useful. For the most part, he argues, ‘modernity’ is a word best avoided, a reification of the already-reified concept of ‘capitalism’ (2002, for example, pp. 12, 13, 80, 215). But on at least one occasion, he explains modernity in


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

ghostly terms, ‘as a trace and an abstraction from a real historical event and trauma, . . . the moment of the overcoming of feudalism by capitalism, and of the aristocratic social order of castes and blood by the new bourgeois order’ (2002, p. 39). Modernity, on this model, is not capitalism itself but rather the lingering trauma of the transition from feudalism to capitalism.1 To call something ‘modern’ is to enshrine a sense of some historical break or tear and so to place that thing in a puzzling relationship to a past it cannot see as properly its own. To think of modernity as a trace of this historical trauma pushes in two different directions: modernity is a story, a narrative about the relationship between present and past; and modernity is a ghost, something absent and mostly-invisible that it can be the project of a narrative to bring, in a single flash, before its audience’s eyes. Scott’s ghost stories are usefully understood as modern, then, in this very particular sense. Modernity is always producing itself in story, declaring itself ‘first’ and without origin. But modernity includes also the trace left behind in such stories, of origins traumatically suppressed, the trace, that is to say, of something that pre-exists the fantasy of autogenesis. Scott’s ghost stories and his historical novels both find themselves continually addressing the traumatic moment of the transition from feudalism to capitalism, but they do so to radically different ends.

History, sympathy, and the narrative frame in Scott’s ghost stories In ‘The Highland Widow’ the ghost is that of Hamish MacTavish, a highlander whose pre-1745 income was secured mainly by way of blackmail. He fought with Prince Charles Edward against the English in 1745, and in the wake of that uprising lived on the run from the law until slain by English soldiers. He appears to his son when his son joins a Highland regiment of the British army, to fight the French in America (in the Seven Years War, 1756–63). Though the default mode of haunting, as we shall see in the chapters that follow, is for the ghost to demand a return to pre-capitalist modes, or to warn against the adoption of and adaptation to capitalism (in land, inheritance, family, or honor), the ghost of this story takes the opposite role. Hamish’s mother Elspat assumes the anti-capitalist position, demanding that Hamish resist his incorporation into an imperial modernity, asking him to turn against his fellow-soldiers and flee to the Highlands, instead of fighting for the English. The Highlander-ghost stands on the side of the son who has made the transition from wearing the kilt in the service of resistance to wearing the kilt in the service of empire.

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The story, though, is less interested in its ghost than in its own telling and the framing of that telling. Though ‘The Highland Widow’ takes this balance between ghost and narrative frame to an extreme, it is an extreme that is nonetheless broadly representative of the narrative concerns of other ghost stories, which are often as interested in their own narrative techniques as they are in the haints and specters. Indeed, it is the story’s frame that reveals most clearly what it has to say about history and our relationship with it. Ghosts, it turns out, are not important in themselves or even for the haunted characters, but rather for what they make possible for readers and spectators. In ‘The Highland Widow,’ an unnamed narrator shares with us the memorandum of Mrs Bethune Baliol, of her Scottish Highland tour. On that tour, Mrs Baliol’s guide, Donald MacLeish, tells her many of Scotland’s traditional stories and introduces her to locals who tell her their own. Donald himself thus provides a layer of mediation to these tales. Donald, according to Mrs Baliol, was ‘one of a rare breed of postboys whom, I suppose, mail-coaches and steam-boats have put out of fashion’ (p. 136). He also, that is, functions as something like a ghost, the remnant of the past persisting into the present, his way of life superseded by commercial society, a figure who now makes his living through commodifying his own links to that past. The focus of the memorandum, written forty years after the tour took place, is Mrs Baliol’s record of the story she was told on that tour by Elspat MacTavish, describing Elspat’s son’s encounter with the ghost of his father. If that sounds confusing, it should. The story is filtered to us through a series of narrative frames: an unnamed narrator tells us a story he read in Mrs Baliol’s memorandum, in which she records a story told to her forty years before she writes it down, told by the mother of the person who actually encountered the ghost. Such a series of filters becomes typical of the ghost story, especially as standardized by Dickens in his Christmas specials. The story’s frame narrator gives us only the first few paragraphs of the story, and then disappears until the end, when he returns not in order to conclude anything, but rather to introduce for us the inconclusiveness with which the story ends: of Elspat’s life, this narrator says, ‘the reader is already as far acquainted as I have the power of making him. Of her death I can tell him nothing’ (p. 209). Instead of a conclusion, then, the narrator offers us the speculations of several others, impartially and without judgment gathered for us: of those who last saw her alive, of the villagers, of the local priest. This frame narrator functions as a collector of tales, objectively and disinterestedly accumulating narratives, though we should be suspicious of the objectivity of such collectors, as


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

Benjamin (1999b, p. 486) reminds us. I will come back to the important function of this ‘objectivity’ shortly. Mrs Baliol is a very different kind of narrator, and it is her recollections that provide the dominant structure of the story, not only because it forms the bulk of the story’s narrative but because the story gives her a character, unlike the more external frame narrator. The story also puts Mrs Baliol in the first person, unlike Elspat or Hamish, and, until the final paragraphs, unlike the external narrator. Mrs Baliol’s primary function in the narrative is to model a set of responses to the ghost story, which responses will take up a more prominent role in the story than the haunting itself. At the beginning of her memorandum, Mrs Baliol tells us that she took her tour when the word ‘Highlands’ ‘still carried terror, while so many survived who had witnessed the insurrection of 1745’ (p. 135). 1745 is labeled here as a trauma not for the Scots, though it becomes clear later that this is so, but for the English, and especially the middleclass English: it is the image of Highland marauders rampaging south through England, intent on the sack and pillage of London, that is, for Mrs Baliol, the traumatic image on which this ‘delightful terror’ (Burke 1958, p. 73) is built. It is a ‘delightful’ terror rather than just terrifying because it is imaginable but impossible. That the ghost is precisely such a rampaging Highlander is, for her, key to the romance of Elspat’s story. She is engaged in the kind of tourism that brings together a naturally beautiful landscape with the thrill of remembered trauma. ‘Sublime tourism,’ one might call it, in that the pleasure of this tourism depends on terror as well as beauty, but insofar as the terror is only recollected, in no danger of flashing forth, then it is a sublime that is experienced nostalgically and so not incompatible with a certain pastoral reverie. Of the Scottish Highlands themselves, Mrs Baliol has this to say: ‘Nothing indeed can be more wonderful than to see these wildernesses penetrated’ (p. 141). Her literal reference is to the military roads which have made accessible the Highlands, but her description casts her approval of the modernization of Scotland, the eradication of the way of life of the Highlanders and the opening up of their land to tourism and development, in terms of a military rape. ‘Thus the traces of war are sometimes happily accommodated to the purposes of peace,’ she concludes (p. 141). In the character of Mrs Baliol are united a satisfaction with modernization and a keening for the past that has been erased by that modernization. Mrs Baliol, for all her romanticism, does not herself encounter a ghost: she is too English, too cosmopolitan, not agrarian or provincial

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enough to be haunted. She comes, she says, ‘of a race not greatly subject to apprehensions arising from imagination only’ (p. 135). Here, unlike in ‘The Open Door,’ it is the poor and the socially marginal who are haunted by the ghost and thereby associated with it. For Donald MacLeish and Elspat MacTavish, the ghost functions as part of their lived experience, while Mrs Baliol is kept at a further remove from it; their non-standard English functions as an indicator of truthfulness or narrative trustworthiness at the same time as it marks them as susceptible to haunting and representative of the ‘superstitious’ truth, the alternative epistemology that is in the process of being erased, even as the story, through its incorporation of dialect, functions to incorporate regional difference into modernity, to mark heterochronicities only in the process of eradicating them. Mrs Baliol declares herself to be unlike the superstitious and gullible Highlanders: she tells us that one Scottish character shared ‘the universal turn of his countrymen for the marvelous’ (p. 173). Nonetheless, the key characteristic of Mrs Baliol’s narrative is its sympathetic interest in and engagement with its subject, a sympathy already clear in her feelings for the Scottish landscape, but especially marked in her first encounter with Elspat, the Highland Widow of the story’s title, of which Mrs Baliol writes that ‘I heard the narrative with a mixture of horror and sympathy . . . which at once impelled me to approach the sufferer and speak to her words of comfort, or rather of pity, and at the same time made me afraid to do so’ (pp. 144–5). The tone of her trip, and of her narrative, is not so much one of Enlightened skepticism (which we might expect from her sneering dismissal of the Highlanders’ belief in the marvelous) but rather one of wistful yearning: At one point, she tells us she travels about ‘Musing, like the Irish lady in the song, “upon things which are long enough a-gone” ’ (p. 140). This tone of melancholy (which she inhabits, notably, by way of describing herself as though she belonged to another Celtic fringe people), permeates her trip, her tourism, and her narrative, and is the crucial determinant of her attitude towards the terror, the trauma, and the haunting. Mrs Baliol tells us, by way of asserting the veracity of her recounting and the trustworthiness of her observational powers, ‘I am, you know, the sister of soldiers’ (p. 140); martial violence is present throughout the story, but here it serves as a marker of her reliability, of the unlikeliness of her being carried away by these Romantic scenes and places, of her ability to maintain a rational and skeptical perspective. And yet the different martial violence of the Highlanders is a key part of their feudal heroism, hence their irrationality. What is at stake here is the foundation


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

of different kinds of truth claims. Rationality is marked not by the presence or absence of violence, but by its organization and deployment for imperial ends; violence in resistance to imperialism is fantasy, romance. The story thus manages to straddle a complicated truth-divide: Only Highlanders are susceptible to the fantastic, so only a Highlander could authentically be haunted; and only a bourgeois English account of such a haunting gives it rational and as it were scientific authority. (But only a sympathetic – romantic, Celtic, nostalgic – bourgeois English will be interested in making such an account.) Mrs Baliol’s narrative position, neither the superstitious participant nor the disinterested skeptic but the sympathetic nostalgic, as the first-person position of the story, is the position most readily available for readers to occupy. It is a position marked precisely in terms of the combination in her of horror and sympathy. Confronted with historical trauma, the properly interested observer responds (at least initially) not dispassionately but with horror and sympathy. Mrs Baliol engages in and models for readers the sympathetic engagement with suffering described in Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. Smith’s theory seems especially apposite here because, as critics have noted, the historical trauma that lies unspoken behind Smith’s 1759 text is the Jacobite uprising of 1745, just as it is for Mrs Baliol (for example Baucom 2005, pp. 250–1). Sympathy, Smith explains, is key to the development of the modern liberal subject, and it begins with imaginative identification: we imagine ourselves into the identity of a wronged or wounded person, and respond as if we were in their shoes. Or rather, since his paradigmatic moment of such imaginative identification is sympathy for the dead, as if we were in their graves: When we see one man oppressed or injured by another, the sympathy which we feel with the distress of the sufferer serves only to animate our fellow-feeling with his resentment against the offender . . . . If the injured should perish in the quarrel, we not only sympathize with the real resentment of his friends and relations, but with the imaginary resentment which in fancy we lend to the dead, who is no longer capable of feeling or any other human sentiment. But as we put ourselves in his situation, as we enter, as it were, into his body, and in our imagination, in some measure, animate anew the deformed and mangled carcase of the slain, when we bring home in this manner his case to our own bosoms, we feel, upon this, as upon other occasions, an emotion which the person principally concerned is incapable of feeling, and which yet we feel by an illusive sympathy with him. The

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sympathetic tears which we shed . . . seem to be but a small part of the duty which we owe him. (2000, pp. 98–9) Sympathy, on Smith’s model, is a powerful imaginative force, bringing us to enter into the body of the dead and reanimate ‘the deformed and mangled carcase.’ Smith contrasts this position of sympathetic spectatorship with ‘the indifferent spectator’ (p. 52), and here at least indifference seems an inadequately sympathetic response. If the ‘sympathetic tears’ are ‘but a small part of the duty which we owe’ to the wronged and especially to the dead, then sympathy seems to demand a politics of revenge, an ‘imaginary resentment’ that would justify and even demand a set of actions or engagements in response to the wrongs inflicted on the dead (p. 99). However, those sympathetic tears turn out not to be part of what we owe to the wronged (in Smith’s formulation, they only ‘seem to be’ so), but rather are the mechanism by which a melancholic identification with the dead is transformed into the spectator’s satisfaction with his own ability to sympathize, and by which he comes to substitute that sympathy and that satisfaction for the initial identification, and hence to become a properly impartial (‘indifferent’) spectator. The ‘sympathetic tears we shed’ are, in the end, more important than the wounds or even the death for which we shed them. Sympathy with the dead, is, it turns out, an ‘illusive’ sympathy, and not the proper sympathy that begins instead with dispassionate reflection, a reflection that is in fact only possible after, and indeed is a product of, that initial, viscerally sympathetic response. The goal of the sympathetic spectatorship that Smith describes is to produce not a politics of resentment but rather a liberal subjectivity.2 What one feels sympathy for becomes, in the process, less significant than the feeling itself; the sight of the dead and mangled corpse is displaced by the experience of the responsively sentimental self. In ‘The Highland Widow,’ Mrs Baliol is the figure who expresses sympathy, and through whom our compassion for various victims is mediated. We do not get the widow’s narrative directly, but only through Mrs Baliol, who retains control of the first-person pronoun throughout. We are not asked to share the defeated Highlanders’ position; rather, they offer Mrs Baliol the opportunity for sentimental engagement. But that’s just the least of it, for the story, having consistently invited us into Mrs Baliol’s viewing position, turns on itself in its closing paragraphs, much as Smith’s theory charts a sequence of responses in which sympathy is first adopted then discarded. The story’s master narrator, without


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

any structural markers indicating that he has reclaimed control of the tale, returns to comment on Mrs Baliol’s narrative. Of the widow’s death, the narrator concludes, ‘I can tell [the reader] nothing. It is supposed to have happened several years after she had attracted the attention of my excellent friend Mrs Bethune Baliol’ (p. 209). He goes on to give some of the consequences of Mrs Baliol’s sympathy, distinguishing his own disinterestedness from her interestedness. ‘Her benevolence . . . was never satisfied with dropping a sentimental tear, when there was room for the operation of effective charity.’ This charity has an effect, however, only on Mrs Baliol; for the widow, it was ‘a matter of total indifference’ (p. 209). More than indifference, even, the Highlander turns against any charity with ‘an extreme resentment’ (p. 209). The story declares, here, that Mrs Baliol’s attempt to act on her sympathy, to intervene benevolently in the real world, generates bitterness and not improvement. The brute facts of empire, the story concludes, cannot be put aside: the bourgeois Englishwoman’s sympathy for the situation of the Highland family whose life has been destroyed by the parents’ actions in resisting the modernization of Scotland, which is to say the eradication of their way of life, can only be met by the Highland woman with resentment, as a further imperial intervention. Scott’s bourgeois English readers, whose sympathy the story has consistently sought to engage, are here confronted with the uselessness of that sympathy for its objects. If the sympathy is to have some function, it will not be in Scotland but in England, in the production of philanthropic English subjectivities, and this production will continue to be, the story insists, at the expense of Highlanders. When the external narrator intrudes to offer us this ending, he replaces Mrs Baliol’s sympathy with a range of competing endings provided by different constituents of the Highland community. The ‘credulous’ believed the widow had been carried away by the evil spirits under whose influence she has acted; the ‘less superstitious’ that she must have fallen ‘by accident’ into the lake; and the local clergyman that her ‘instinct,’ like that of ‘various domestic animals,’ has led her to withdraw to die in secrecy and isolation (p. 209). The clergyman’s conclusion, given last, might be the one that this narrator is most likely to share, in that his presumption that she is governed, as a Highlander, by instincts like those of a dog, seems to be premised on a similar unsympathetic disinterestedness; but if so, the story as a whole has worked hard to show us a widow governed not at all by such instincts, but rather by a recognizable, if obsolete, code of honor. The

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story’s refusal to offer a firm conclusion, together with its rejection of Mrs Baliol’s tearful interestedness, reasserts a logic of disinterest, but at the cost of narrative cohesion: neither Mrs Baliol’s compassion, which produces her (and thereby us) as co-human, nor the external narrator’s disinterest, will resolve the narrative. There is no explanation for the supernatural, no rest for the ghost, no closure for a defeated Highlander, nor indeed a single coherent ending for the story, which instead simply becomes the kind of unjudged and unjudgeable collection of fragments that disinterest produces. Another way of thinking about this split narrative function is in Derrida’s terms of witnessing (2000). Derrida argues that a ‘witness’ as an event-survivor and a ‘witness’ as a third-party executor are definitions that collapse into one another; a witnessing is both testament to what has been and precursor to what’s coming. But the two narrators here divide those roles between them: Mrs Baliol takes on all the roles of sympathetic identification in her direct encounter with the Highlands, while the unnamed narrator is literally an executor who has come into possession of Mrs Baliol’s memorandum some time after her death. 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. In ‘The Highland Widow,’ we can think of the story’s project as making visible the definitional collapse on which the sympathetic project depends. ‘The Highland Widow’ sets out precisely to make visible the limits and failures of sentimental philanthropy, but then this critique is substantively different from the account Scott gives in his historical novels. If we now consider instead how sympathy is generated and deployed in Waverley, we will see that the historical novel invites the experiment of sympathy with a particular suffering or dead body, only to substitute for it a generalized compassion or wistfulness; sympathy as such substitutes for sympathy for this particular thing. The ghost story, meanwhile, points to what that process cannot satisfy: to put it over-bluntly, perhaps, sympathy in general lays no particular ghost to rest. The ghost story functions as mirror to the historical novel, refusing to allow historical


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

trauma to be elided, and so doing history better, we might say, than the historical novel. A spectatorship that begins with sympathy in order to produce disinterestedness asks us to look at past atrocity sympathetically, but only in order to make it go away; a ghost story like ‘The Highland Widow’ insists on the necessary failure of that position to achieve its aims. First of all, how does the historical novel represent history? As Lukács points out, the main difference in this regard between the historical novel and its rough contemporary the Gothic novel, since both tend to be set in some distant past, is that in the latter the past functions as ‘mere costumery,’ whereas in the former the representation of the past is central to the novel’s realist project (1983, p. 19). The difference between Gothic mummery and the historical setting of a historical novel lies in the latter’s ability to make a reader feel that the present inherits the past: ‘Without a felt relationship to the past, a portrayal of history is impossible . . . . Scott’s historical novels ‘[bring] the past to life as the prehistory of the present’ (p. 53). This idea of inheritance is complicated, though, as Scott’s novels represent it; more complicated, at least, than it had been in English novels of the eighteenth century. The past is ‘continuous’ with the present, especially at the level of the daily lives of ordinary people, and at the same time divided from the present by a series of historical ‘crises’ (p. 54). This dialectic of continuity and disruption is clear when the narrator of Waverley tries to explain the changes between the Scotland of the opening of his story and the Scotland of the moment of his telling, divided by the sixty years pointed to by his subtitle: There is no European nation which, within the course of half a century, or little more, has undergone so complete a change as this Kingdom of Scotland. The effects of the insurrection of 1745,—the destruction of the patriarchal power of the Highland chiefs,—the abolition of the heritable jurisdictions of the Lowland nobility and barons,—the total eradication of the Jacobite party, which, averse to intermingle with the English, or adopt their customs, long continued to pride themselves upon maintaining ancient Scottish manners and customs, commenced this innovation. The gradual influx of wealth, and extension of commerce, have since united to render the present people of Scotland a class of beings as different from their grandfathers, as the existing English are from those of Queen Elizabeth’s time . . . . But the change, though steadily and rapidly progressive, has, nevertheless, been gradual. (p. 340)

A Failed Modernity


The crisis that centrally concerns Waverley is the insurrection of 1745, which the novel represents not as a radically unique event but rather as one aspect or moment of the ongoing crisis of the transition from feudalism to capitalism.3 The colonial setting of Scott’s historical novels is not accidental to its success in this historiographic project. History is especially visible in the colonies, or to put it the other way around, colonial history is accelerated and registers as thing-like, an automatic process or done deal; in the colonies – and perhaps only in the colonies – we can perform Lukács’s clean, reifying operation upon history. Scott’s narratives express what we now recognize as a modern historical consciousness: the peculiar way that modernity tells itself stories about its own temporality. His Scottish novels are paradigmatic, therefore, in that their Scotland houses both the clannish Highlands and the capitalist-agrarian Lowlands. The experience of modernity that these novels narrate, then, is one of heterochronicity, the simultaneous existence of radically distinct modes of time. As Baucom describes it, this modernity is the experience of a contemporaneity that was not contemporaneous with itself, an experience of time as that which was fractured, broken, constellated by a heterogenous array of local regimes of time. Scott’s novels work by tracing the wanderings of a character across such an uneven geography of time – typically the Highlands and the Lowlands, territories that he treats, in Raymond Williams’s terms, as the geographies of the residual and the emergent, the customary and the cosmopolitan – and obliging that character to make a choice for one order of time or another. That choice is, however, always predetermined, because Scott figures any time but the time of cosmopolitan capital as wounded, dying, and worthy, finally, of no more than sympathy and an honorable burial. (2001b, p. 79) And this same heterochronicity structures, as Lukács points out, Scottish life from the fourteenth all the way up to the end of the eighteenth century. For Scott, the belated emergence of capitalism and the British state is a national triumph (Lukács 1983, p. 54). And yet the narrative is not simply triumphalist: a book like Waverley expresses, and invites from its readers, sympathy for those whose eradication modernity demands. Most crucially, he shows ‘the inner necessity of its [clan society’s] tragic downfall’ (p. 56). Feudalism fails and capitalism emerges because of


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

the internal contradictions within feudal society; but that failure and that emergence are fundamentally traumatic events, at least for the characters of Scott’s novels who live through them. Or at least, it is a traumatic transition for one set of Scott’s characters, because crucial to how his novels work are their division of characters into two types: those with whom we feel sympathy, as their way of life is eliminated from the world, and those who represent the modernity towards which the world is changing, of whom we are encouraged to see ourselves as descendents. In Waverley the Highlanders are the novel’s type whose moment, the book’s subtitle makes clear, has passed. They represent a way of life dead and gone, ‘the type of the unquiet ghost’ (Baucom 2005, p. 278), no longer accessible to those who have survived and moved on. These are characters brought before us from out of the past, the dead brought back, narratively, to life. It is the central – and sympathetic – focus on them that makes Waverley a historical novel: not the story of Edward Waverley at all, but of the Highlanders among whom he travels. The novel might be a neo-romance, but then it is a romance of an oddly sociological kind, insisting on the ways that political conditions produce particular characters, behaviors, and situations. The novel’s narrator explains that his narrative will not be comprehensible outside such a frame: I beg pardon, once and for all, of all those readers who take up novels merely for amusement, for plaguing them so long with old-fashioned politics, and Whig and Tory, and Hanoverians and Jacobites. The truth is, I cannot promise them that this story shall be intelligible, not to say probable, without it. My plan requires that I should explain the motives on which its action proceeded; and these motives necessarily arose from the feelings, prejudices, and parties, of the times. (p. 24) It is not that Waverley will be without amusement; rather, a character like Cosmo Bradwardine will only register as amusing (‘heterogenous . . . in language and habits,’ the narrator calls him – “cosmo” as in “-politan”; p. 41) in historical context. Likewise, a bit later, Edward receives some letters while staying with Fergus: ‘It would be impossible for the reader, even were I to insert the letters at full length, to comprehend the real cause of their being written, without a glance into the interior of the British Cabinet at the period in question’ (p. 122). Edward, though, lacks precisely such a ‘glance’ and so finds himself easily manipulated

A Failed Modernity


by those who understand the politics. He is to one side of what matters, historically, about this story. But in another sense, the novel is the story of Edward Waverley. Edward leaves home for the military, and leaves the military for the Highlands, where he finds the people compelling (idolizing the Highland chief Fergus MacIvor, and declaring his love for Flora, Fergus’s sister), and where he almost buffoonishly (and because of his quixotic, romance-reading tendencies) gets involved in Charles Stuart’s treasonous uprising. Eventually, the novel ends with the uprising crushed, Fergus hung, drawn and quartered, Flora (who from the beginning gave Edward only a firm ‘no’) ensconced in a nunnery, and Edward having successfully transferred his affections to a more appropriately domestic friend of Flora’s, Rose, the daughter of the Lowland Baron Bradwardine. If the Highlanders are examples of the first type that Scott’s novels offer to readers, then Edward is an example of the second, not the type of the dead or dying, but the type of the spectator. Edward is the muddling, mediocre hero before whose eyes the vanishing Highlanders are paraded as spectacle, at the moment of their eradication. As a protagonist, Edward is astonishingly passive: he does almost nothing, while things happen to him, even though, as Derrida’s analysis of witnessing makes clear, a witness is always an enabler or a perpetrator. The moment when he is taken by the Highlanders from the English who have imprisoned him is representative: the narrator tells us that ‘his fortune had settled he was not to be left to his option’ (p. 181). The same could be said of his marriage to Rose rather than Flora. He is characterized, rather than by his actions, primarily by his mode of perception, possessing the ‘common aberration from sound judgment, which apprehends occurrences indeed in their reality, but communicates to them a tincture of its own romantic tone and colouring’ (p. 18). Which is to say that he is an excessively sympathetic spectator of the events that happen around him, and especially of events involving the doomed. When he finds himself in the Highlands, he sees precisely not the social and historical framework that the narrator so apologetically insists that we look through, but rather his own bardic preconceptions: ‘I am actually in the land of military and romantic adventures, and it only remains to be seen what will be my own share in them’ (p. 72). Throughout the story, Edward gets into trouble because his sympathy leads him into engagement with this dying world. But by the novel’s ending, Edward has learnt to observe sympathetically without letting that sympathy flare up into engagement. The morning the clan chief is


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

to die, he begs Edward, and Edward promises, to protect the MacIvors. But notice the terms of this protection: ‘You are rich,’ [the chief] said, ‘Waverley, and you are generous; when you hear of these poor Mac-Ivors being distressed about their miserable possessions by some harsh overseer or agent of the government, remember you have worn their tartan, and are an adopted son of their race. The Baron, who knows our manners, and lives near our country, will apprize you of the time and means to be their protector. (p. 325) The protection Fergus begs, and that Edward promises, is premised upon and mediated by money, not action. Edward learns, in a sense, to be Mrs Baliol of ‘The Highland Widow’; the achievement of that kind of sympathetic spectatorship, of distance mediated by money, is both the goal for the characters of Edward’s type and the targeted reading experience. And the novel (unlike Scott’s ghost stories) is content to end there; the novel’s happy ending is premised upon a tempered sympathy.4 It is a process, effectively, of learning to allow history to be a spectacle, and indeed at one remove: we watch, not history directly, but Edward watching history. The narrator’s interruptions of his own narrative are a part of this process: ‘I must remind my reader’ is a paradigmatic sentence beginning, drawing the reader’s attention away from the story’s action and toward the act of reading (for example, p. 331). It becomes even more explicit when the narrator begins a late chapter ‘It is not our purpose to intrude upon the province of history. We shall therefore only remind our reader, that about the beginning of November the young Chevalier’ rode into England with his army (pp. 263–4). History, it turns out, happens off-stage, in the wings, in the gaps between the chapters: the not-so-historical novel. Even the terrible events which the novel builds itself around can barely be addressed. The massacre at Culloden, for instance, is mentioned hardly at all: once at a dinner, late in the novel, ‘all the former inferior servants [attended] . . . , excepting one or two, who had not been heard of since the affair of Culloden’ (p. 338). The paragraph turns immediately to the ‘superb wine’ (p. 338). In this way, Waverley becomes an uncomplicated modernity narrative. History is turned into a spectacle, and the reader functions as a spectator who benefits, who garners the pleasures of sympathy and spectatorship without accruing non-monetary responsibility or importunate neighbors. Scott’s ghost stories, as we saw with ‘The Highland Widow’ and as we shall see with ‘The Tapestried Chamber,’ insist on the limitations of

A Failed Modernity


such a spectatorial position, and insist on what gets left out of such narratives. It is in this sense that ghost stories are more insistently historical than the novel-form that bears that name.

‘The Tapestried Chamber’ Scott’s most famous ghost story allows us to think that it is a historical novel in miniature, only then to subvert that perception, a subversion it undertakes mostly by refusing the narrative resolution that novel conventions offer or even demand. That this failed ending is the story’s success is this section’s main argument. Scott’s hero is one General Browne, of the British army, who in the course of a tour of the western counties finds that an old school friend of his, Lord Woodville, is living in the castle near a village that has taken Browne’s fancy. Browne visits the young lord, who we learn ‘had been Browne’s fag at Eton, and his chosen intimate at Christ Church’ (p. 17), Oxford. The lord insists that the general stay a week or so, and Browne is happy to do so. They spend together ‘a morning of manly exercise’ (p. 19), followed by food and conversation, but the ‘hospitality stopped within the limits of good order’ (p. 19), that is, their behavior is not marked by any kind of excess, whether of drink or gambling or otherwise, and they head to bed reasonably early so as to be ready for the next day’s repetition of ‘manly exercise.’ The general goes to bed ‘aided by a hundred recollections of my childhood and youth,’ and thinking happily of his current state of ‘having for a time exchanged the labour, fatigues, and dangers of my profession for the enjoyments of a peaceful life’ (pp. 24, 25). His thoughts map out a certain career through life, middle-class in some eighteenth-century sense – education; hard work in the service of the nation; belated leisure. His notion of pleasure accords with middle-class sensibilities: retirement is deferred play, the entry into genteel life via an appropriately elevated profession, though he himself, it is carefully spelt out, has no land of his own. This narrative of development has as its counterpoint fond childhood memories and this confusion of progress and nostalgia is what brings out the ghost. Immediately following his happy recollections he hears ‘a sound like that of the rustle of a silken gown, and the tapping of a pair of high-heeled shoes, as if a woman were walking in the apartment’ (p. 25), and he sees from behind an old woman through his bed-curtains. The general thinks that maybe this is a guest who has misremembered her room, or forgotten that he has been given this one, and so


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

he coughs, to let her know that he is there. She turns, and ‘Upon a face which wore the fixed features of a corpse were imprinted the traces of the vilest and most hideous passions which had animated her while she lived’ (p. 26). Her body is, effectively, a micro-allegory for her own presence here as a ghost; like the hideous passions which have left ‘traces’ on her body, she too is a trace of the ‘most hideous passions’ of the building’s past. She rushes over and sits on the bed; he wigs out. ‘[A]ll firmness forsook me, all manhood melted from me like wax in the furnace, and I felt my hair individually bristle. The current of my life-blood ceased to flow, and I sank back in a swoon, as very a victim to panic terror as ever was a village girl or a child of ten years old’ (p. 26). He is, in all figurative senses here, unmanned. The experiences of the night, he reports the next morning, have left him unfit for the day’s hard play, ‘ashamed of myself as a man and a soldier’ (p. 27). The lord apologizes, and admits that he put his friend in that room as ‘an experiment of my own’ (p. 28), having been told that it was haunted but wanting to disprove such nonsense, by putting someone in there who did not know the stories, and having them sleep undisturbed. The story, then, gives us a ghost whose presence functions as a ‘trace’ of an earlier generation’s ‘hideous passions.’ And it matters, in this instance, that the ghost is a woman – the only woman in the story – and that she unmans, like nothing else in his life, not even war, this brave and gentlemanly officer. And this happens at the very moment that he is re-awakening, remembering (and re-membering) his long-standing homo-social bonds with his ex-fag and chosen intimate Woodville. He is ‘unmanned,’ we can conclude, because it is a woman rather than Woodville, the object of his ‘manly’ desires, that comes into the room; and we can also conclude that her presence is itself a response to those desires, that she is a figure for them. The general is haunted by what he both desires and is repelled by, in the figure of a feminine interruption of the homo-social bond that he wants to ‘return’ to, that he wants to ‘exchange’ his life for, who causes his firmness to forsake him, his manhood to melt, and his blood to cease its flow. Entirely feminized, he swoons, we are told, like a village girl, rather than, as is the case in some other literary swoonings, like an aristocrat. The interruption of his homosocial desires renders him, at this moment, not just feminine but also plebian, something that we and he are already aware of in terms of his relationship with the lord, whose failure to come to his friend’s room turns the general into precisely what he anxiously worries makes him undesirable to the aristocracy: common and un-macho. The ghost appears at this nexus of desire and repression, the femininity repressed

A Failed Modernity


by the homosocial bonds celebrated in upper-class English masculinity, as well as the repressed homosexual desire, provided we qualify this observation with the recognition that what we call homosexuality has not really come into social existence at this moment. If the ghost that interrupts the homosocial bond between commoner and lord is the ‘trace’ left by ‘vile and hideous passions,’ then we need to pay attention to the story’s mechanism for obtruding the past upon the present, which means we need to ask a pair of questions: What history does the story deem salient? And what characterizes the present as something distinct from that past? The opening sentence of the story gives it a particular historical setting, carefully articulating the difference between the moment of the story’s action and its narration (and publication), and separating them by about fifty years (circa 1828, and circa 1781). The history conjured up by the story thus has at least three periods or stages: the age of the ghost; the age of the haunting; and the present, and these latter two function much like the subtitle and introduction to Waverley. Also like Waverley, the story begins by situating itself in a specific imperial context, insisting that we understand England and Englishness in light of its projects overseas. About the end of the American war, when the officers of Lord Cornwallis’s army, which surrendered at Yorktown, and others, who had been made prisoners during the impolitic and ill-fated controversy, were returning to their own country to relate their adventures and repose themselves after their fatigues, there was amongst them a general officer, of the name of Browne—an officer of merit, as well as a gentleman of high consideration for family and attainments. (p. 15) The sub-clauses, asides and convoluted structure of the sentence is the first signal that history is, it turns out, difficult to bring into a narrative, but equally that the story is determined to do so. If the ghost story were simply a version of the gothic novel in the manner of Walpole, we might presume that this historical setting is just so much scenery, but the parallel to Waverley suggests otherwise; that the displacement in time, telling a story of a moment ‘sixty years since,’ is central to the work of the story. Cornwallis’s surrender and its aftermath, in this story, function much like the events of 1745 (Prince Charlie’s flight and its aftermath) in Waverley or ‘The Highland Widow.’ The story’s action is centrally concerned with the relations between history, modernity, and Englishness. The general, we learn, while on


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

his tour of ‘the western counties,’ on ‘some business’ unspecified, finds himself in a ‘small country town, which presented a scene of uncommon beauty, and of a character peculiarly English’ (p. 15). ‘Peculiarly English’ means, in this context, un-commercial, not yet transformed by an encroaching modernity, which homogenizes and de-individualizes: The little town, with its stately old church, whose tower bore testimony to the devotion of ages long past, lay amidst pastures and cornfields of small extent, but bounded and divided with hedgerow timber of great age and size. There were few marks of modern improvement. The environs of the place intimated neither the solitude of decay nor the bustle of novelty; the houses were old, but in good repair; and the beautiful little river murmured freely on its way to the left of the town, neither restrained by a dam nor bordered by a towing path. (pp. 15–16) The village is old and traditional but not in such a way as to have been disadvantaged or made backwards; this is not the agedness of neglect, but rather of stability, tradition, order. In the feudal order, history is visible in man-made objects (the church tower, the hedgerow timber); the world is structured around principles of self-sufficiency; it is agrarian without industry, without enclosure; the tenants and the landed aristocrat live together in harmony. Modernity is what ‘improves’ only in such a way, the paragraph suggests, as to disrupt, to destroy, to enslave: modern rivers are no longer ‘free,’ but rather dams and barges have erased the ‘natural’ character that rivers possessed in a feudal, pre-modern system. This properly English past (an ideology rather than a reality, obviously) remains geographically present, itself a kind of benign ghost, marked by ordered freedoms and kempt naturalness. The historical scheme established here is one by which Englishness is itself a historically-bounded characteristic that this beautiful village possesses, but which is visible only now at the moment that such a version of Englishness is under threat. Proper Englishness and the village both are residual, in Raymond Williams’s terms, remnants of a previous order that persists only in such threatened pockets.5 History, then, is not so much something that passes, but rather something you can find in certain places, something identified with a past that persists into the present, something tied up with an ideal of Englishness that modernity threatens to erase. Such a narrative depends on the model of heterochronicity that characterizes the historical novel, in which different temporalities, marked as ‘modern’ and ‘pre-modern’ or ‘industrial’

A Failed Modernity


and ‘traditional,’ coexist simultaneously. Scott’s usual move is to mark the Scots as antiquated and the English as modern. But here, Englishness finds itself divided; there’s a feudal version, existing in miniature, and a vast, modern, world- and sea-ruling version, in the midst of which the former exists only as residue and fragment. The lord’s castle as a whole is ‘as old as the wars of York and Lancaster,’ but it ‘received important alterations during the age of Elizabeth and her successor’ (p. 16). The building itself is heterochronic, that is, bringing together in its single physical presence a variety of historical moments, which juxtaposition, we are told, ‘delighted’ the general (p. 16). Likewise, when the aristocrat shows his friend to his room, the room in which he will encounter the ghost, the furniture itself seems to blur time. ‘The bed,’ the narrative tells us, ‘was of the massive form used in the end of the 17th century’ (p. 20); the tapestries hanging on the wall, those most quintessential of medieval decorations, have ‘an air of gloom’ to them; the ‘toilet,’ which is to say, wash-basin, mirror and so forth, is in ‘the manner of the beginning of the century,’ during the rule of Queen Anne, before the change to Hanoverian rule. But unlike the historically specific village under threat from modernity, all this historically specifiable furniture is perfectly compatible with modernity: there is a fire blazing, and ‘notwithstanding the general antiquity of its appearance, [the room] was not wanting in the least convenience that modern habits rendered either necessary or desirable’ (p. 20). Indeed, the general declares his preference for this kind of amalgamation of past with present by declaring that ‘I would prefer this chamber by many degrees to the gayer and more modern rooms of your family mansion’ (p. 20). What the elite commoner desires, and what the aristocrat offers him, is this heterochronic version of modernity, the aesthetics of a past of stability and order understood to offer a kind of salvation to a ‘modern’ Englishness of industrialization and improper gaiety, the Englishness exhausted and defeated in the Americas. The difference between the village and the room is that where the village is a version of the old under threat from the new, the room is a version of the old comfortably intermingled with the new. And it is in the room that the ghost appears; mixing the old with the new is what produces ghosts. Old things brought into living relationship with the present necessarily bring with them traces of the violence of their history, of history as trauma needing to be but unable to be inherited. And inheritance turns out to be crucial to the role of the ghost in the story. After apologizing for experimenting on him by putting him in the


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

haunted room, the lord insists that Browne, before he leaves, tour the family portrait gallery. The tour includes details that are of the kind which are usually found in an old family gallery. Here was a cavalier who had ruined the estate in the royal cause; there was a fine lady who had reinstated it by contracting a match with a wealthy Roundhead. There hung a gallant who had been in danger for corresponding with the exiled court at St. Germain’s [James the Second’s court-in-exile after the Glorious Revolution of 1688]; here one who had taken arms for William at the Revolution; and there a third that had thrown his weight alternately into the scale of Whig and Tory. (p. 30) The picture gallery is an instance of a present constructing a narrative of the past by which it explains its relationship to that past, one word for which is ‘tradition’: ‘an intentionally selective version of a shaping past and a pre-shaped present, which is then powerfully operative in the process of social and cultural definition and identification’ (Williams 1977, p. 114). We, the present, have inherited the goods, the lands and the titles of these our ancestors; this is a class- specific inheritance, of course, in the sense that this kind of inheritance is limited to the aristocracy and the gentility. This family persists despite history: whether it was or was not for William, whether it sided with Whigs or Tories, whether it was roundhead or cavalier. The aristocracy, on such a narrative, is something like an anti-historical class, persisting through history, inheriting history, but not – or so the portrait gallery is designed to insist – constructed by history. Such a tradition is ‘usual,’ the story says, making clear that the Woodville family is to be understood as representative of the aristocracy generally, in this sense. Again, Lukács on Scott’s historical novels is helpful: Scott finds in English history the consolation that the most violent vicissitudes of class struggle have always finally calmed down into a glorious ‘middle way.’ Thus, out of the Saxons and the Normans there arose the English nation, neither Saxon nor Norman; in the same way the bloody War of the Roses gave rise to the illustrious reign of the House of Tudor, especially that of Queen Elizabeth; and those class struggles which manifested themselves in the Cromwellian Revolution were finally evened out in the England of [his] today, . . . by the ‘Glorious Revolution’ and its aftermath. (p. 32)

A Failed Modernity


Even the examples here match those of the novels: the War of the Roses to which the castle dates, the roundheads and cavaliers of Cromwell’s time, and those ancestors from the time of the Glorious Revolution. But the consolation offered by the conclusion of Scott’s historical novels is withheld in his ghost stories. Eventually, on their tour of the gallery, aristocrat and commoner come to a portrait of ‘an old lady in a sacque, the fashionable dress of the end of the 17th century,’ whom the general recognizes as his midnight visitor (p. 30). The lord admits that she is the one reputed to haunt the room: ‘a wretched ancestress of mine, of whose crimes a black and fearful catalogue is recorded in a family history in my charter-chest. The recital of them would be too horrible; it is enough to say, that in yon fatal apartment incest and unnatural murder were committed’ (p. 30). The story is deliberately vague about both the specifics of her crime and her politics: is she a (Tory) member of the debauched Restoration elite, or a (Whig) participant in revolutionary crime? In either case, however, what matters is that she figures the pre-Hanoverian aristocracy, and thus what the story lumps together as the pre-modern feudal past, a past that the story seeks in its descriptions of the village and Woodville’s castle to cast as a past of tradition and order, about which we should be nostalgic, but which the ghost disrupts. Stressing the domesticity of her crimes, the story insists that violence and trauma are just as thoroughly embedded in this traditional Englishness as they are in the public sphere of modern British imperialism. By the end of the story, Browne is just as defeated by this domestic Englishness as he (and imperial Britain) was by American modernity. The ghost is a figure from the feudal past that haunts the modern Hanoverian present, ‘haunting’ here marking the refusal to allow for the easy separation between the two. It is the sense of continuous inhabitance of the house by this family, the sense of historical persistence itself, which is the horror, though it is also what Browne finds so attractive. Though this ancestress is a particularly ‘wretched’ one, her painting hangs amongst the others just as her deeds are recorded next to theirs in the ‘family history in [the lord’s] charter-chest.’ The story insists, in effect, that the nostalgically preserved past – the Englishness of order and stability – cannot supplant or erase the past of violence, exploitation, and suffering figured by the ghost. In fact, the story insists on the continuity between the domestic violence and trauma of the ghost and the public violence and trauma of British imperialism. If we go back to the story’s opening sentences again, it


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

is clear that unlike in his historical novels, the setting here is one of English defeat, of imperial practices reaching a kind of limit. Rather than the triumph of modernity over the pre-modern, the odd reference to prisoners-of-war reminds us of the brutality and violence that mark modernity, even at the highest levels. (Each side in the war accused the other of brutality in their handling of prisoners. The Americans were appalled that the British refused to give captured soldiers proper trials, because they had been declared unlawful enemy combatants. The British kept their prisoners in prison ships with notoriously high death rates; the Americans refused to honor the Sarotoga Convention, which allowed for the return of prisoners to their home country. Mackesy, 1964, p. 34.) This beginning focuses our attention on General Browne, a particular individual whose honorable and respectable status and character we are to understand as representative of the entire returning British army, indeed of a certain kind of Englishness as a whole. If industrial modernity puts the model of Englishness represented by Woodville’s village under threat, then a rival American modernity has ruined England’s gentlemanly military. The village, untouched by machinery, seems to offer precisely the respite and recuperation that Browne so desperately seeks, the restoration of a version of ‘proper’ Englishness to replace that represented in the post-war exhaustion and retreat of the opening sentence. Browne, despite his commoner’s name and his role in that defeat, is able to recognize the village’s beauty, its desirability; he inhabits the heterochronic time of the English ruling class. How has he come to this position? From his education at Eton and then Oxford, as we are given them, in which he developed and sustained his relationship with Woodville and which provides him with the nostalgic memories so rudely interrupted by the ghost. Looking forward from the general’s return from the Americas but backward from the moment of Scott’s writing, we can see the restoration of English military virtue in the defeat of Napoleon, a victory that Wellington, according to popular legend at least, explained as having been won on the playing fields of Eton. British masculinity, Scott’s readers already knew, had been restored. The general represents this emerging class, born to bourgeois families but trained to aristocratic virtues and values, defeated by America, but now building and representing the new ‘middle way’ of British modernity. The pairing of Woodville and Browne works in many ways like the marriage plot of many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels: an overcoming of class divisions. Here it is not the family but the school and the ‘gentlemanly’ versions of capitalism (Cain and Hopkins 2002)

A Failed Modernity


that produce social arenas in which aristocrats and high commoners can coexist. But the story presents this class compromise as a resolution always fraught. However happy the general is to re-connect with the lord, and whatever desires he might have for his friend, it is clear that the latter does not entirely reciprocate. Having been Browne’s fag through Eton, he takes his friend’s visit as an opportunity to revenge himself for past wrongs, quartering him deliberately in the haunted room, setting him up for the encounter with the ghost and his consequent unmanning. When he admits what he has done, the general’s recriminations insistently mark their class differences: ‘I am infinitely obliged to your lordship,’ he sarcastically offers, calling Woodville ‘your lordship’ four times in the space of his next four spoken sentences (pp. 28–9). The story is marked far more strongly by the undercurrent of rivalry between the two men, the scion of the aristocratic family and the ‘gentleman of high consideration for family’ but no land or name (p. 15), than it is by their friendship. Though the lord manages to convince the general that he meant no harm, when the latter finally manages to leave the estate it is clear neither has any intention of keeping up the relationship. Even more crucially, however, is the basic narrative fact that between them Browne and Woodville have failed to put the ghost to rest. That Woodville has become ‘your lordship’ at all is, in the story, a recent event. The lord ‘had been raised to the peerage by the decease of his father a few months before, and . . . the term of mourning being ended, was now taking possession of his paternal estate’ (p. 17). In this aristocratic tradition, mourning and inheritance are sequentially linked: Woodville mourns his father for a specified period of time, and then inherits his property and title. To inherit properly or successfully, on this logic, one must first mourn and one must mourn successfully, so that mourning comes to an end. The new lord, then, in coming into his inheritance thinks he has finished mourning his father. But everything about the property and castle is governed by the air of melancholy that the general finds so delightful in the haunted room. Though mourning and melancholy are similar states, the key difference between them is that melancholy is some kind of failed mourning, a mourning become interminable, become (seemingly) dissociated from the lost object being mourned, and so internalized (Freud 1995). Melancholy, we can say in shorthand, is failed mourning. The model of Englishness that the story offers as its idyll precludes, precisely, the completion of mourning. The general, despite his desire to find respite in the proper Englishness of this village and this castle and this friendship, finds that in the end he cannot; but the


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

lord inhabits this Englishness only improperly, too, as the story’s ending makes clear. After the general’s impotent run-in with the ghost, his recounting of the events, and his recognition of the portrait, the two friends part, each with a specific task in mind: ‘Lord Woodville to command the Tapestried Chamber to be unmantled and the door built up; and General Browne to seek in some less beautiful country, and with some less dignified friend, forgetfulness of the painful night which he had passed in Woodville Castle’ (p. 31). These are the last words of the story, and this ending is explicit in its linking of beauty and trauma. You cannot have England as the beautiful village of stability and order, the idyllic past persisting into the present, if you do not as well take with it England as the history of trauma, of violence and suffering. In order to forget the ghost, the trauma of English history, Browne needs to be somewhere less beautiful, less English, which means less aristocratically English (though it might also mean less English while still being British, if he is talking about going to Ireland, or to Scotland). The ghost will not be exorcised, its demands met and its unrest ended, and nor will it be vanquished. Rather, the door onto the past opened by the tapestried chamber will be boarded up. Neither Browne nor Woodville are going to deal with this trauma, to understand it or to learn from it; instead, they are going to try to forget it. But ‘try’ – or rather ‘seek’ – is the key word here, because even the story seems to have little faith that they might actually manage to forget. The past cannot be resolved, or even properly inherited, but only repressed; forgetfulness and peace will not be found.

Conclusion There is, I have argued, an important relationship between Scott’s ghost stories and his historical novels. The historical novel narrates the traumatic transition from feudalism to capitalism, from pre-modernity to modernity, from past to present, in such a way as to mark our difference from that past, a past designated at least in part as honorable, just, with a code of ethics that the present by comparison lacks, and marking the passing of those pre-modern ways of life as tragic. But at the same time, such a passage from past to present, from feudalism to capitalism, is celebrated as progress, a triumphant navigation via spectatorial sympathy whereby the present substitutes itself for and thereby inherits the past. Scott’s ghost stories do a lot of this historical work as well, training us to understand the past as not just quantitatively but qualitatively different from the present. And the ghost stories also posit the past as at

A Failed Modernity


least in part offering a better way of life than what is by comparison a degraded present. Scott’s ghost stories, like his historical novels, do not simply gloss over those aspects of the past that are horrific, but linger on them. For both, the past is riven from the present by some historical trauma. The difference lies in how the two genres imagine we can relate to that past. The historical novel sees a benign inheritance glossed by nostalgia, a narrative of sympathy for the past that allows the past to be abandoned, substituting the benevolent spectator and the present for the object of that sympathy in the past. The ghost story insists that no such successful inheritance, no such substitution is possible. All we can do with the past is repress it: board up its rooms and try to forget its events, whether those events are the brutality of the aristocracy or the passing of the aristocracy, the loss of the Americas to an upstart rebellion or the passing of aesthetically idealized English village life. Where the historical novel offers the possibility of recuperation in its narrative conclusion, the ghost story invites, only to deny, precisely such a possibility. The ghost story emerges, like the historical novel, in response to the new kind of presentism that emerges in the late eighteenth century. If it is the project of the historical novel, in some sense, to make visible the past-ness of the past, to re-present it, to make it present to us not as a vital thing in itself but rather as a resource available to the present, then it is the project of the ghost story to mark the impossibility of that project, to re-present as unpresentable what remains of the past outside of that project of making-present; in these narratives, the ghost functions as the remainder, the past un-recuperable to the present, to the modern project of making-useful the past. The last point to make here concerns the role that narrative dissatisfaction plays in Scott’s ghost stories, and indeed in ghost stories in general, though the outlines of this argument are perhaps already apparent. These ghost stories are narratively punishing; in a certain sense, they are just plain not very good stories, in that they fail (or refuse) to offer the kinds of narrative satisfactions that cracking good yarns are supposed to provide. Gothic novels are much more spirited, largely because they are more characteristically narrative: they are conflictdriven, they have crises, they stage our deepest fantasies, and so on. But these ghost stories do not do any of that. They suppress nearly everything, even basic narrative impulses. The ending of ‘The Tapestried Chamber’ is representative, in its boarding-up of the haunted room, rather than dealing with the ghost, its meaning or consequences. The ending of ‘The Highland Widow’ is more succinct, almost emphatic.


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

The last word of the story is ‘conclusion,’ which serves only to draw our attention to the inconclusiveness with which the story ends. The conclusion referred to is the end of the widow’s life, which may or may not have happened (p. 212). The clergyman’s ‘opinion,’ which encompasses the final paragraph, is merely one of three possible conclusions the story offers, without a criterion for choosing between them (p. 212). On the surface, then, ghost stories seem to do a much worse job of representing history than do other narratives, certainly much worse than historical novels. In the historical novel, ‘history’ is what gets narrated to us as story, what gets concluded by the end, wrapped up and made coherent and thereby safe to inherit. Ghost stories represent history badly, because they do not give us history in the narrative terms that we have come to expect it to take. But for precisely these reasons, Scott’s ghost stories register history more pungently than historical novels do. Ghost stories register History in a Hegelian or structural sense, as what marks the absolute outer limits or parameters of what can be said and done and understood. I will have more to say about the Hegelian idea of history in the chapters that follow. History, this Hegelian version of history, is what the historical novel actually sets out to repress, rather than to reproduce. The historical novel is interested in history only insofar as it can make history safe or painless, only insofar as we can comfortably reflect back on how we have progressed from it to where we are. The ghost story, on the other hand, narrates for us – or rather, sets out to fail to narrate – history in this sense: as what hurts, what haunts, what sets limits to what we can and cannot do, what exceeds our ability to control. Whenever you have history, in this sense of the term, you have ghosts. Scott’s ghost stories are a counter to his historical novels, a counter that offers a better way of doing history. So reading the ghost story has consequences for how we think about or tell literary history. My argument throughout this chapter has relied on Lukács’s theory of the historical novel, as well as some more recent Lukácsian scholars like Baucom and Jameson. But what I am arguing here is that Lukács is wrong. The historical novel is not the nineteenth century’s triumph of narrating or representing the totality, but rather its failure. Lukács tells us that ‘vulgar sociology’ saw Scott as ‘the bard of the colonizing merchants,’ and I do not mean here to disagree with his dismissal of those sorts of claims (1983, p. 48). Lukács is right to defend Scott’s novels as explaining the ‘transformations of history as transformations of popular life,’ rather than purely or even primarily transformations in the lives of the elite, and that in doing so the novels give us ‘the totality

A Failed Modernity


of national life’ (p. 49). But he is wrong to claim that ‘the historical novel can reflect historical reality adequately’ (p. 47) – or at least, the ‘adequacy’ he is describing is an adequacy of usefuleness for nineteenth century bourgeois readers that the ghost stories insistently point to the inadequacy of. Historical transformations are presented to us, in the historical novels, in such a way as to make the past safe for our inheritance, an inheritance that functions on the model of capitalist consumption. Only the ghost story insistently draws our attention to what refuses inheritance, to what refuses consumption; to the ghost, as marker for the limits of what a particular historical moment can make sense of. Only the ghost story, that is to say, genuinely historicizes the idea of social or national totality, by its refusal of the move to historicization. Hegel says that the role of historical art is to make history ‘clear and accessible to us . . . so that we, who belong to our own time and nation, may find ourselves at home therein, and not be obliged to halt before it, as before some alien and unintelligible world’ (Lukács 1983, p. 53). Scott’s historical novels bring ‘the past to life as the prehistory of the present’ by, as we have seen, providing readers with the means to substitute their sympathy for the sufferings of the dead and dying (Lukács p. 53). But his ghost stories bring before readers what is ‘alien and unintelligible’ about their world in terms of what cannot be erased by readerly sympathy. There was something modernist about the ghost story from the very start: its refusal of narrative conventions, its convoluted narrative frames, its opacity and unsureness, its refusal of story, its failure to offer resolution. The ghost story was the historical novel’s experimental shadow and antagonist. But then we will see, a few chapters down the line, that Lukács was wrong about modernism, too, when he accuses it of having given up on history and on the possibility of representing the totality. Or at least, we will see that he is wrong about the version of modernism that was already available in the modern ghost story from its beginnings, which will have repercussions for how we understand modernism. I have argued that Scott’s historical novels and his ghost stories both narrate the transition from feudalism to capitalism, and that the stories themselves give us to understand that transition as the arrival of modernity. But I want to put some pressure on that equivalence, here, in closing, by returning to Jameson’s argument that we would be better off, for the most part, ditching the term ‘modernity’ entirely. Modernity is not capitalism, should not be so readily collapsed into it, into the system which follows from feudalism. Rather, he says, modernity is a


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

caesura or felt suspension, and so the trace left by the trauma of the transition to capitalism. Modernity, he is saying, is two things: a kind of ghost; and a story. And though Scott’s ghost stories and historical novels tell the stories of that traumatic transition, they are narratives of modernity in different ways. The historical novel is a crucial narrative of modernity because it replaces the old with the new, the lord with the bourgeois. The historical novel, with its dialectical sense of progress, tells those stories as the successful cancellation through sublation of the feudal. But the ghost story poses contradictions without resolution (a negative dialectics, in Adorno’s terms, opposed to Hegel’s cozy Aufhebungs), insisting that the traces of that trauma can never be erased, will always persist. Modernity – a lived and self-conscious historicity – will always be haunted, will always not just carry the traces of the trauma of its inception, but will in fact be those traces, will never be anything except the narratives we tell ourselves to try to forget, to repress, that traumatic transition. The ghost story, in sum, and the historical novel form the two poles of a properly dialectical understanding of how modernity narrated itself to itself.

2 Fragment and Totality: The Ghost Story and Early Victorian Realism

‘The whole is the true’ (Hegel, 1931, Phenomenology of Mind, p. 81). ‘The whole is the false’ (Adorno, 1974, Minima Moralia p. 50).

Introduction The early Victorian period, which is to say the middle decades of the nineteenth century, was a period in which many of the characteristic parameters, figures, tropes and tricks of the ghost story were codified. Sheridan Le Fanu’s ghost stories introduced many of these characteristics, and Dickens, especially through his editorship of All the Year Round, standardized them. The Christmas special edition, with its series of related stories by multiple authors, held together by a coherent narrative frame, became a conspicuous framework. Largely through Dickens’s efforts, the ghost story shifted to the center of the Victorian reading public’s attention. In this chapter, I argue that these ghost stories function in relationship with, and as a kind of commentary on, the version of the realist novel with which they are contemporaneous. The questions we start with, then, are: what does realism look like, in this early Victorian moment? And what relationship does it have with the ghost story? One of the most powerful appeals of literature is its ability to reassure its readers, to reconcile them to reality, specifically by resolving the social contradictions those readers experience. As Franco Moretti puts it, literature ‘has a problem-solving vocation: to make existence more comprehensible, and more acceptable’ (1996, p. 6). But ghost stories do not, intuitively at least, seem to share this project. Rather, the explicit 57


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

project of the ghost story, as of horror literature more generally, usually seems to be to unsettle, to point to the incomprehensible and to irresolvable contradictions. Of course there are stories that raise ghosts only so as to lay them to rest, but most ghost stories refuse such closure. Rather, ghost stories generally make clear how other genres fail – fail to end, fail to convincingly reconcile their opposed terms. The kind of literature most concerned with this project of makingcomprehensible our world, our society and its structures, is realist literature. Such, at least, is the force of Lukács’s argument about the realist novel: that it represents society as a totality, rendering social relations and structures visible to readers. This is a project shared by the epic, in relation to pre-capitalist societies, but not by other genres of writing such as the lyric, the romance, or naturalist and modernist novels (Lukács 1950, 1981). Definitions of realism are always tricky. On the one hand, Ian Watt claims very broadly that the novel as a whole is realist (1957, p. 34). On the other hand, the novel can be subdivided almost infinitely into constituent sub-categories and sub-genres, some of which seem less rather than more concerned with realism. In some sufficiently broad sense, even fantasies, science fictions, and Harlequins all fit this description, though what counts as ‘reality’ and how it gets represented in each will vary wildly. But I want to hold onto the term ‘realism’ for describing the specifically Lukácsian project of depicting a historical social totality. Scott’s historical novels are ‘realist’ in this sense, while Zola’s naturalism and Joyce’s modernism, for instance, are not. Many scholars insist that Lukács’s description does not straightforwardly apply to English literature, however helpful it is to understanding European literature. But Dickens is one of Lukács’s exemplary realists, and though there might be specific characteristics that set English realism apart from Continental realism in the mid nineteenth century, ‘the Victorian novel,’ insofar as such a thing exists, can readily be described in Lukács’s terms. Ian Duncan, for instance, argues that the Victorian novel incorporates an explosion of linguistic diversity (dialects, genres, and other discourses), and draws together many plots and characters into a vast and complicated structure that articulates complex relations between classes, regions, periods, and cultures, and between public and private (Duncan 2002, pp. 8–9), all of which are characteristics of Lukacsian realism. Not all Victorian writing is realist in Lukács’s sense, obviously, but novelists like Dickens, Gaskell, Eliot, and the Brontës are clearly engaged in this realist project. This version of realism, the depiction of a socio-historical totality, is at any rate the project that ghost stories seem designed to unsettle. The

Fragment and Totality


big-canvas novel and the ghost story are, it seems, pursuing antithetical projects: one engaging its readers with the world, providing a kind of comprehension of it, enabling readers to function within it; the other insisting that the world escapes the limits of comprehension. And yet ghosts, once we start looking for them, appear in many Victorian realist novels, which suggests that this easy antithesis will not hold. Bleak House, for instance, features ghosts in structurally significant ways that advance, rather than disrupt, that novel’s realist project. The relationship between ghosts and realism is more complex than one of simple opposition, then; what looks like opposition is better understood as dialectical engagement. The first argument I make in this chapter is that, counterintuitive though it might seem, the ghost story is in fact in crucial ways engaged in the same project as the realist novel, the project of making the world comprehensible to readers. The ghost story engages seriously with realist forms of representation, exploring realist answers to the question how does literature represent reality? It consistently reproduces the techniques and character-types of the realist novel, which in the different generic context of the ghost story draw attention to the limits and the possibilities of realism as a project. The largest part of this chapter is given over to an exploration of some of these techniques and tropes, each of which demonstrates a particular aspect of the relationship between the ghost story and realism: the function and depiction of temporality; the character of the solicitor; the ghost as an uncertain figure for tradition, which is to say for the failure of allegory; and the role of the stories’ narrative frame. If the chapter begins by asserting that ghost stories and realism are engaged in the same project, that argument gets modified in this second section to support the assertion that the ghost story is something of a meta-narrative to realism, a genre in which realism’s literary project is assessed, critiqued, and variously upheld or challenged.

The ghost and realism The work of a book like Dickens’s David Copperfield lies in the trick implied by the title: you think you’re going to read some kind of biography, the story of an individual person. But the novel insists throughout that making sense of an individual person actually requires you to understand the totality of social forces which together produce that person at that particular historical moment. Rushdie’s Saleem Sinai makes the same point in Midnight’s Children when he says that ‘In order to understand a single life, you have to swallow the whole


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

world’ (1981, p. 126). Thus, understanding David Copperfield (the character) means understanding the education system, factories, the legal system and debtors’ prisons, patterns of inheritance, even transportation to Australia; understanding David turns out to be never anything more than an excuse for the book’s real project, ‘to draw new and better maps of reality, and make new languages with which we can understand the world . . . [because] we are all irradiated by history, we are radioactive with history and politics’ (Rushdie 1991, p. 100).1 One of George Eliot’s narrators says that her task is “unraveling certain human lots, and seeing how they were woven and interwoven” (2008, p. 132). And this is, for Lukács, the key achievement of the novel through the nineteenth century, especially Scott’s historical novels and then the realist novels of Balzac, Stendhal, Dickens, and Tolstoy: the way they take up the task of representing the social totality, though with the proviso that the ‘world’ or ‘social totality’ of the novel is the nation-state or more often the city, rather than the world-system that it was for the epic. Franco Moretti (1996) argues that a certain set of modern texts, ‘modern epics,’ persist in the attempt to represent this social totality beyond the boundaries of the city or state, but that their project becomes one of projection, reversal, and metaphor; in his first key example, Goethe’s Faust, the epic ability to see this world in a totalized way is projected onto a single character, Faust, rather than developed in the reader; and the ability to act on such planetary insight (as Hegel’s epic hero does) is projected onto a devil, Mephistopheles, and into the realm of the supernatural. The social totality, Moretti suggests, insofar as it extends beyond the nation-state, is by the nineteenth century no longer representable in a ‘real world’ setting, and such representation involves the supernatural, even in narratives that are not themselves gothic or supernatural. The ghost, then, or the evil spirit, is often a crucial figure in realist writing, even before we turn to ghost stories in particular. As we saw in the Introduction, Fredric Jameson (1988) uses the term ‘cognitive mapping’ to describe the work a literary text does to make imaginable for its readers such a historically changing social totality. A piece of literature ‘maps’ to the extent that it provides an understanding of the social relations that structure one’s society, social relations that, in the ordinary course of a person’s life, remain invisible. Through the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the novel became a more sophisticated tool for representing the social totality, but at the same time that social totality continued to become more complex, more abstract. There develops an intense contradiction between the ‘lived experience’ of our immediate lives and the structure that underlies

Fragment and Totality


and makes possible that experience; that is, a contradiction ‘between a phenomenological description of the life of an individual and a more properly structural model of the conditions of existence of that experience’ (1988, p. 349). So, Jameson explains, many people would experience taking tea, with sugar, in some London coffee house, but the truth of that experience no longer coincides with the place in which it takes place. The truth of that limited daily experience of London lies, rather, in India or Jamaica or Hong Kong; it is bound up with the whole colonial system of the British Empire that determines the very quality of the individual’s subjective life. Yet those structural coordinates are no longer accessible to immediate lived experience and are often not even conceptualizable for most people. (1988, p. 349) Jameson’s concept of cognitive mapping helps us to rephrase Said’s influential argument that the values and lifestyle of the rural gentry on which Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park focuses are economically and socially dependent on the Caribbean sugar trade and thus African slave labor, but that her novel has no way to make that visible to us beyond a few phrases easily read past. Said’s argument, in Jameson’s terms, tells us that Austen’s novel fails, whatever its other virtues, to cognitively map. But Lukács’s key claim about the nineteenth-century novel is that it does achieve what Austen’s novel does not: it can teach us how to understand otherwise-invisible relationships. For Lukács, ‘The true artistic totality of a literary work depends on the completeness of the picture it presents of the essential social factors that determine the world depicted’ (1950, p. 147), and for Lukács, only realism achieves this project, only realism manages to present a complete picture of the social forces that produce the world as it is, making visible the structures that underlie our experiences of the world. When ghosts appear in realist writing, one of the things they mark, then, is a certain unknowability, the failure of the realist novel’s hardwon transparency. In one scene of Goethe’s Faust, for instance, a herald first introduces and explains the nature and role of the arriving characters . . . and then fails: Yet through windows, I admit, Airy phantoms seem to flit; There are ghosts and magic here Which I can’t keep out, I fear.


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

First, the spooky dwarf; and now A whole flood of it somehow. As my office bids, I should Give you an interpretation Of these shapes; I wish I could! They defy all explanation. (ll. 5500–5509) The point at which the herald’s explanatory powers fail, indeed the point at which his ability to know, to interpret and explain, is marked by the arrival of ghost, of ‘airy phantoms’ that refuse the normal modes of egress and that are precisely inexplicable, even unknowable. Ghosts here mark the breakdown or the failure of an epistemological project, mark the limits of what can be known; they do not exactly figure something decipherable in themselves; they are merely placeholders for what can’t be, strictly speaking, known. But ghosts mark other things than this epistemological failure, when they appear in realist writing. Dickens, a key writer of both Victorian ghost stories and realist novels, clearly imagined the realist literary project as a ghostly one, a kind of haunting. In one of his novels – not itself a ghost story at all – the narrator turns away from simply narrating the story and comments on his own narrative project, pleading for an amanuensis to help with his own ability to see and describe: Oh for a good spirit who would take the house-tops off, with a more potent and benignant hand than the lame demon in the tale, and show a Christian people what dark shapes issue from amidst their homes, to swell the retinue of the Destroying Angel as he moves forth among them! For only one night’s view of the pale phantoms rising from the scenes of our too-long neglect . . . ! (1950, p. 648) The folk tale that Dickens’s narrator mentions involves not a ghost but a demon; the narrator, though, invokes this demon only to reject it in favor of a ghost or ‘spirit.’ Not demons but ghosts are the supernatural creatures best able to help us see beyond the public realm and into the private. Dickens’s narrator yearns for the ability to provide readers with a cognitive map of their own lives and society; he describes the realist project of making visible the social-structural ‘map’ of a society in terms of a ghostly agent (the ‘good spirit’) making visible the ghosts (‘pale phantoms’) that lived experience renders incomprehensible. What realism makes visible is society’s ghosts; and realism is itself a project of supernatural visitation.2 Open up Oliver Twist and the unseen will float

Fragment and Totality


into view. So if the ghost, in Faust, is a figure of epistemological failure, then the ghost here figures a certain epistemological confidence, a belletristic proxy-knowledge that we call realism. Realism is thus imaginable, was indeed imagined by some of its most distinguished exponents, as a ghostly exercise. In important ways, realism is best thought of as having nothing to do with reality, as we normally experience or seek to describe it, that is, nothing to do with reality as produced by science or journalism, nothing to do with the accurate description of the physical qualities of the discrete objects under scrutiny. If the project of realism, as Lukács and Jameson have described it, is the representation of the social totality, the hard-to-grasp structural truths that underlie lived experience, then its success is to be measured not according to whether it accurately conveys a sense of the shape and texture of the sugar or the aroma and taste of the tea; those things are beside the point, distractions from the truth with which realism is interested (Barthes 1989). Rather, a realist novel about sugar or tea would have to make visible to us the social structures of plantation slavery or South Asian tea-field labor that underlie the experience of drinking tea with sugar. We can see clearly the relationship between realism and the ghost story when we pay attention to the publication history of these first modern ghost stories, which often first appeared as fragments or even chapters of realist novels. Scott’s ‘Wandering Willie’s Tale’ was initially published as a chapter-fragment in his novel Redgauntlet. Dickens’s ‘The Queer Chair,’ ‘A Madman’s Manuscript,’ ‘The Goblins Who Stole a Sexton’ and ‘The Ghosts of the Mail’ are all chapters or fragments from The Pickwick Papers. Early collections of ghost stories reproduce the form of a novel like Pickwick, in that they are given a coherent narrative frame: Scott’s early collections of stories, The Keepsake and Chronicles of the Canongate are reproduced in the shape of a novel, held together – in the same way as his historical novel The Antiquary – by the frame of an antiquarian recounting the stories he has collected. Sheridan Le Fanu gives his collection of stories In a Glass Darkly the same kind of novelistic frame, and hence a minimal coherence: the stories are supposedly compiled by the narrator, a student of Dr Hesseslius, who publishes these fragments from Hesselius’s papers and diaries with some editorial commentary. Thinking about ghost stories in this way suggests that we need to consider them as fragments of some greater whole, a whole which itself has some realist – totalizing – project. This is even how collections of ghost stories by disparate writers were presented to Victorian readers. The ghost story’s key publication format


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

under Dickens’s leadership was the Christmas special: a single issue with multiple ghost stories by multiple authors, but with an overarching frame written by Dickens himself. Oddly, then, a collection of ghost stories by different authors could be experienced as a whole, could be read in a more ‘coherent’ beginning-to-end-without-interruption fashion, than a ‘novel’ like Bleak House, read over the course of many months in fragmentary installments. Le Fanu’s story ‘Green Tea’ is one straightforward example of a story that puts a ghost in the service of something like Lukacsian realism. Here is a passage in which the haunted man tries to explain to one of the frame narrators what it means to be haunted: But as food is taken in softly at the lips, and then brought under the teeth, as the tip of the little finger caught in a mill crank will draw in the hand, and the arm, and the whole body, so the miserable mortal who has once been caught firmly by the end of the finest fibre of his nerve, is drawn in and in, by the enormous machinery of hell, until he is as I am. (pp. 40–1) The extended simile is genuinely extraordinary. It ranges from an exercise in consumption – eating food – to a scene of production – the worker in the mill – and finally to a conception of haunting as an ethical or sensory experience, in order to suggest that all three are in a certain sense systemic, that to really understand each requires understanding the others – consumption, production, haunting – and as well that all are governed by an ‘enormous machinery’ that it is the experience of haunting to make visible, in a way that neither consuming nor producing allows us to see. Haunting, then, can be a form of cognitive mapping; being haunted is, as for Dickens in Dombey, to be allowed to see into the secret workings of things.

Realist characteristics of the early Victorian ghost story Even when mid-century ghost stories are not actively and explicitly doing realist work, the way ‘Green Tea’ is, they are nonetheless engaged with the project of realism, with its bid to represent reality. The characteristic gestures, figures, and tropes of these stories that do this work include the foregrounding of temporality; a predilection for solicitors; a particular function for allegory; and an emphasis on narrative framing. I want to explore each of these characteristics, beginning with the stories’ attention to temporality.

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When a haunted Hamlet declares that ‘the time is out of joint,’ he places non-contemporaneity at the center of our experience of modernity, and so suggests that ghosts, as bearers of the noncontemporaneous, will play a key role in that modernity (Derrida 1994). But more obviously important to modernity, and to narratives of modernity, is an experience of the contemporaneous, the simple fact that lots of different things all happen at the same time. Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities links the rise of the novel with the rise of the European nation-state when he argues that all novels at a structural level can be understood as a dignified gloss on the phrase ‘Meanwhile, . . . ’: that is to say, what these eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury novels offered their readers was a new way of understanding their relationship to other members of a community, all going about their business at once, and it did so by way of a newly imagined mode of temporality. And the connection between ghosts, temporality, and the nation-state is just as useful to Anderson’s argument about this experience of contemporaneity as it is to Derrida’s argument about the experience of non-contemporaneity. The first figure Anderson offers around which people imagine themselves to be a nation is the tomb of the unknown soldier: the living understand themselves as related to each other by dint of a shared relation to the dead. So realism, engaged in the depiction of totality that encompasses new institutions and concepts like modernity and the nation-state, needs both of these temporalities, needs contemporaneity and heterochronicity at once. And the same pair of temporal modes is visible in the Victorian ghost stories as well, though here the antithesis is not sustained but resolved. Dickens’s most famous story, ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843), is insistently about time. The story’s first sentence has the narrator insisting that ‘Marley was dead, to begin with’ (p. 58), but immediately digresses – it considers the phrase ‘dead as a doornail,’ then describes the elderly Marley’s friendless condition – and then returns to its beginning: ‘The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead’ (p. 58). From the start, that is, the story draws attention to its own narrative procedures, which one could call circular but are in fact dialectical: it begins by asserting a fact, diverting itself into a set of circumstances surrounding that fact, and then returns to a repetition of that fact, a repetition that, though it is the same fact, now carries an expanded meaning. The opening sentence emphatically points, by a reversal of the usual expectations of narrative, to its project: death is a beginning, rather than an end, for this story.


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

Scrooge, the story insists from this opening, is at odds with time itself. Explaining Scrooge’s unsociability, the narrator remarks that ‘no children asked him what it was o’clock’ (p. 59). With Marley now dead, Scrooge does not erase Marley’s name from the firm’s sign, and comes to answer to either Scrooge or Marley, ‘It was all the same to him’ (p. 59). He even lives in Marley’s old rooms (p. 65). In a sense, in Scrooge’s sense, it is as if Marley is not dead; or rather, the fact that Marley is dead in the present, and alive only in the past, is irrelevant to Scrooge’s own version of temporality, which we will come to see is focused solely in the ‘now’ of the market, a ‘now’ in which there are no particular times, only time in general. The two businessmen who ask for Scrooge’s contribution to their poor fund explain that ‘We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices’ (p. 63). Christmas, they declare, is a particular time, not one time interchangeable with others. For Scrooge, of course, the desire to treat Christmas as distinct is a foolish illusion that a proper business sense would soon put right. But as the story goes on, Scrooge is encouraged – and trained and threatened – out of his own version of temporality, and into that of the society surrounding him. First, time’s mechanisms acquire the trappings of ghostliness: the fog becomes thicker, and ‘The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds’ (p. 63). The clock, already framed by gothic architecture, now becomes fully invisible, a presence gazing unseen at Scrooge. And it is ghosts, of course, who do the story’s work of bullying Scrooge into a humanitarian, rather than commercial, conception of temporality. Scrooge’s understanding of temporality goes back to his epistemology, that is, to his idea of what counts as knowledge or truth. When the businessmen tell Scrooge that many people are ineligible for government relief, and some would rather die than avail themselves of such support, Scrooge says ‘I don’t know that’ (p. 63), meaning not that he did not know before and now does, but that he refuses to recognize the claim as knowledge. ‘But you might know it,’ responds one ‘gentleman,’ to which Scrooge replies ‘It’s not my business’ (p. 63). We must, for once, hear what that idiom actually means. Scrooge states that what it is appropriate for people to know extends only as far as their commercial interests. The first of the ghosts that Scrooge meets, of course, is his partner Marley’s, whose death, it turns out, was indeed a beginning rather than ending, for Marley tells Scrooge that since his death

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he has been engaged in ‘incessant labour’ to ‘make amends for one’s life’s opportunities misused’ (p. 71). But, says Scrooge, ‘you were always a good man of business,’ meaning that by Scrooge and Marley’s own entrepreneurial logic, Marley’s life was characterized not by missing but rather by taking opportunities. But Marley replies that ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business’ (p. 71). It is not enough to know and do one’s own work in one’s own sphere – the separation of life into such spheres is itself part of the problem that the story has with Scrooge’s capitalism. There is clearly an ethical version of Marley’s argument that the story foregrounds: we all have, the story suggests, a (moral, Christian, humanist) obligation to care more for other people than Scrooge does and Marley once did. But there is also an epistemological version, which is what interests me here: commercial reasoning gives an inaccurate, artificially narrow, account of the world and its internal relations. The story’s ghosts are thus figures for cognitive mapping, for showing the inadequacies of a particular epistemology, for expanding the terrain of the known beyond a few nearby positivities. This will require an alternate temporality, one that is not Scrooge’s but society’s and which is tied to both ghosts and justice. In a pretty straightforward sense, the ghosts of the story are figures for social justice, who make Scrooge see what he would otherwise not. Scrooge’s business epistemology functions in something like an eternal present, against which the story’s ghosts are contrasted as offering a different temporality, and indeed demanding that Scrooge abandon the temporality of the business world for their own. The Ghost of Christmas Past contains multiple contradictory temporalities: it looks like an old man, and also like a child; hair white ‘as if with age,’ and yet ‘the tenderest bloom [of youth] was on the skin’; ‘It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers’ (p. 75). As well as containing contradictions, it is constantly changing, and indeed becomes in the end a figure for precisely the kind of total knowledge one might get if all the fragmentary knowledges were reassembled into one: Scrooge recognizes that it ‘looked upon him with a face in which in some strange way there were fragments of all the faces it had shown him’ (p. 86). The story ends with Scrooge’s reclamation of time for himself. When he wakes up from the last dream, the narrator describes it thus: ‘Yes! And the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

amends in!’ (p. 118). No longer will he dwell in the eternal present of the business world, a timelessness that recognizes no particularity, no individuality, nothing beyond the obligation to accumulate wealth; rather, he has come to see as a ghost sees, as Dickens’s narrator in Dombey and Son suggests that ghosts see, which is to say he cognitively maps his world, joyously so, his vision no longer limited to the immediate but capable of seeing across time and space the connections between his current situation and the structures on which it depends. The matter is complicated, though, because the story does not itself cognitively map; in no sense are we presented with the social structures that surround Scrooge, that connect him to a world larger than his nephew, his clerk and their families. Rather, it shows us the process of Scrooge learning to map. Unusually for a ghost story, this does not register as a horror but as a transfiguration. For Scrooge, the horror is not his encounter with the ghosts but rather his increasing recognition of the emptiness of his life as lived without them, without the maps they furnish. Dickens’s story presents us with two temporalities, contradictory but both crucial to modernity: the ‘empty present’ of Scrooge’s merciless capitalism, and the heterochronicity of the ghosts’ world-view. In ‘A Christmas Carol’ one is clearly good and the other bad, but the point here is less that the story sides with a heterochronic humanism against the eternal now of business, and more that where the realist novel is premised on their contradictory coexistence, the ghost story sets out to draw our attention to the contradiction, producing its narrative out of the confrontation with the underlying conditions of realism. ∗

The second relevant characteristic of the mid-century ghost story is the unusual frequency of solicitors and their agents as characters, either narrators or protagonists. We have already seen, in the introduction to this book, the central role as both narrator and protagonist of the solicitor Phil in Charlotte Riddell’s somewhat later story ‘The Open Door.’ In Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘Dickon the Devil’ (1872) the narrator and protagonist is also a solicitor, whose encounter with the story’s ghost is brought about through his role as solicitor in relation to a piece of land. The story opens thus: About thirty years ago I was selected by two rich old maids to visit a property in that part of Lancashire which lies near the famous forest of Pendle, with which Mr Ainsworth’s ‘Lancashire Witches’ has made us so pleasantly familiar. My business was to make partition of a small

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property, including a house and demesne, to which they had a long time before succeeded as co-heiresses. (p. 240) In these opening sentences, the story announces its interest in property and inheritance, and the ‘business’ of dealing with them, as well as identifying the inheritors as themselves without descendents. The figure of the solicitor mediates all these concerns. Le Fanu’s character is of a type common to ghost stories. In Dickens’s Pickwick Papers, the setting for the retelling of a number of ghost stories is an inn whose patrons are law clerks (p. 279). Gaskell’s ‘The Crooked Branch,’ though not itself a ghost story, was published by Dickens in the Christmas 1859 issue of All the Year Round, which he framed as a story cycle called ‘The Haunted House,’ in which each story is told by a different ghost haunting a different room. Within this frame, Gaskell’s story is told by the ghost of a judge to the story’s narrator, ‘My friend and solicitor’ (p. 95; the story’s first words), Mr Undery, who in turn re-tells it to us. That is to say, all that is required to turn ‘The Crooked Branch’ into ‘The Ghost in the Garden Room’ is a solicitoras-narrator. Gaskell herself does much the same in ‘The Squire’s Story,’ which features ‘Mr Jones, the agent’s clerk’ (p. 40) as the figure whose ability to mark and respect class gradations is, like Phil in ‘The Open Door,’ central to the story. Where Phil succeeds, though, in Gaskell’s story the point is that the gentlemanly-seeming character manages to fool even the solicitor’s clerk. ‘The Squire’s Story’ is also not a ghost story, but rather a story that keeps inviting us to think that it is, or that it will be; that it begins with this solicitor, and centers around questions of property, inheritance, and gentlemanly behavior (in particular the breakdown between the performance of gentility and its substance; the ‘gentleman’ in question is a retired highway robber), is how it entices readers into expecting a ghost. The trope persists: In E. F. Benson’s much later ‘The Shuttered Room’ (1929), a man and his wife inherit the house of his uncle, and with it a history of violence that needs to be put to rest; the story begins with Mr Hodgkin, the solicitor, showing them around the house. Lawyers introduce you to the troubled past. These brief examples demonstrate some of the ways that solicitors in ghost stories appear at the conjunction of concerns about property, inheritance and gentility, concerns which are the ordinary stuff of ghost stories. These are equally key concerns for nineteenth-century realism, which regularly gets at these issues by introducing ghosts of its own. A ghost story from Nicholas Nickleby pokes fun at the idea of Gothic real estate: ‘The Baron Von Koëldwethout, of Grogzwig in Germany, was as


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

likely a young baron as you would wish to see. I needn’t say that he lived in a castle, because that’s of course; neither need I say that he lived in an old castle; for what German baron ever lived in a new one?’ (p. 49). In these stories, ghosts inhabit places belonging to or associated with the feudal world, and more specifically with the aristocracy and the gentry: the squire’s manor house, the abbey, the castle, the mansion. Le Fanu’s ‘Squire Toby’s Will’ (1868) is another instance of a ghost story that focuses on property and its troubled inheritance. Like ‘The Open Door,’ it concerns a missing will; at issue is the inheritance of the ‘ancient house’ of Gylingden Hall (p. 25). His ‘Dickon the Devil,’ as we have seen, centers on an inherited property. M. R. James was writing scary stories for the landed gentry well into the twentieth century: his ‘Mr Humphreys and His Inheritance’ (1911) for instance, begins ‘Humphreys had inherited – quite unexpectedly – a property from an uncle’ (p. 178). Landed property was one of the spaces in which the expanding capitalist social relations came into conflict with custom. The capitalists’ view of the role of land in society was incompatible with that of the peasants and landlords, ‘for whom land was not merely a source of maximizable income but the framework of life’ (Hobsbawm, 1975, p. 182). Feudal arrangements of property provided severe restrictions as to who could and could not own land, who did and did not have rights of access to it, under what conditions and when, and for reasons of primogeniture set further restrictions on who could sell land, when, under what conditions, and to whom. Capitalist arrangements of property, in contrast, saw land as one among many equal commodities, alienable, a resource to be exploited or sold like any other. The legal back-and-forth between these two modes of understanding was not resolved until the twentieth century, and throughout the nineteenth led to an extraordinarily complex, even at times contradictory, set of laws governing what land could be sold and under what conditions. Property transactions, especially concerning the sale or inheritance of land, all required, in the nineteenth century, the mediation of a solicitor, since they generated an enormous amount of documentation, and the overwhelming majority of such transactions involved the property of the aristocracy or the landed gentry (Offer, 1981). Most landowning families would have had a particular firm of solicitors, who would know far more about the family property – what was entailed where and under what conditions, what forms of rent were legitimate for which pieces of ground, under what conditions and to whom it might be rented and for how long, and so on – than would the family. But if the gentry

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were dependent on the solicitors for their legal papers, solicitors were just as dependent for their livelihood on the patronage of the gentry, and on a legal system that required such complicated documentation. Solicitors, then, functioned in space in which the boundary between feudal and capital modes of understanding the world was especially visible, and especially contested; and the ghost story, like much nineteenth century literature, includes the work of solicitors as a means of addressing the changing status and nature of property, as part of the more general historical process in which traditional modes of social relation are rendered redundant or absorbed by newly emerging capitalist ones. For similar reasons, many ghost stories feature elements of legal cases, or even center on the court system: Dickens’s ‘The Trial for Murder’ (1865) and Blackwood’s ‘The Kit-bag’ (1908) are two of the more obvious examples set around court cases, but the law and legal cases feature in many more, such as Wilkie Collins’s ‘Miss Jéromette and the Clergyman’ (1875). In Le Fanu’s ‘An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street’ (1853), the ghost is a judge; in the story’s sequel, ‘Mr Justice Harbottle’ (1872), we learn how the judge who becomes a ghost in the first story himself is tried and hung by the ghosts of some of those he had sent to the gallows. A further function of solicitors in these stories becomes clear in a set of counter examples: ghost stories that do not feature a solicitor or an aristocratic property often describe a middle-class family moving into a surprisingly cheap but lovely town house. The apparent anomaly evaporates when the house turns out to be haunted, and rather than a pleasure the house is a horror to live in. Issues of property development and speculation, market value and rent fixing, are all cast as supernatural by a public for whom they remain incomprehensible. The absence of a solicitor thus marks the middle-class’s ignorance about property value; what looks to the untrained eye like a bargain turns out to be supernaturally damaged; a lawyer, implied by his absence, would have recognized as much. History lodges in the walls of an old house like some noxious mold. Good examples of this sub-genre include Rhoda Broughton’s ‘The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth’ (1868) and “The Story of Clifford House’ (1878). Somewhat later is Edith Nesbit’s ‘Man-Sized in Marble’ (1893); Bithia Croker’s ‘To Let’ is an Anglo-Indian version of the story (1890). The omnipresence of solicitors in these mid-century ghost stories, this is to say, is not only a result of widespread interest in property, but is the result of increasing confusion about who owns property, and by what right. This, too, is something ghost stories share with eighteenth- and


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

nineteenth-century literature more generally, which shows a consistent concern for marking social distinctions and mediating class relations; but which distinctions, and how to mediate them, shifts over time and across genres, and the figure of the ghost has played a crucial role in this process, even outside of the ghost story. In Fanny Burney’s late eighteenth-century Cecilia, for instance, a young aristocrat is in love with a woman who is merely rich and genteel. The book’s sense of class distinctions is rather fine, much more so than an earlier novel like Pamela. The aristocrat’s mother comes to pay the woman a visit; the two are actually very close; the mother is probably the person Cecilia admires most in the world. And the mother says to Cecilia as precisely as she knows how – and with a directness that the novel means us to find alarming, cutting through all the rituals of eighteenth-century drawingroom etiquette – that she knows that her son loves Cecilia, that she and her entire family actually love Cecilia, that they know Cecilia to be the best of women, from a respectable family and with a mighty fortune, but she needs to make it clear all the same that Cecilia and the boy must not marry. And this is how she makes the case: There are yet other demands to which we must attend, demands which ancestry and blood call upon us aloud to ratify! Such claimants are not to be neglected with impunity; they assert their rights with the authority of prescription, they forbid us alike either to bend to inclination, or stoop to interest, and from generation to generation their injuries will call out for redress, should their noble and long unsullied name be voluntarily consigned to oblivion. (p. 625) The book has gone to great pains to show that this woman is not just being a haughty aristocrat. The great lady goes out of her way to make sure Cecilia understands that she is not trying to put her in her place. The novel, at the very least, is trying to make felt the passionate sincerity of the aristocracy with regard to its own ideology, its own sense of honor and duty. And in order to do that, it slips into the register of the ghost story – not to make the aristocracy scary, but in order to make it to some degree sympathetic or persuasive. Aristocrats have to act a certain way because elite life is presided over by potentially punitive ghosts, who function as a kind of titled superego, putting limits on ‘inclination’ and ‘interest,’ which words name the bourgeois reclamation of the passions. One remains an aristocrat in order to forestall a haunting. Eighteenth-century novels, that is, sometimes characterize the aristocracy in terms of its relationship with ghosts. And ghosts are no less

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crucial to novelistic characterizations of what it means to be gentry in the nineteenth century. Mrs Rouncewell, the housekeeper in Dickens’s Bleak House, offers a version of this idea, less meticulously refined than Burney’s earlier one, but one that bluntly demonstrates the role of the ghost in marking class boundaries. Mrs Rouncewell is showing guests around a manor house in the absence of the owners, Lord and Lady Dedlock. There is a ghost in the house, and Mrs Rouncewell is convinced that the spirit must be very old, indeed: Mrs Rouncewell holds this opinion, because she considers that a family of such antiquity and importance has a right to a ghost. She regards a ghost as one of the privileges of the upper classes; a genteel distinction to which the common people have no claim. (pp. 139–40) Dickens gives us every opportunity to view Mrs Rouncewell’s beliefs satirically, and certainly within ghost stories themselves it is often the bourgeoisie that is haunted by the ghosts of an aristocratic past, haunted by that past because they ‘have no claim’ to it, as they colonize these spaces of aristocratic power, that is, as they buy up and move into the country lodges, manor houses, and castles that the gentry can no longer afford to upkeep. But whether aristocrats or bourgeois interlopers are haunted in such cases, the ghosts themselves are almost invariably the prior and legitimate owners of the landed estate in question; that legitimacy, however firmly declared by the Mrs Rouncewells of the world or of the stories, takes the form of a ghost, tied to the past, intangible and immaterial. Lady Dedlock turns out, of course, to be an improper inhabitant of the role of aristocrat, and the novel’s heroine Esther turns out to be her illegitimate daughter. Esther’s progress towards respectability thus resolves a real social contradiction with a fantasy resolution, by undoing the shame of her birth; as with Phil in ‘The Open Door,’ birth and virtue turn out to coincide and not to conflict. Part of what is most interesting here is that these fictions often tell a simple story of one class falling and another rising that is actually somewhat at odds with what most social historians argue about relations between the period’s aristocracy and middle class. The historians mostly no longer talk about the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in terms of ‘the rise of the middle class’; such narratives are, it seems, reductively Marxist (for example, Hudson 2003). But the idea of the gentleman remains central even to revionist histories of the period, because that is where all the action was: gentility was the vexed, contested border zone


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

between the old landed elites and the new commercial men, whatever kind of story we tell about the relationship between them. In Bleak House, Lady Dedlock’s transgression and its threat to the polite order is mediated initially by yet another solicitor. But in ghost stories the centering of this anxiety in the figure of the solicitor seems to reach a high point in the early Victorian period. The solicitor in these stories mediates between aristocratic and commercial conceptions of property and by extension of society, as seen by the law. The solicitor also mediates between the landed gentry in their own persons and the commercial worlds into which they are increasingly called upon to act and exist. And most crucially in narrative terms the solicitor mediates between the past as represented by laws and by the ghost, and the present as experienced by those living through the haunting, though in Bleak House, Dickens actually allows the lawyer to die, at which point a police inspector takes over most of his functions. In that novel, then, we get to witness the emergence of the detective and a certain passing of the ideological baton, as a new figure steps forward to contain the effects of past violence. In Arthur Machen’s later story ‘The Great God Pan’ (1894), one of the characters observes that ‘nothing strikes me as more commonplace and tedious than the ordinary ghost story of commerce’ (p. 130). That last phrase strikes one as rather odd, and yet in a sense, it is just right; ghost stories are indeed stories of commerce, which suggests that we have not yet fully explicated that habitual description of ghosts as ‘unfinished business’ (Rushdie 1988, pp. 129, 540). But if this kind of story seemed routine at century’s end, this is because the stories of a generation back had sustained such an intense focus on the market, as it intersected with and impinged upon property and gentility: as land became not a feudal institution but a saleable good, and as gentility became increasingly not a product of birth but of wealth and learned conduct, ghost stories consistently marked out the contested zones around each of these concepts. Machen’s dismissal of these commercial tales is a comment not only on the content of the stories, but also on their form, because Machen’s own ghost stories, like the other naturalist ghost stories of his contemporaries, understand themselves as anti-realist, as we shall soon see. That so many of those earlier stories feature a solicitor marks, by contrast, their affinity with the program of a literary realism. ∗

The third characteristic by which ghost stories of this period engage with realism is the way they use allegory.

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We can usefully approach this idea by returning to the idea of property. Through the vehicle of the haunted house, the finally rather abstract idea of history is given concrete and spatial characteristics. Many historians have pointed out the crucial role that the home played in the developing bourgeois culture of the nineteenth century. And Eric Hobsbawm, for one, ties Victorian domesticity to Christmas, and to Dickens’s ‘invention’ of Christmas, in which the ghost story too played a central role: The home was the quintessential bourgeois world, for in it, and only in it, could the problems and contradictions of society be forgotten or artificially eliminated. Here and here alone the bourgeois and even more the petty bourgeois family could maintain the illusion of a harmonious, hierarchic happiness, surrounded by the material artefacts which demonstrated it and made it possible, the dream-life which found its culminating expression in the domestic ritual systematically developed for this purpose, the celebration of Christmas. The Christmas dinner (celebrated by Dickens), the Christmas tree (invented in Germany, but rapidly acclimatized through royal patronage in England), the Christmas song – best known through the Germanic Stille Nacht [Silent Night] – symbolized at one and the same time the cold of the outside world, the warmth of the family circle within, and the contrast between the two. (1975, pp. 230–1) The bourgeois home is thus a refuge from the social contradictions of the new social relations of capitalist production and as well a product of them. The invention of the bourgeois home generated a distinction between the private and the public not experienced in the same way in the still productive estates of an earlier landed gentry. And the traditions surrounding Christmas, invented in part by Dickens, play a crucial role in the maintenance and celebration of that world. Ghost stories and Christmas, by the time Dickens had done with them, went together almost by necessity; it became standard to frame a ghost story with a narrator reporting to his readers a story he heard a grandmother telling her children in front of a roaring fire at Christmas-time. The ghost story is doubly interesting in this cozy, Yuletide context, because both in its form and its content it figures prominently the complex interplay of old and new. Walter Scott’s ghost stories – nominally the first of the kind – already register the idea that the genre itself is


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

traditional, precisely not new, but a hangover from some earlier age, just so many ghosts in their own right. In his ‘My Aunt Margaret’s Mirror,’ as we saw in the previous chapter, the titular aunt explains that there is a formula for a good ghost story: ‘that well-vouched tale which the narrator, having first expressed his general disbelief of all such legendary lore, selects and produces, as having something in it which he has always been obliged to give us as inexplicable’ (p. 44). The ghost story brings with it generic expectations, in particular the expectation that readers will already be utterly familiar with the form and that all its stories are twice-told. Or as Derrida puts it in Specters of Marx, the ghost never appears for a ‘first’ time: its first appearance is always a re-appearance, a coming-back, a return. The ghost can never be a new thing, even when it is most new. It is a modern form, but always already traditional; or in line with Hobsbawm’s argument about Christmas, in its invention of tradition, it is modern. Part of what marks modernity in these terms is the breakdown of traditional culture and traditional cultural forms; at some very abstract level, as people move to the newly burgeoning cities they lose their ties to the feudal ways of life of their parents and of their home regions, ways of life that served to resist and mediate the oppressive forces that structured those rural lives. In their place, these new urbanites have to develop fresh practices of resistance and mediation in response to the commercial and industrial forces now structuring their lives. Part of what is gained is the flexibility and responsiveness of the new; part of what is lost is the certainty and stability that more socially embedded cultural forms offered or even guaranteed. The point holds for literature as for much else. In feudal narrative forms, the allegorical interpretation of a figure is never (or much less likely to be) open to question. It does not take much to work out in a medieval morality play what is represented by a figure called ‘Gluttony,’ and The Faerie Queene, though vastly more complex an allegorical frame, nonetheless offers fixed allegorical correlates for its figures (for example, Quilligan 1979). Such allegory relies upon the certainty and univocity supplied by the firm boundaries of tradition, a stable and living link with the past. Narratives of modernity, then, introduce uncertainty into what had been a set of reading practices with fixed and stable meanings, as Hans Georg Gadamer argues: ‘What happens in the nineteenth century,’ he says, is that ‘mythical and historical tradition was no longer selfevident heritage’ (133). This shift or break produces an entirely new way of understanding one’s relationship with the world. Allegorical reading practices, under such conditions, break down, as allegorical figures no

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longer serve as a lived or living connection for readers or viewers to the past. Under these conditions, however, allegory becomes an even more important tool for realism: as it becomes increasingly difficult to use allegory to represent a society to itself, its devices are distributed across the realist’s toolkit. Realist writing has always used various modes of symbolic representation – synecdoche, metaphor, and so on – to make visible the social totality, since you can never simply reproduce the latter, no matter how many pages and characters and sub-plots you include. Any of the great realist novels of this period make this obvious: staying with Dickens, the workers of Hard Times synechdocically are represented as ‘hands,’ the mode of representation reproducing the dehumanization and alienation of their labor conditions; the fog and mud of Bleak House are metaphors for the confusion of the British legal system. But allegory is far and away the most important to realism, since the realist project is a kind of allegory in the first place – what Jameson calls a reading practice of ‘allegoreisis’ (1986). Monseigneur in A Tale of Two Cities is both a specific character and an allegorical shorthand for the aristocracy as a whole. The signal achievement of these novels is that their microcosms of a few families allegorically stand in for the social totality that they inhabit. And in the process, something public (a class position) figured allegorically as something private (an individual’s preferences) helps readers think across the public/private distinction that is one of the key problems that realism aims to undo (Lukács 1950, p. 145). So, another contradiction: as allegory becomes increasingly unstable or even impossible, it becomes more and more useful and necessary to the realist project, each novel producing its own allegorical apparatus from scratch, as it were, in the course of its narrative. In mid-century ghost stories, however, the ghost marks a breakdown of tradition and of the possibility for allegory: where once there was the fixed allegorical sign, dependent on stable social structures for meaning, there is now the breakdown of structure and stable meanings. ‘Tradition,’ of course, is only invented at the moment of such breakdown, or rather, those past stable social structures are only constructed as ‘tradition’ from a present that looks back at them. And in these conditions, tradition is figured by the ghost, an allegorical sign whose meaning cannot be fixed or given, marking instead the absence of fixed meaning. The ghost is something from the past that comes back. We might be tempted to say that the ghost is an allegorical figure for ‘the past’ in some abstract sense, but that is not quite right; the ghost is not really an allegorical figure for anything in particular. Rather, the ghost is a


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

figure for the now-lost past in which allegorical interpretation was possible. The ghost story is, if anything in these terms, an allegory for the impossibility of allegory. Sheridan Le Fanu’s ‘The Watcher’ (1851) is a clear example of how this works. The story’s opening paragraph establishes, in much the same way as does the subtitle of Walter Scott’s Waverley; or, ’Tis Sixty Years Since, that the events of the story are divided from the present by a gap that cannot be crossed, not even by memory. The story begins with the phrase ‘It is now more than fifty years since the occurrences . . . ,’ and further into the paragraph it explains that ‘the fashionable world . . . is no recorder of traditions,’ that it has no ‘memory’ of these events, since ‘its pleasant and heartless progress’ makes memory impossible, or at least irrelevant (p. 1). Progress and fashion: these are from the opening pages established as the enemy of memory. Later, the story sharpens this opposition. At the moment that the haunting begins to trouble the protagonist, he has some pressing business – valuable properties, a lawsuit – which, as the narrative says, ‘naturally’ cheers him out of his gloom. Business is in the story’s terms an alternative to haunting, akin to an exorcism. Bustle will help him through this experience of haunting precisely because it demands that he abide in the present at the expense of memory. Commercial endeavor – application to one’s affairs – will lift one up out of the past. And yet even within the story the contradiction cannot be sustained; it is in fact the project of the story, of ghost stories in general, to collapse any such attempted bracketing-off of the past, of memory, of tradition. The ghost is the figure that crosses such boundaries between past and present, life and death, modernity and tradition. ‘The Watcher’ like all its contemporaries is a ghost story interminably and repetitively about property, inheritance, commerce, and memory. The businessman thinks he is getting away from the ghost when he turns his attention to his balance sheet, but he is precisely mistaken – the ghost comes back and the property questions are never resolved satisfactorily. The market means to abolish memory – and specifically the idea that ancient families have almost permanent claims on the land – by setting the land free of such claims, by insisting that like any material object it can be bought and sold, that its relevant characteristics are not occultly historical – permanently under mortmain – but drably physical. But then memory comes back: the ghost intrudes. The past, it turns out, is not divided in any final or compelling way from the present by fifty years of narrative diversion or by the failure of fashion to record what passes. According to the market,

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property erases memory; according to the ghost story, memories abide in property. But there is no simple allegorical substitution available here: the ghost is not simply a figure for the property’s aristocratic past. Indeed, the businessman’s first encounter with the ghost happens away from the genteel house, in the new suburbs being built around Dublin to accommodate the expanding middle class, land from which both the old gentry and the more recent working class have been dispelled. Indeed, the story is more complex, as Le Fanu’s stories typically are, for the businessmanprotagonist was once a captain in the British navy, and it is nasty deeds done in uniform that have come back to haunt him. The ghost marks the failure of the fashionable Anglo-Irish world to put behind itself the imperial practices that it relies upon. It turns out, then, that ‘fashion’ forgets lots of different things: feudal understandings of property, the origins of the suburb, empire, primitive accumulation. And because memory is precisely blocked, allegorical reading becomes uncertain, vague, transitory, speculative. The ghost picks up possible meanings as it roams. The (modern) tradition of the ghost story repetitively points to the emptiness (under modernity) of allegory as a narrative device; ghost stories are a kind of open-ended allegory. Realism’s own allegories, realism as allegory, is thus consistently questioned and challenged by these ghost stories. ∗

The fourth formal characteristic of these ghost stories is their narrative frame. We have already seen the extraordinary complexity of the narrative frames of ghost stories such as Scott’s ‘The Highland Widow.’ The work that these layers of mediation do is not quite the same as the work done in earlier realist works, Defoe’s, say, or Aphra Behn’s; nor is it the same as the work done in later writers like Conrad. In an early novel such as Moll Flanders, the narrative frame established by the author’s preface works, however disingenuously, to establish the authority of the speaking voice: this is not one of those ‘novels and romances’ with which ‘The world is so taken up of late,’ but rather ‘a private history’ told in the first person by the person whose experiences are therein narrated (p. 1). Defoe’s Roxana has a similar preface, as does Behn’s Oroonoko, whose subtitle additionally declares it A True History. There is, in these novels, an appeal to direct testimony for authority and authenticity, but that is not all. Moll’s preface continues, ‘It is true that the original of this story is put into new words, and the style of the famous lady we here speak of is a little altered,’ and this was indeed no small task: ‘The pen employed in finishing her story, and making it what you now see


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

it to be, has had no little difficulty to put it into a dress fit to be seen, and to make it speak language fit to be read’ (p. 1). Worth noting is the flourish at the very beginning, the grace note of insistence: ‘It is true that . . . ’ Phrases of that kind become a common feature of the ghost story, as does a certain complaint: This story is hard – nay, impossible! – to tell. But most crucial here is the double imperative, the demand that the narrative both be understood as true or authentic or accurate and that the narrative art of fitting that truth ‘into a dress fit to be seen’ be recognized as art, beautification, modification. While the frame thus asserts a direct representational relationship between what is depicted in the novel and the real world it purports to be about, it does so in part at least (and paradoxically) by drawing attention to the author as mediator. There might be more mediatory layers in nineteenth-century ghost stories than the single author/narrator figure mediating between Moll and the reader, but the work this layer does for Defoe is at least a part of the work done by such mediation in the ghost stories, too. For a modernist like Conrad, on the other hand, and especially in a work like Lord Jim, such narrative frames work precisely to disrupt the authority of the speaking voice, and to point to the failure of the realist representational project as a whole. Marlow recounts the story told to him by another captain of that captain’s encounter with Jim, not at the moment of Jim’s crisis, which is the invisible, never-successfullynarrated center of the first half of the story, but in its aftermath, from which he (Marlow) extrapolates backward to the crisis – the narrative works very hard to make sure that narrative uncertainty is not just a background anxiety shared by the narrators and the readers but actually the substance of their shared activity. It is not accidental to Conrad’s project that the moment at which the realist project confronts its own inability to narrate events, confronts a space across which realist narration is impossible, is the height of the British Empire; if the realist novel is ideal for narrating a national totality, for Conrad when the totality in question is forced to extend itself beyond those national boundaries, the possibility of narrating it becomes impossible. Marlow’s inarticulacy, like Jim’s – their sentences repeatedly drift off into ellipses, they both repeatedly insist that they ‘don’t know’ and ‘can’t say’ – is key to Conrad’s project here, but equally important is the relationship between author and reader, a relationship so mediated by other figures as to become not just tenuous but unnavigable. Another effect of complex narrative framing is to push the protagonist further and further from the reader. Any story with a hero and an active, interventionist narrator is going to be split between two competing

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centers, and the effect is easily multiplied. Narrators can tell stories about people telling stories (about some hero). The protagonists of ghost stories often suffer a further and final decentering, when readers discover at the center of the narrative, as its occult agency and driving force, not the protagonist at all but rather the ghost, ineffable, intangible, largely unknowable. The protagonist ends up displaced not by some nameable, human agent but rather by something not straightforwardly representative of any one thing, by the force of history itself, about which one might have hunches but not secure knowledge. The narrative frame of Le Fanu’s ‘Green Tea’ is typically complex, with a series of narrators each interposing themselves between the readers and the action of the story: there is Dr Martin Hesselius, a recurrent character in Le Fanu’s stories, in whose first-person voice most of the narrative is given, though he is not the most external of the story’s narrators; what we read is based on a series of letters Hesselius has written to his friend, Professor Van Loo of Leyden, a chemist and playwright, who was himself, we learn, cured of a supernatural ailment by Hesselius. And these letters and notes have been organized by yet another narrator, an unnamed younger doctor, a self-declared disciple of Hesselius, the transcriber and translator of Hesselius’s notes, who assures us that ‘I am a faithful, though I am conscious, by no means a graceful translator, and although here and there I omit some passages, and shorten others, and disguise names, I have interpolated nothing’ (p. 20). There seems, even, to be another narrator still, who intrudes between us and the Reverend Jennings whose haunting is the subject of the story: midway through the story, our unnamed storyteller inserts in a distinct and self-sufficient paragraph the comment that ‘In passing, the editor remarks that the physician here named was one of the most eminent who had ever practiced in England’ (p. 29) – and so: an unseen editor’s editor.3 Hesselius is a decidedly unsympathetic character. Not only do we laugh at his scientistic attempts to explain, categorize, and control the supernatural world about which he claims a high level of expertise (he describes himself as a ‘medical philosopher’; p. 22), he is also indirectly responsible for the death of the haunted, because he promises to help and then does not. Here is the story: Jennings, since he began drinking large quantities of green tea, has been haunted by a demonic monkey that only he can see or hear and confesses his situation to Hesselius, at a moment when the monkey has temporarily left him, as it sometimes does. Hesselius tells the man to contact him as soon as the monkey returns, but then immediately leaves his lodgings and makes himself unavailable, ‘quite secure from interruption.’ So the monkey returns and


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

the man kills himself – ‘He had cut his throat with his razor’ (p. 45) – after trying and failing to contact Hesselius. The story’s editor, Hesselius’s disciple or groupie, is equally contemptible, both in terms of his understanding and his sympathy. And that then is mostly the point: the dead man’s plight seems more severe because narrated to us via doctors, and more than one, who care little for his health or sanity and rather more for their theories and findings. But there is a further function to this framing, whose narrators claim the authority of science so that their readers might dismiss them. The failures, obtuseness, and self-interest of Hesselius and his disciple suggest that science cannot possibly account for the supernatural. And yet the story claims the verifiability and indeed truth of the supernatural events it narrates precisely on the grounds of the exactitude and degree of precision of observation that science guarantees. ‘This must be how things are,’ we can paraphrase the implicit suggestion of the story, ‘because scientific observation is our most reliable source of knowledge about what is’; but at the same time the narrative emphatically places the supernatural beyond the empirically knowable and explicable. It is, indeed, this anti-empiricism that makes occult fiction congenial to cognitive mapping, which trades in knowledge not of isolated facts, but of the broad social structures in which those objects are located. Another common narrative frame for realist ghost stories features narrators who do not themselves experience the haunting, but who narrate it honestly, insisting on the exactness of their representations, though without being able to say for sure that ghosts really exist. Such a frame serves a function not unlike that of the Hesselius-style narration: it gives readers a way to approach the narrated content as truthful, while at the same time insisting that knowledge about ghosts or the supernatural is impossible. Hesselius explains that, had he had the opportunity denied him by Jennings’s suicide, he would have treated Jennings not by making the monkey go away, or giving Jennings some power over it, but simply by closing down Jennings’s ability to so see it. You cannot exorcise or make peace with the past, but only – as with Scott’s ‘Tapestried Chamber’ – ignore it. The monkey and the green tea of the story are connected in that the monkey literalizes the social structures that lie behind the London consumption of green tea, functions allegorically as a kind of supernatural cognitive map: the monkey is a tropical creature from the world’s tea-growing regions, so that to be haunted by a monkey – in England or Ireland – is to be haunted by the tropics, for the tea to bring with it an unwelcome reminder of its colonial origins.

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In a sense, and connecting this point back to the ideas about temporality, we could say that the ghost story is like the epic in that it is a story of the de-fetishization of a commodity – giving an object its history back (Moretti 1996; Thorne 2006). Here, green tea is the de-fetishized commodity. And yet it is clearly unlike the epic, too. In an epic, the object is assigned a carefully itemized history or origin story, as in this example of the bow of the archer that Athena tries to trick in Book IV of the Iliad. The bow wasn’t always a bow. It began its existence as . . . the horn of a wild goat he’d shot in the chest one day as the spring ibex clambered down a cliff. Lurking there under cover, he hit it in the heart and the fine kill went sprawling down the rocks. The horns on its head ran sixteen hands in length and a bowyer good with goat-horn worked them up . . . . (ll. 122–7) And so on. The bow does not just have physical characteristics; it has a concrete and material backstory. In no sense is the green tea described like this: grown by a Bengali peasant, the leaves stripped from the bush by his daughter who carried her baby on her back, sold to the British East Indies company factor, who sold it on to a merchant, and so on. I just made that up; it is not in Le Fanu. And yet the horror of the ghost story, the horror of the ghost that comes back, is the idea that this history has not been eliminated but only repressed. The story indicates that objects have histories, but does not go to any great length to tell them. Which is to say that a ghost story like ‘Green Tea’ is not so much realist as meta-realist; not a version of realism, but a commentary on realism. Rather than being an example of cognitive mapping, the ghost story shows us what cognitive mapping would feel like. When the haunted man explains to Hesselius, in the quotation in the early pages of this chapter, what it feels like to be ghost-ridden (to be at once a consumer and a producer, suddenly aware of the ‘machinery’ that ties them together), we do not share with him his understanding of the structures that underpin his drinking of green tea. Rather, we see him experience it; we witness the effects of his understanding. And according to the ghost story this is not an experience anyone would happily duplicate. Understanding is better avoided. In the broadest terms possible, I have been arguing here that the ghost story addresses itself to reality in the same terms as does realism, becoming in effect a commentary on realism’s representational project. Genres of fantasy, according to China Miéville, are ‘good to think with’ because


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

‘ “reality” is a grotesque “fantastic form” ’ (p. 46). ‘ “Real” life under capitalism is a fantasy’ (p. 42), Miéville says, and it is no surprise then that realism turns to fantasy and in particular to the figure of the ghost to help it explain aspects of lived experience under capitalism. The ghost story is a genre in which the realist project is critiqued and examined with ‘cognitive seriousness’ (p. 44).4

The fragment and the totality I want to consider now what might originally have seemed the most obvious argument about the relationship between the ghost story and the realist novel in the mid nineteenth century: that the ghost story is the negation of the realist novel. This is not to affirm the naïve intuition that the ghost story is escapist fantasy, while the realist novel an engaged commitment with the world. Not at all. And yet there is some sense in which a ghostly realism negates a novelistic realism, and this has something to do with terms I introduced some pages back: the fragment and the totality. If in some basic Lukácsian sense the realist novel is concerned with the narration of the social totality, there is an equally basic sense in which one of the primary concerns of these early Victorian ghost stories is the narration of social fragments. Not only are ghost stories fragmentary in a formal sense, but as well, in these ghost stories, the ghosts are typically fragmentary remainders of past classes, social spaces and landscapes that persist into the present. One of Sheridan Le Fanu’s earliest ghost stories, ‘The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh’ (1838), makes this apparent with its opening sentence, a description of what makes a landscape interesting enough to warrant telling a story about: In the south of Ireland, and on the borders of the county of Limerick, there lies a district of two or three miles in length, which is rendered interesting by the fact that it is one of the very few spots throughout this country in which some fragments of aboriginal forests still remain. (p. 24) A landscape is interesting, a story is worth telling, if it contains and makes visible ‘some fragments’ of the past – indeed, here at least, of an aboriginal past. And the substance of the story then becomes the project of working out some sense of how modernity inherits those fragments, of how those fragments persist into the present. If ‘The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh’ begins by focusing on the persistence of a fragment of

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a forest into the industrial-capitalist present, it rapidly aligns that story with the equally fragmentary persistence of the aristocracy, of the family of Sir Robert Ardagh, which unsurprisingly comes to an end with the death of Sir Robert at the end of the story. As commentaries on realism, early Victorian ghost stories reproduce some of the formal elements of realism in order to undo them. Take the opening of Le Fanu’s story ‘My Uncle Watson’ (1864), another story that concerns a missing will.5 Its first sentence runs thus: ‘A very odd thing happened to my uncle, Mr Watson, of Haddlestone; and to enable you to understand it, I must begin at the beginning’ (p. 110). More than anything else, such an opening looks like the characteristic opening rhetoric of a New Left Review article: a summary of contemporary events is followed by a long historical narrative to provide a context for understanding these events. In order to understand why British voters returned Tony Blair to power in 2005, we will first need to understand the events of 1688. In order to understand why Aristide was toppled from power in Haiti in 2004, we will first need to understand the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick. This form of Marxism, in other words, follows a pattern, a set of rhetorical moves not entirely dissimilar to those of the realist novel, especially the sub-set of realism called the historical novel. It is the project of both the historical novel and this extravagant Marxist historicism to provide a full and expansive historical context within which a contemporary event or individual can be properly understood. But this is not quite – and the ‘not quite’ is important – what Le Fanu’s story does. Rather, in the space of the story’s opening five paragraphs we get something like the summary of a classic realist novel, giving us the history of Mr James Walshame: died in 1822, commonly known as Captain Walshame, though he never achieved that rank in the army before leaving it, which he did in 1766, age 25, encumbered with debts, in order to marry an Irish heiress who was a pensioner in a nunnery at Clonmel, where his regiment was quartered. The kind of understanding provided by such a narrative is the background, the presumption, the ‘beginning’ from which this story needs to begin, rather than – as in the realist novel or the NLR article – the focus of the narrative as a whole. ‘My Uncle Watson,’ then, does not so much duplicate or reproduce that kind of reading, as presume it. The opening of the story reduces the realist novel to a fragment in its own right, to mere ‘background’ against which a ghost story then takes place. We can conclude the obvious here, that ghost stories (compared to realist novels) are narrative fragments and are concerned with the


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

fragmentary rather than the whole. Unlike the realist novel, which actively resists the way that as the nineteenth century progressed knowledge became increasingly specialized (Wallerstein 2004), determined to offer knowledge not of specific fragments, no matter how intensely realized, but rather to offer knowledge of the social system as a whole – unlike the realist novel, we might conclude, ghost stories embrace the microscopic project of modernity, focusing on a particular fragment, locating their truths there. But in fact these mid-century ghost stories are more complicatedly interested in the relationship between fragment and totality. My concern with the fragment and the totality is inherited via Lukács from Hegel, most obviously, whose famous dictum on this was Das Wahre ist das Ganze, ‘the whole is the true’ (1931, p. 81). For Hegel, attention to fragments in themselves is unhelpful; for him, the project of philosophy is the subsumption of purely individual observations and truths, truths necessarily therefore only partial, into a whole picture, a bigger truth. And from there, from that big truth, necessarily abstract and simple, philosophy can return to the more concrete and more complex, observing how the individual is not in fact as first appeared opposed to the totality but part of it. The bluntest response to Hegel that nonetheless works within Hegel’s terms is given by Adorno, who wrote, simply, ‘The whole is the false’ (1974, p. 50). Adorno’s ‘negative dialectics,’ a persistence with Hegel’s dialectical method but a rejection of Hegel’s privileging of the general over the particular, helps us make sense of what is more complicated about the commonplace instinct about the relation between ghost stories and realism, namely, that they are bluntly opposed to one another. ‘The splinter in your eye is the best magnifying-glass,’ Adorno elaborated (1974, p. 50): Hegel’s desire to see from an objective position, through eyes with no splinters, is itself a philosophical disaster, according to Adorno; not only is such a position unavailable; its pursuit tends to produce human and ecological catastrophe. One might, rather, pay attention to the splinter around which you see, as an object in itself and in relation to the object you are looking at (Tiedemann 2003, pp. xxiv–xxv). For Adorno, the history of humanity under modernity, which he and Horkheimer spell out in their Dialectic of Enlightenment, is that the enlightenment and its more or less scientistic progeny may have understood their project as the elimination of suffering and the triumph of civilization over barbarism, but in fact this civilization has been the

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triumph of the system over the individual, of totalized logic over personal experience, a history for which the Holocaust is not an aberration in an otherwise forward-moving process of improvement, but rather the predictable result of precisely that system of thought. The extraordinary suffering at the level of the individual is, to Adorno’s version of Hegelian and Enlightenment philosophy, invisible at the level of the system and the structure. And so in response, Adorno declares that ‘The need to let suffering speak is a condition of all truth’ (Adorno n.d.). At its most basic level, I have been arguing, the ghost story is about a historical trauma: something traumatic from the past, some piece of past human suffering, that has not been successfully dealt with, returns to the present, disrupting its logic and its order. The ghost story’s insistence on making central the figure of the ghost is thus understandable as a roughly Adornian project: articulate suffering. The truth of the social order is not available to totalizing thought, as it is in realist novels, determined as they are to expose the underlying structures behind any individual experience; rather, the truth of a human society is available when the dead are set talking. Perhaps the most interesting formal version of fragmentation that the ghost story exhibits, much commented on by readers and critics, is its failure to provide a satisfying ending (for example, Parkin-Gounelas 1999, p. 138, or Leithauser, p. 19, though Buse and Stott (1999) argues the opposite, p. 12). Almost invariably, the conclusion of a ghost story is not so much horrific as horrifically disappointing, refusing us narrative solution or resolution. Indeed, so pervasive is this failure, and so popular the genre despite this failing, that we have to call it not a failure but a refusal, an active project of a certain kind. Ghost stories seem to insist on their status as fragments at this formal level. Through refusing to give us the kind of narrative satisfaction offered by the tying up of loose ends, through refusing the ideas of completion, ending, and closure, the ghost story seems in fact to revel in its status as fragmentary. In refusing narrative satisfaction, especially the kind that realism reliably offers, the ghost story sets itself up as a negation of the realist project in ways that demand untangling. To put in meta-narrative terms the function of the narrative blockages thrown up by ghost stories, this is a question of the narrative function of an anti-narrative form. The ghost story opposes, in this regard, both the detective story and the realist novel, in which the narrative resolution is the story’s pay-off. The question here is: What is the ghost story’s pay-off?


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

We can answer that question and conclude this argument with a reading of the climactic moment of Le Fanu’s ‘The Watcher.’ The story’s protagonist, though beginning the story a professed skeptic and atheist, unmoved by speculations of the supernatural, by the story’s midpoint – as these hauntings repeat and accumulate – acknowledges that there must indeed exist a spiritual world. This spiritual world, the former atheist says, is ‘a system whose workings are generally in mercy hidden from us – a system which may be, and which is sometimes, partially and terribly revealed’ (p. 28). He realizes that in our ordinary – immediate, materialist – way of understanding the world, the system that actually structures how our lives fit together is not visible, but that this system can sometimes suddenly be made visible. To go back to Jameson’s example: it is as if, stirring a teaspoon of sugar into his tea, the skeptic were suddenly able to look at the cup and see not just grains of sugar, leaves of tea, and drops of milk, but the entire structure of Caribbean sugarplantations, Indian and Chinese tea-fields, the history of enclosure at the center of British capitalist agriculture, laboring bodies, transportation, processing, packaging and selling mechanisms and all the people, processes, and relationships involved in making that cup of tea possible. It is as if, in other words, the skeptic learns to see as a dialectician rather than as a positivist. And in this moment, the ghost story invites us to join him in seeing the world in that way. In this, the ghost story stands programmatically opposed to the detective novel, even though the two genres often get identified together, because they both focus on mysteries. Where the detective story (like the realist novel) aims, by wrapping everything up in its conclusion, to present itself as a self-contained whole, the ghost story has no such goal, aiming instead in these terms to be yet another unsatisfying fragment, invoking not a logic of self-contained wholeness but rather repetition, in that each ghost story pushes its readers toward the next one not for a repetition of the same satisfaction (or possibly that as well, since there are satisfactions to the ghost story, but they are not these of narrative conclusion), but rather as part a cycle of expectation and frustration. The ghost story in these terms is a narrative that follows a logic of melancholy, rather than mourning, in the Freudian sense: rather than the substitution of one love-object for another in a healthy process of development (mourning), this kind of narrative repeats again and again what it refuses to give up, what it declares un-exchangeable (melancholy); or perhaps we could call it a narrative of Lacanian desire, desire not so much for the realist novel’s stated object, since the

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achievement of such objects never satiates the desire, but rather for the continuous frustration of desire, for desire eternally unfulfilled. Ghost stories and detective stories alike are centrally concerned with epistemological questions. But where detective stories conclude with the satisfying success of deductive reason and analytic logic, ghost stories ‘fail’ to provide satisfying endings, insisting instead on inexplicability and the failure of those particular models of rationality (Sullivan 134). The ghost – as the narrator of Dombey attests – is a figure for a certain kind of knowledge, but one wholly unlike empiricism. Ghost stories as invested in local knowledges, local histories, as against the universalization of city values, global or national epistemological frameworks, which is to say that ghost stories offer anti-totalizing epistemologies. The ghost story, because of its refusal of the narrative closure so crucial to both the detective story and the realist novel, is engaging with precisely the same mode of knowing, the same epistemological issues, as the realist novel, in contradistinction to the predominantly empirical epistemology of the detective story. Jameson’s point about cognitive mapping is that it is really hard to do, and that no one seems to do it any more. And indeed the realist novels themselves do not make it look easy; rather, they offer it as a special, strange kind of cognitive experiment, rarely to be undertaken and even more rarely undertaken successfully. What is remarkable about ghost stories, in this light, is that they make such mapping seem spontaneous, effortless, unbidden. But spontaneity need not bring joy. For these early Victorian ghost stories narrate the possibility of cognitive mapping mostly as horror. We read in the ghost story of a character who cognitively maps, who sees behind the positivist veil, the thicket of a commercial society crowded with new objects, and discovers there a historical way of seeing, if such a thing can be called seeing: dialectical, realist, in the Lukácsian sense. We do not get to do cognitive mapping the way we might with a realist novel. We get to see characters who spontaneously map, but they do so unwillingly and unexpectedly. Sometimes, as in ‘A Christmas Carol,’ this new mode of knowing provides for a happy ending.6 For the most part, however, there are dire consequences: this mode of knowing drives them mad, or it kills them. It is, though, marked as unavoidable, sometimes within the logic of the individual story, where it is about making peace with the ghost, learning to live with it, or (most often) to simply repress it with no hope of getting rid of it. But it is even more marked in the genre taken as a whole, where the repetition of inconclusive (‘bad’) endings that keep readers always returning to the next story suggests that the impossibility and the horror


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

are nonetheless both demanded and unavoidable. Jameson says that we do not know how to map, but that we would be better off if did. The ghost story tends to say, as though in response: ‘you can’t not cognitive-map, and you won’t like it.’ If this chapter began by rejecting the too-simplistic opposition of ghost story to realism, arguing instead that ghost stories take seriously, and are engaged with the questions of, the realist literary project, then it concludes now by confirming that initial opposition. But this confirmation will carry the weight of the intervening argument. Ghost stories are indeed in some sense realism’s antithesis, but not because they are doing entirely different things, helping us escape from reality, say, rather than engage with it. Rather, they take seriously literature’s role in engaging readers with the social world that they inhabit; but where realism imagines such knowledge allowing for a kind of power or mastery, the ghost story sees such knowledge as almost too much to bear. Put down your Dickens before you read something that cannot be unread.

3 Supernatural Naturalism: The Golden Age of the Ghost Story

Introduction: naturalism and the ghost story The period from the 1880s to the 1920s is widely considered the ‘golden age’ of the ghost story. In this period, so criticism has it, the ghost story reaches a mature form, a consistent quality, and a literary complexity that had been promised but not (or at least not consistently) achieved earlier, and that – depending on which critics you read – is either sustained with variations through the twentieth century, or is never again achieved within a sadly declining genre (for example, Sullivan 1978; Briggs 1977). This period is marked by a proliferation of subjects, settings, even ‘kinds’ of stories. As distinct from the previous period, where the ghost story very consistently addressed questions of property (and thereby domesticity and class), against a consistent background of empire and imperialism, we see now stories about ghosts in the natural world, ghosts in prisons, ghosts at sea, ghosts of the railways, and ghosts of commodities, to name but a few. The preoccupations of Le Fanu and Dickens are still important: there are still many ghost stories about property and the fading aristocracy, and questions of empire and imperialism take on enough significance that I am putting them to one side here in order to explore them more fully in their own chapter, next. Charlotte Riddell’s ‘The Open Door’ is in many ways exemplary of stories from this period, and I used it in this book’s introduction to demonstrate some of the key tropes and ideas of the ghost story precisely because the stories of this period are now taken to be ‘typical’ of the genre as a whole. But this ‘proliferation’ within the genre is, from another, more formalist perspective, actually a contraction of the range and breadth of 91


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

the ghost story, an intensification that is at the same time a withdrawal. From its earlier engagement with realism, the ghost story turns to what I call a ‘naturalist supernatural,’ in the process turning away from realism’s project of explaining the social and historical networks of causation that make up society, and instead explaining the psychological causes of individual actions. As a whole, this chapter makes two basic arguments about naturalism and the ghost story. Naturalism is mostly talked about by literary critics as a North American and a continental European phenomenon of the late nineteenth century: the most prominent names associated with naturalism are Zola and Maupassant, Dreiser and Frank Norris. In English literary history, when people look for a figure who can represent the naturalist movement, the one they point to most often is George Gissing, who has nothing like the stature of the continental Europeans or the North Americans, and for the most part critics simply point out that naturalism did not much happen in Britain (Pizer 1984, p. 31). My first argument then is that naturalism did happen in Britain; just not primarily in the genre of the novel, but rather in the counterintuitive genre of the ghost story. And this naturalist supernatural became the dominant mode of ghost story writing over the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There is something etymologically oxymoronic about the supernatural being a naturalist narrative mode. But as we saw in the last chapter, there are many reasons to argue that the supernatural is in fact an extremely useful genre for representing ‘reality.’ This is just as true for writers of this golden age as for writers of the earlier nineteenth century; what is different, I will argue in the chapter, is what counts as ‘reality’ and how it gets represented. Elliot Gilbert writes of Kipling’s supernatural stories that ‘At its [the supernatural’s] best – as Kipling uses it in ‘The Gardener,’ for example – the supernatural reinforces reality rather than distracting from it, represents the final intensification of the author’s vision, too compressed and cryptic to find expression within the realistic framework of the rest of the tale, but itself ultimately expressive of reality’ (1972, p. 81). For the naturalist writers that I examine in this chapter, in comparison to the ‘realist’ ghost story writers of the mid-century period, ‘reality’ and ‘life’ are increasingly understood as psychological rather than social categories: representing reality is no longer a process of making visible the structural truth that underlies the experiential everyday, as it was for realists. That idea of a ‘totalized’ truth has become anathema, a problem rather a solution, against which is set the truth of the individual.

Supernatural Naturalism


For the most part, naturalist novelists understood themselves as leftist writers re-politicizing the now-too-bourgeois realist novel, which had, so they saw, lost its political fangs over the preceding generation (Pizer 1995). Even Lukács, who is most damning of the politics of naturalism, acknowledges that the naturalists themselves saw their writing in politically progressive terms (1971). The question this raises for the ghost story is this: since ghost stories of the early and mid nineteenth century functioned as an engaged critique of the realist novel, even as they were in some important sense ‘realist’ ghost stories, what happens to the genre of the ghost story when the project of realism no longer dominates the genre of the novel? My answer, in brief, and the second argument I want to make in this chapter, is that when the ghost story becomes naturalist, it loses the critical element that the realist ghost stories had. The so-called golden age of the ghost story is in fact much less formally interesting than the earlier periods, because (like the naturalist novel) though its stories engage with social and political questions at the level of content, at the level of form they consistently retreat from and evade, rather than confront and engage, those problems. In becoming less formally interesting, the ghost story as a genre becomes, as well, less politically interesting. This process of depoliticization is traceable in all the major figures of the genre for this period, though I focus here on M. R. James, Algernon Blackwood and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. This chapter examines in detail M. R. James’s ghost story ‘The View from the Hill’ (1925) as a representative example of the ghost stories of the golden age, and explores the relationship between the story’s characteristic gestures and those of the naturalist novel, of which Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames (1883) is my example. It then examines some other key characteristics of naturalist ghost stories: the role of the domestic, in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s ‘At Chrighton Abbey’ (1871); and the representation of history, in Algernon Blackwood’s ‘The Willows’ (1907), before returning to the question of the relationship between the ghost story and naturalism, and the argument that naturalism is both the perfection of the ghost story and its betrayal.

‘The Malice of Inanimate Objects’ M. R. James’s stories are concerned with the past and its inheritance by the present, much like the modern ghost stories already looked at. A significant difference between, say, Le Fanu and James, however, is that where the earlier stories tend to feature solicitors, James’s stories regularly feature antiquarians, which changes the stories’ relationship


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

to history. This section begins by laying out some of the common characteristics of James’s stories, before focusing on ‘A View from the Hill.’ Many of James’s stories have a contemporary or near-contemporary setting, but involve houses and properties from the eighteenth century, carefully dated and described. These houses, even when modified by more recent additions, possess a solidity, order, and respectability, and James’s descriptions lovingly specify their distinguishing characteristics. The role of these descriptions is most clearly articulated in this opening paragraph of ‘The Ash Tree,’ which establishes what ‘everyone’ knows about such houses, and what the narrator likes and wants: Everyone who has travelled over Eastern England knows the smaller country-houses with which it is studded – the rather dank little buildings, usually in the Italian style, surrounded by parks of some eighty to a hundred acres. For me they have always had a very strong attraction: with the grey paling of split oak, the noble trees, the meres with their reed-beds, and the line of distant woods. Then, I like the pillared portico – perhaps stuck on to a redbrick Queen Anne house which has been faced with stucco to bring it into line with the ‘Grecian’ taste of the end of the eighteenth century; the hall inside, going up to the roof, which hall ought to be provided with a gallery and a small organ. I like the library too, where you may find anything from a Psalter of the thirteenth century to a Shakespeare quarto. I like the pictures, of course; and perhaps most of all I like fancying what life in such a house was when it was first built, and in the piping times of landlords’ prosperity, and not least now, when, if money is not so plentiful, taste is more varied and life quite as interesting. I wish to have one of these houses, and enough money to keep it together and entertain my friends in it modestly. (p. 32) That is a ‘digression,’ says our narrator, from his story of ‘a curious series of events which happened in such a house as I have tried to describe,’ Castringham Hall in Suffolk (p. 32). But in fact it is not a digression at all. This is rather what the story is all about: this desire of the narrator to have such a house and to ‘entertain . . . modestly’ in it. In the course of the story, the owner of Castringham Hall is killed in his bed by the demon-spiders sent after him by the ghost of the village woman he has had hanged for witchcraft. Looking back from the story’s end to this opening expression of desire, the narrator’s desire to inhabit Castringham Hall must register as strange, even astonishing. In fact, it

Supernatural Naturalism


is precisely this strangeness that the narrative seems designed to draw out. Of course we (bourgeois readers) want to have such houses, to live in them, the narrative tells us; but such houses are precisely unheimlich, unhomely or uncanny, in the literal sense: homes that are at the same time familiar and strange. Edith Wharton’s ghost stories tend to take on this project as well. Her ‘Mr. Jones’ (1928) is about a house that changes its inhabitants from obnoxious but interesting modern urban types to nice but dull gentry; such a change, in the story’s logic, is chillingly supernatural, rather than simply the desire of the new occupants. The bourgeois desire to inhabit the physical and social spaces of the old gentry is, James’s story suggests, common; but it is dangerous, inviting that past to play a deadly role in the present. Not just houses but their furnishings are, in James’s stories, dangerously susceptible to bourgeois desires for the aristocratic past. In ‘The Diary of Mr Poynter’ (1919) a new house is being built in the place where an old house burnt down. ‘It may be a disappointment to you to learn that Rendcomb Manor was new; that I cannot help. There had, no doubt, been an old house,’ the story’s narrator tells us, but there was a ‘disastrous fire which about a couple of years before the date of my story had razed it to the ground’ (p. 219). The expectation of readerly preference or sympathy for the old over the modern is clear. The owners of the new house take a pattern for their new curtains from a diary of 1710 that Mr. Denton, the owner, buys at a book auction. This pattern turns out to have some mystical properties, such that a grotesque, hairy monster emerges from the curtains and chases the owner out of the house. Here the story’s apparent lesson is even easier to retrieve: not just that it is dangerous to undo the new in favor of the old, but rather that middle-class pretensions to genteel taste are dangerous; to want to reproduce or incorporate the old within the new is a self-destructive indulgence. James’s stories, like Scott’s and Le Fanu’s, mark out a set of anxieties about one group of Englishmen’s transition from the feudal to the capitalist, about a certain modernity’s inheritance of the past that produced it. But where those earlier stories function as a commentary on the historical and the realist novel, spelling out the impossibility of inheriting safely and of being genuinely distinct from the past that one inherits, a distinction and inheritance that it is the project of the historical novel to explain and reconcile, James’s stories target a peculiarly modern version of the desire to reproduce the past within the framework of the modern. This desire is hardly new or unique: the Renaissance, Classicism, even the Gothic as a whole – as the name for an aesthetic medievalism


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

and not just for horror novels – are all projects of recuperating something from the past, recreating it in the present. It is not this project as a whole that James wants to caution against, but rather the specific class valence of the contemporary British bourgeois desire to reproduce the homes and lifestyles of the landed gentry. But this ‘lesson’ is complicated by the narrative frame that James’s stories typically use. Like Le Fanu’s, James’s stories feature a series of mediating layers between narrator and action. For Le Fanu, these mediations serve to mock those who would impose order or knowledge on the world; we are meant to laugh at Le Fanu’s doctors and lawyers who think that their accounts offer anything substantive or even falsifiable. Most of James’s heroes are antiquarians of some sort: academics, librarians, archivists, editors and clerics and curators; collectively, they are figures who know about old things. But more than that: their very ways of knowing are themselves outmoded, persisting into a modern world in which such forms of knowledge are increasingly marginal. They are odd heroes: fusty and fussy, with some sense of the dust of the library or the chapel lingering on them. As in Le Fanu, there is again much attention to the collation of documents, the presence of multiple voices and different perspectives; but where in Le Fanu such attempts at order and control are set up only to be mocked, here characters and narrators successfully collate, arrange, bring to order. James’s characters, and especially his narrators, are good researchers and archivists. These antiquarians, nonetheless, are like Heisenbergian researchers: there is no way to uncover the past without disrupting it, disturbing it, even producing it. It is messing around in the archives, disturbing the records of the past, that prompts the ghosts to turn up in the first place: archivists produce ghosts, we can say as a shorthand. Not entirely, of course; some stories are about bumbling modernizers stirring up ghosts that antiquarians then lay to rest. But there remains a key difference between the bourgeois curtain-hanger and the church-archive-raiding academic, in these stories, in that the latter generates a kind of knowledge that the stories want to defend; such knowledge functions as a way of inheriting the past, even controlling it. ‘The Residence at Whitminster’ is a good example of this kind of knowledge production. The story opens with a description of Dr Ashton sitting in his study, after which the narrative voice intrudes directly: ‘I have described in these lines pretty much all that a superficial eye would have noted when he looked into the room’ (p. 200). The narrator, that is, takes time to stress that what he is doing is describing a scene, and the description covers what would be visible. Such attention to

Supernatural Naturalism


superficial detail is an explicitly positivist method for generating knowledge, and this methodology persists into a description of what such an observer would see looking out the window of Ashton’s study (p. 200). The narrator draws explicit attention to his methodology, telling us that ‘Before any other visitor enters, it will be well to explain the situation’ (p. 201). And then a little later, ‘So much for the house. As for the inmates, . . . ’ (p. 201). All aspects of the narrative (setting, situation, characters) are described with the same attention to superficial detail. But it is a kind of attention to the visible that is at the same time marked as a project of archival research: ‘These generalities I gather from the doctor’s notes in his diary and from letters. They are generalities, and we should like, in view of what has to be told, something sharper and more detailed. We get it in entries which begin late in the year . . . ’ (p. 203). And so the archive, together with the positivist observation, is established as the source of truth and authentic knowledge. Another story, ‘The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance,’ is epistolary in form, and has the following preface: ‘The letters which I now publish were sent to me recently by a person who knows me to be interested in ghost stories. There is no doubt about their authenticity. The paper on which they were written, the ink, and the whole external aspect put their date beyond the reach of question’ (p. 242). But those, of course, are precisely not enough to guarantee the ‘authenticity’ of the story in any meaningful way; that is, they guarantee that it is authentically a story; certainly not that it really happened, nor what it really meant. Nonetheless, the archival verifiability is asserted as the relevant basis for authenticity. We will come back to the phrase ‘all that a superficial eye would have noted’ in the next section, since it is one of the most straightforward markers of the influence of naturalism on these ghost stories. But for now, we can say that the knowledge that the narrative frame produces is carefully distinguished from the knowledge produced by the story’s characters. When the characters are looking for the keys to open the old press, they ask Mrs. Marple, the Oldys’s housekeeper, who is competent but absent-minded and loquacious, if she knows where they keys are. Mrs. Marple says she thinks the keys might be in a box she has, but she does not remember where the box might be. Mary, Oldys’s daughter, goes with Mrs. Marple to help her find the box and the keys, by helping her to remember. Mary’s technique is what is interesting here. Spearman (who is Mary’s suitor) asks Oldys how Mary will ‘manage to make her remember about the box’; Oldys replies: ‘Mary? Oh, she’ll make her sit down and ask her about her aunt’s last illness, or who gave her the


A History of the Modern British Ghost Story

china dog on the mantelpiece – something quite off the point. Then, as Maple says, one thing brings up another, and the right one will come round sooner than you could suppose’ (p. 215). The particulars that Mary starts with, though they seem the focus of the conversation, are in fact irrelevant, or rather, it is Mrs. Marple’s mind that holds the relevant information, and Mary’s ability to draw it out of her is premised on the idea that all knowledge is interconnected, makes a totality that is coherent and related. Unlike for the narrator, for whom knowledge amounts to the collection of independent superficial descriptions, Mary’s knowledge (or her ability to access Mrs. Marple’s knowledge) is uninterested in such superficial details, interested rather in the network of relationships that underlie the descriptions. The characters’ idea of knowledge is dialectical, totalizing, while the narrator’s is positivist, descriptive. But in the story’s terms, it is the narrator’s knowledge that amounts to genuine knowledge of the ghost, of the past. The characters, confronted with the ghost, retreat from the possibility of knowledge: the story ends with the characters refusing to open the haunted clothes press, and instead moving it to the garret, unopened. ‘ “And so,” concludes Mr. Spearman, “Whitminster has a Bluebeard’s chamber, and, I am rather inclined to suspect, a Jack-inthe-box, awaiting some future occupant of the residence of the senior prebendary’ (p. 218). The characters’ knowledge fails to resolve the problem of the haunting or even to address the ghost; the narrator’s knowledge, on the other hand, functions to contain the ghost within his narrative. Like Scott’s ‘The Tapestried Chamber,’ that is, this story too ends with characters refusing to open up the haunted domestic space (there a room, here a piece of furniture). But there is a crucial difference, which is that James’s stories, unlike the overwhelming majority of ghost stories, actually offer satisfying narrative closure. It is worth pausing a moment to think about this. James’s stories provide narratively satisfying resolutions. We are happy readers when we get to the end of his stories; we feel contented. This, it needs to be stressed, cuts against the entire logic of the ghost story up to this point in its history, which has always refused such satisfaction. And what is doubly odd is that James’s stories do not at the level of plot provide any more resolution than do Scott’s or Le Fanu’s, as we have seen in ‘The Residence at Whitminster.’ So what is going on? The answer is tied up with the naturalism of these stories, as I will explain in the next section. But a major part of this is the role of the narrative frame, which is no longer the same as what it was for Scott

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or for Le Fanu. For Scott’s ‘Tapestried Chamber,’ the story’s conclusion was no less satisfying for the narrator than it was for characters; here, the refusal of closure practiced by the characters is contradicted by the closure offered by the narrator. James’s narrator’s attention to ‘superficial description,’ his precise and loving attention to detail is a form of what Barthes calls ‘referential illusion’ (1989). Narration, here, is a matter not of revealing what is hidden by superficial surface appearances, revealing the truths that lie behind such appearances (as it is for realism), but rather is a matter of recording precisely those surfaces that, to realist writing, were the illusion to be seen through or past. Narrative is thus divorced from the social project of cognitive mapping entirely; what counts as narrative pleasure in these stories is not the production of knowledge of the system or structures that underlie lived experience, but rather precise and articulate attention to those lived experiences: not engagement with the project of realism, but distraction from it. In James’s stories, history is not something inherited. Rather, it is locked away in archives, vaults and drawers; there is in James’s stories a radical disjunct between past and present, without inheritance across the divide. Archivists are his heroes because only archivists go places that disturb the spirits of the past; and the project of each story is to return us to a future that constructs itself ex nihilo, without regard for the past. Whether the focus is the foolishness of a modernity that tries to reproduce its past or that builds from the ruins of the past, or the foolishness of an antiquarian who delves into that past, the reason both are foolish is that the past is dangerous, that modernity is best imagined as a present with no past. This is one of the key arguments of Jameson’s A Singular Modernity: that ‘modernity,’ insofar as it is a useful term at all, is useful mostly as a descriptor of capitalism’s propensity for repetitively narrating its own origins in the refusal of what came before – as a radical ‘break’ that keeps recurring, each break declared new and each modernity declared ex nihilo even as each repeats the structures and forms of the previous. The argument of James’s stories, that is to say, for all their loving attention to archivism and to the past, is a paradigmatically modern argument. There is a whole category of ghost stories from this golden age that deal with haunted commodities, everyday objects. Riddell’s ‘The Open Door’ is one such; L. P. Hartley has a number of what Jack Sullivan calls ghost stories about the ‘unnaturally natural’ (101). M. R. James wrote several such stories, including the appealingly titled ‘The Malice

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of Inanimate Objects,’ in which the narrator explains, effectively, that slapstick comedy routines have the right of things: in slapstick, everyday objects like rakes, buckets, and banana skins possess accumulated resentment that they wait anxiously to spring on us at unsuspecting moments (Thorne 2003b, p. 109), and in James’s story all objects possess such resentment. The story that I focus on for the remainder of this section, ‘A View from the Hill,’ is another such example, in which one such object, a pair of binoculars, allows their wielder to see into the past. In ‘A View from a Hill,’ the hero is Mr Fanshawe, another ‘man of academic pursuits,’ on holiday at Squire Richards’ Hall in the south-west of England, hoping to engage in amateur archaeology while there (p. 293). For sight-seeing purposes, he borrows a pair of binoculars (‘field glasses’) from the Squire; these were made by a local watch-maker and amateur antiquarian called Baxter, shortly before Baxter’s death. With them, Fanshawe discovers that he can see the past: looking through them he sees the world not as it currently is but rather as it once was. Not the ruins of Fulnaker Abbey, but the spire as it once stood; not a wooded hill but the gallows that once stood on it. Baxter had imbued the glasses with the ability to see the past by filling them with a distillation of the dead, made from bodies he dug up on Gallows Hill. The success of his antiquarian work relied on his exploitation of the dead, his using the binoculars to ‘look through a dead man’s eyes’ (p. 304) and thus see the world as it was, allowing him to then discover in the present the traces of the past that only he (and the dead) can see. The field glasses were the culmination of his magical engineering, but shortly after making them, the angry dead returned and took Baxter from his home, and he was found on Gallows Hill with a broken neck. Fanshawe takes them into a church, the result of which is that they can no longer be seen through at all, and soon after the Squire breaks them. The story thus distinguishes between the good, safe antiquarianism of the academic and the evil, dangerous antiquarianism of the amateur, the engineer. One version of doing historical research involves the literal exploitation of the dead, and the dead return to punish the practitioner of that kind of historical research. The other (academic) version of historical research is safe because it carefully keeps history in the archives, wrapped up in specimen jars and display cases: it is historical research that does not threaten the disjunction of past from present on which the temporality of capitalism depends – though it is only ‘safe’ so long as it keeps itself clear of other (local, amateur, specific) kinds of antiquarianism.

Supernatural Naturalism


Though deeply critical of the consumerist modernity they take as their setting, James’s stories are not offering a Marxist critique of commodity culture.1 The field glasses do not stand in for commodities in general, but rather stand apart from them; their destruction signals a return to the safety of the status quo, the past once again safely returned from everyday experience to the museum, the archive, the private collection. James’s stories thus instantiate Pierre Nora’s argument about modernity, that it is characterized by the transition from lived memory to archived and museumified history (1989); despite the stories’ fascination with the past, despite their fusty heroes, the stories are again paradigmatically modern rather than pre-modern in that their characterization of the past is a particularly modern characterization. The story’s conclusion is not the freeing of the dead but the breaking of the glasses, the past not saved for the future but once again returned to unknowability, or rather to the indirect and marginalized knowledge of scholars, archivists and antiquarians. In one sense, this is not different from the project of Scott’s ‘The Tapestried Chamber,’ which also wants to simply board up the room with the ghosts. But James’s version of this conclusion takes on a different valence in light of some other characteristics of these ghost stories: the focus on the description of objects, their sense that the examination and reproduction of the past is a problem rather than a resolution. In this, James’s ghost stories are typical of ‘supernatural naturalism,’ that is to say, ghost stories whose primary generic relationship is with naturalism.

Naturalism: the ordinary story of commerce So what is naturalism? We do not need, here, a full and complete account of naturalism as a mode or form; rather, we need a description of those aspects of naturalism that are shared by the ghost stories of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Characteristics that make a ‘naturalist supernatural’ the ‘high water mark’ of the ghost story at the same time as they mark the stagnation of what was most interesting about the stories that came before. We can rely, initially at least, on Lukács’s analysis. His essay ‘Narrate or Describe’ lays out the primary distinctions between realism (in which, he says, composition is governed by the principle of narration rather than description) and naturalism (in which the emphasis has swung the other way), and the first part of this section summarizes and explains some of his insights. In the second part I extend those insights in some new directions.

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In order to have Lukács’s abstract observations register somewhat more concretely, this section offers a Lukácsian reading of Émile Zola’s novel Au Bonheur des Dames (1883), or The Ladies’ Delight, as a representative example of naturalism. Zola’s novel tells the story of the Paris department store called Au Bonheur des Dames, and of the developing romance between Octave Mouret, its owner and director, and Denise Baudu, who comes to work as a shopgirl in Mouret’s department store, and whose uncle runs an old-fashioned drapery store that over the course of the novel is put out of business by the competition with Au Bonheur. It is not in any sense a ghostly novel, and thus the similarities between its representative gestures and modes and those of the naturalist ghost stories should register as striking. What is specific to naturalism is easy for us to see in Au Bonheur because in many ways the novel follows a narrative common to earlier realist novels. It describes the decline and passing of a way of life characterized as pre-modern, superseded by a modernity characterized by new modes of capitalism: in Scott’s Waverley the Highlander way of life is wiped out by the English; here the old-fashioned Parisian tradespeople (local merchants, specialists in their trade, small-scale family businesses) are destroyed by the department store and the new forms of commerce that it represents. Both Waverley and Au Bonheur are narrated from the point of view of a character whose sympathies lie between the pre-modern and the modern, and both end with a marriage as a reconciliative and forward-looking conclusion. In terms of what sets the novel apart from realism, the first and perhaps most readily noticeable difference is how good it is at (and how concerned with being good at) virtuoso descriptions, especially descriptions of tableaux, staged scenes, involving the display of commodities. Denise’s first day working at Au Bonheur coincides with an enormous sale, and the chapter follows her around the department store. As Denise stops from time to time, breath-taken by the vista that has suddenly opened up before her, the novel launches into yet another such virtuoso descriptive passage, of a display of exotic carpets, or an arrangement of silks, or the play of light in the new iron-and-glass expansion of the store. Here, for example, is the novel’s description of one such display: At the back of the hall, around one of the little iron pillars that supported the glass roof, there was a sort of cascade of material, a frothy sheet falling from above and spreading out as it descended towards the floor. First of all, a spring of light satins and soft silks: royal satins, renaissance satins, with pearly shades of spring water,

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and featherweight silks, crystal clear, Nile green, sky blue, blush pink, Danube blue. Then came the heavier fabrics, the duchess silks, the wonderful satins, with warm colours, tumbling in swollen waves. And down below the heaviest stuffs reposed as though in a basin: the thick weaves, the damasks, the brocades and the silks decorated with pearls or gold and silver threads, in the midst of a deep velvet bed – every sort of velvet, black, white and coloured, embossed on silk or satin, its shimmering patches forming a motionless lake in which reflections of landscapes and skies seemed to dance. Women, pale with longing, leaned over as though to see their own reflections in it. All, confronted by this bursting cataract, stopped in their tracks, seized by a vague fear that they might be swept up in the torrent of such luxury and by an irresistible desire to leap and to lose themselves in it. (p. 102) The commodity world’s reproduction of a scene of nature here convinces not so much by its verisimilitude as by its scale: the drawn out list of materials reproduces in readers the sense of being overwhelmed that the display produces in the shoppers. Agency belongs to the display, and not to the shoppers, who are ‘stopped in their tracks’ by the display rather than by their own volition. Lukács says that the setting in naturalist novels is ‘merely background’ (p. 115) to the story’s concerns, which are predominantly psychological, whereas in realism setting is intrinsic to the drama of the narrative (p. 114). Au Bonheur is clearly unrepresentative here. The setting in Au Bonheur is unmistakably not ‘incidental’ (p. 115) to the story; rather, these tableaux are in a sense the principle characters of the story, in that they are what provoke and motivate the action; they are the agents. In a realist novel, characters are the product of their social environments, and their choices the products of those environments, but this historicity does not leave the characters without agency; in the naturalism Lukács describes, characters are utterly independent of their social environments, and their choices are framed by their desires and fears, not that environment. In Au Bonheur, Zola pushes realism’s project in the other direction, but to the same end: characters are portrayed in terms of their desires and fears, but these desires and fears are then either the agents themselves, or are produced by the real agents, the novel’s settings. Characters are, in both forms of naturalism, without agency. Rather than contradicting Lukács’s analysis of setting, this confirms it in a different register: it is the necessary other side of what happens to the relationship between character and setting within naturalism.

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If we think about this in terms of James’s ghost stories, this model helps us understand the odd location of his heroes. While his protagonists in some sense ‘generate’ the action of the story in that their archivalism produces the ghosts, it makes more sense to understand his characters as straightforwardly acted upon by their settings, which are much more functionally agents in the stories. This is perhaps clearest in James’s most famous story, ‘Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad,’ in which the academic protagonist is acted upon by a whistle, a golf course, a hotel, and a set of bed clothes; he is repeatedly at sea in a set of circumstances over which he has no control. A second significant (already mentioned) characteristic of Zola’s naturalism is that the unconscious functions as a motivating force, independent of the characters’ own will, indeed, determinedly in opposition to that will. That women can be controlled through the manipulation of their desires is the principle on which the department store is premised. Its manager, Mouret, has only one ‘sole passion’: ‘the conquest of woman. He wanted to make her queen in his house and had built this temple so that he could have her at his mercy. His whole tactic was to intoxicate her with attentive gallantry, to trade on her needs and to exploit her feverish desires’ (p. 231). She is ‘queen,’ but never in a way that makes her an agent. And the book, throughout, shows precisely his triumph over women in these terms: the key to the department store’s success is ‘the exploitation of women’ (p. 75). The department store is the machine by which such triumph is enacted, we are told at various points. But it is a machine that functions due to its exploitation not just of the desires of the shoppers but also of the workers, who just like the shoppers are without volition in the face of their desires. Desires are declared natural, scientifically necessary. Mouret’s ‘system had revolutionized the drapery business, creating a struggle for survival’ (p. 35) – a struggle for survival we are to understand as natural and indeed beneficial, not just to those who profit but to society as a whole. On the one hand, the workers are ‘mere cogs, carried along by the march of the machine, abdicating their personalities’ (pp. 131–2). But on the other hand, they have desires to be exploited, just like the shoppers do. To be properly ‘machine-like’ is to order one’s desires; a machine takes desires and produces order (and profit) out of them. Here, then, is one of the central contradictions that the book is built around: the department store as a passionless machine, ordered and regulated, and the department store as a place of passion and desire, greed and excess.

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The novel’s characters, then, are governed not by their will, their carefully chosen volitions, but rather by their desires, desires that they often do not know or recognize in themselves. Even Mouret is in the end ‘conquered’ by his desire for Denise, which he struggles to repress but in the end cannot. Denise herself is characterized throughout by her ‘sweet and inexorable strength of will’ (277), her ‘will power’ (327), and she is ‘determined to crush her heart and act only according to her will’ (277). But in the end she too gives in ‘with the impetuosity of a child’ (421): the novel’s happy ending is possible only when both Denise and Mouret give up their will to their desires. If the project of realism is narrating the multiple, radiating vectors of social causality, then the way it does that is through characters’ actions and relations. Lukács’s famous example is Tolstoy’s description of a prince mounting his horse, a description that tells us nothing about what the prince or the horse look like, but rather about the cleaning and preparing of his uniform, the manufacture and maintenance of his weapons, the breeding, training and grooming of the horse, and so on, all the networks of social relations that make it possible for the prince to simply walk out of his house and ride off (1950, pp. 145–6). But for naturalism like Au Bonheur des Dames, the project of the narrative is to make visible the just as invisible psychological truths of the characters involved in such actions. Naturalist narrative has no interest in demonstrating the truth of its characters through their actions; indeed, the truth of the characters is precisely independent of their actions. In Au Bonheur, the clearest example of this concerns Denise. When a tradesman, driven to despair and bankruptcy by competition with Au Bonheur, throws himself under the wheels of a coach, ‘Denise came up, impelled by the active sympathy that made her become involved in all accidents: crushed dogs, horses brought down or workmen falling from roofs’ (pp. 368–9). Nowhere in the book do we see Denise in relationship to a crushed dog, a collapsed horse, or a falling workman, nor do we see her show such sympathy. The truth of her character is more or less entirely independent of her actions. This is even clearer if we look at the kinds of ‘secrets’ that the narrative takes itself to be exposing. For the realists, such secrets were social and structural: the realist novel’s project was to reveal to its readers this social network of causality that underlies apparently mysterious events – tea with sugar in one’s nineteenth century English teacup, to reiterate Jameson’s example, hidden behind which lies East Asian and South Asian colonization as well as Atlantic plantation slavery and British imperialism. Whereas the secrets that the naturalist novel cares

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about are psychological and individual. In Zola’s novel, Hutin is one of Au Bonheur’s salesmen: he ‘had managed in only eighteen months to become one of the top salesmen, because of his flexible nature and the continual smoothing touch of flattery behind which he concealed his raging appetites, consuming everything and devouring the world, hungry or not, for the simple pleasure of doing it’ (pp. 46–7). In this instance, he is talking with Favier, who is ‘devoid of charm but concealing a disturbing force of will beneath his offhand manner’ (p. 47). The pattern of characterization is deception, concealment, secrecy. When we meet Hutin again later, at a moment when his women customers are not buying anything, the narrator informs us that ‘Beneath the charming politeness of his manners seethed the anger of a man who has been deprived of his booty by others’ (p. 107). The naturalist novel offers readers access to these personal secrets, these individual concealments, and is not interested in the social or collective ones of, for instance, who makes the cloth the store sells, under what conditions, for how much pay, and from what materials. This contrast between realism and naturalism historicizes the psychologization of the ghost story in this period, which many critics have observed (for example, Scofield p. 102). In James’s ‘The Treasure of Abbot Thomas’ and ‘The Tractate Middoth,’ for instance, the stories are less interested in the ghost itself and more in solving (detective-like) the puzzle left by the dead: an interest in the psychology not so much of the protagonist, though that is the chief form that this psychological shift takes through these naturalist ghost stories, but rather the psychology of the dead. In ‘The Tractate Middoth’ our hero is a librarian who solves a riddle left by a dying wealthy man; the wealthy man’s nephew inherits the property according to the will, but there is a second will, he says, leaving all to his niece instead, if she can only find it. The nephew, Eldred, trying to destroy the will, tracks it down to a book that he asks Garrett, our hero, to fetch for him from the library in which he works; but it seems the ghost of the old man is against Eldred, for he foils this plan twice, first by removing the book before Garrett gets it, second by frightening Garrett into a fit. Garrett only learns what is really going on when he goes to convalesce at a sea-side town and stays at a residence run by the niece, and hears the whole story. He returns to the library; Eldred has ordered the book by post. Garrett follows the book (some librarian detective work), arrives at the same time as it does, sees Eldred tearing the will from the book, in the process of which the ghost of the old man (black cloak, a parson, face covered with dark cobwebs) comes up and kills him. In the inquest all comes clear, and Garrett at the

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end is married to the daughter of the niece, all set to inherit the property himself. The interest of the story is not Garrett’s psychology, or either the niece’s or nephew’s – all three remain more or less narrative ciphers, functional place-holders. The narrative interest is in the psychology of the dead man, and the strange puzzle he leaves and then returns as a ghost to disrupt, and then resolve. The characters, for all their sleuthing, remain the subjects of his whims rather than the agents of resolution. What the story aims to render visible is indeed a psychological truth, though not that of the protagonist but of the dead. If naturalism is about the making-visible of invisible mental or emotional states – mostly desires – then the tableaux-scenes of the department store are the perfect setting, because they are about drawing out those otherwise-invisible desires; their project is to make manifest those desires, to provoke and sustain them, to give them leave to dominate the personality. So on the one hand, we have characters who pretend to be what they ‘really’ are not, characters whose ‘truth’ is raging desire, or egoism, or torment, while they hide behind a façade of charm or indifference. But on the other hand, characters like Denise, who make no such ‘pretense,’ are nonetheless who they are entirely independently of their actions, of how they perform or how they are perceived by their society. In naturalist writing, this is to say, where meaning is individual and psychological rather than social, character will be something revealed not by actions in a social setting but rather by the privileged descriptive ability of a narrator able to take us inside the heads and hearts of characters, behind the façade of masks and actions. The other side of this psychologization is that precisely the institutions, events and situations that realism is so determined to historicize are presented as natural or even inevitable features of society in a naturalist narrative. The department store itself is, according to Mouret, such a natural object. To those who would like to close down Au Bonheur, he offers this metaphor of the store as a botanical process: ‘another large store would grow up by itself next door, because the idea was everywhere in the air: the seeds of success of the centres of labour and industry had been carried on the wind of the times which was blowing away the crumbling edifice of the past’ (p. 367). Grow up by itself – the department store is a natural, spontaneous, necessary development, and the story’s narrator repeats Mouret’s metaphor throughout. Denise, likewise, defends not just Mouret but the new modes of commerce that have ruined her family and friends: she wakes from a dream of all the small trades-houses collapsing, ‘Families weeping, old men

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driven on to the street and all the poignant dramas of financial ruin! And she could not save any of them; she knew that it was good and that this dunghill of miseries was essential to the health of the Paris of tomorrow’ (p. 368). The point is not the sense of progress that the novel endorses, for that is something it shares with many versions of realism. Rather, the point is that the social problems naturalism presents us with, and the solutions it offers to those problems, are both ‘described as social facts, as results . . . of a social process’ (Lukács 1971, pp. 113–14). A novel like Au Bonheur is clearly concerned with a swath of social problems: working class poverty, the collapse of old ways of commercial life, new kinds of class mobility, and so on. But the novel represents these problems as necessary and even natural features of society, unlike a realist version of the novel which would aim to show the historical conditions for the emergence of such problems as well as the historical specificity of the solutions that society produces. The way that naturalism represents history is a third characteristic that distinguishes it from realism. While Denise tempers her belief in progress with sympathy for those it destroys, Mouret expresses the novel’s more extreme version of the value of progress without such sympathy. He says, explaining why he must crush Denise’s uncle’s shop, that ‘You could not cling to your dead, you had to bury them – and with a gesture he dispatched underground, swept aside and cast into the paupers’ grave the corpse of old-fashioned trade, the mouldy, diseased remains of which were becoming a blot on the sunny streets of the new Paris’ (p. 367). A properly modern society, he suggests, does not look to its past at all; to do so, to ‘cling to your dead’ is to cling to what is ‘mouldy’ and ‘diseased’ in society, what is already a corpse even if still unburied. Modernity, he suggests, ideally has no ghosts, no past that persists into its present. And when it does have ghosts, it is in the interests of all to sweep them off the ‘sunny streets’ and into the ‘paupers’ grave’ where they belong. These are the ghosts of the poor, but the novel is equally unforgiving in its representation of the upper classes as remnants of an older way of life. Indeed, the new mode of commerce that Mouret represents in the novel is insistently characterized as the ‘revolution’ that has introduced a natural order into the world of business, a natural order that is thus outside of history altogether, that rescues modernity from history entirely. Likewise, James’s ‘A View from the Hill,’ even though it is obsessively interested in history, understands and represents history as something completed, something utterly distinct from the modernity of those viewing it. ‘History’ is not something out of which modernity is

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produced, as it is for Scott, but rather something from which modernity needs to free itself by returning history to the archives, display cases, and collection drawers of the museum and the private collection. James’s modernity is sui generis. In sum, naturalism focuses on common objects rather than extreme or unusual situations; offers primacy to scientific explanations of events and characters; offers a psychological and material representation of the subject as a possessive individual first and foremost rather than a social creature; and has a broad emphasis on the powerlessness of humanity in the face of forces greater than it, whether that means the status quo, the natural world, or the supernatural. The first three of these, clearly, are characteristics of James’s ghost stories, and we see them again, as well as the fourth, in Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s ghost stories in the next section. Braddon’s stories share with earlier realist ghost stories a concern with the idea of home and domesticity, though her naturalist stories treat those ideas differently from their realist precursors. Specifically, I focus on how her concept of history is radically different and what that means. In the final section of the chapter, I look at Algernon Blackwood’s story ‘The Willows,’ also in terms of its idea of history and the powerlessness of humanity, but in the sphere of the natural world.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s domestic ghost stories Braddon’s ‘The Shadow in the Corner’ (1879) offers a clear commentary on the role of psychology in ghost stories from this period. In the story, Michael Bascom, a scientist and skeptic, feels sorry for his servant girl Maria, who is haunted, she thinks, sleeping in the room in which Michael’s great-uncle Anthony Bascom committed suicide. He therefore spends a night in the room, but rather than proving that it is not haunted, he too feels ‘the horrors that pressed him round and weighed him down’ (p. 64). The story’s ‘surprise’ is premised on the assumption that that while we might expect Maria – poor, a domestic servant, female – to feel haunted, we ought not to expect Michael to be. It also carefully spells out for us that this haunting is something different from what we might expect, in ways that set the story’s naturalism off from the realism of earlier stories: Yes, even he, the man who could recognize nothing in nature, or in nature’s God, better or higher than an irresponsible and invariable machine governed by mechanical laws, was fain to admit that here he found himself face to face with a psychological mystery. This trouble,

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which came between him and sleep, was the trouble that had pursued Anthony Bascom on the last night of his life . . . . [The ‘troubled mind’ of Anthony Bascom] had haunted the room ever since [his suicide]. It was not the ghost of the man’s body that returned to the spot where he had suffered and perished, but the ghost of his mind – his very self; no meaningless simulacrum of the clothes he wore, and the figure that filled them. (p. 64) The passage shares with Zola’s novel the sense that psychology is the deepest truth of personhood and identity. Psychology, here, is declared to lie outside of social structure, beyond the realms of mechanical law, inexplicable to physical science. Truth, it suggests, is not material but ideal. In the process, the story distinguishes its idea of horror from that of realist ghost stories. Realist ghost stories like Le Fanu’s represent as horror precisely the mechanical laws that Michael here puts his faith in. But this story explicitly spells out that alternative only to reject it: what is truly horrific, what has real power, is certainly not the machine-like order of the world. Nor does it take the form of ‘clothes,’ the superficial identity that we inhabit and perform in our interactions with others, the material objects that mediate our relations with other people, but the ‘mind’ which is the ‘very self’: individual psychology. In what remains of the story, Michael pretends to have felt and experienced nothing in the room, which in turn drives Maria to suicide, hanging herself in the same manner and the same place as Anthony. Repetition, therefore, but repetition with a difference: what was the sin of the male landowner is repeated on the person of the female servant. In ‘The Shadow in the Corner,’ as in Braddon’s other ghost stories, servants are figured as susceptible to haunting, as well as sharing with the ghost the same liminal spaces of the wealthy homes (Lynch 2004). Indeed, middle-class women (and women aspiring to the middle class), together with their servants, labored to ‘render . . . invisible every sign’ of any physical labor they did (McClintock 1995, p. 162). Both servants and housewives labored to produce their respective domestic ghostlinesses. Domesticity is a key concern of Braddon’s stories in general, including ‘At Chrighton Abbey,’ on which this section focuses. The story is a version of Scott’s ‘The Tapestried Chamber’: set in a house belonging to the landed gentry, featuring a bourgeois guest in a haunted room. Braddon’s haunted room itself is described as ‘a square tapestried chamber,’ in case we might have missed the repetition of Scott, and in that room, just as in the tapestried chamber in Scott’s story, ‘Every modern appliance had

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been added to the somber and ponderous furniture of an age gone by’ (p. 167), mixing the old and new to the delight of the room’s current guest who is our narrator. Also, like so many ghost stories including ‘The Tapestried Chamber’ (but also like Scott’s historical novels and Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames, too – this is a common focus for eighteenth and nineteenth century literature), ‘At Chrighton Abbey’ is a narrative in which representatives of a traditional world come into conflict with various representatives of modernity, though how the story resolves that conflict is importantly different. The story is narratively simple: our narrator, Sarah Chrighton, is a distant relative of the Chrighton family who own and live in the Abbey. She is visiting them, for the first time in twelve years, when from the window of her room she sees the ghost of the old Squire, Meredith Chrighton, returning with his hounds, his horses and his hunting party. The Abbey’s chief housekeeper, Mrs Marjorum, tells her that a sighting of this hunt has always foretold the death of the house’s heir, and sure enough, a few days later, Edward Chrighton, only son of the current Squire, falls from his horse and dies. If a key characteristic of naturalism is its virtuoso descriptive passages, then in a certain sense Braddon’s story deliberately eschews such. Of the ball, to which Edward is expected but will not come because he has died that morning, Sarah tells us ‘I have no need to dwell long upon the details of the evening’s festival. It was very much like other balls’ (p. 186). That is to say, the story declares itself radically uninterested in the particular details which would make this ball different from any other, the kind of attention to detail that marks naturalist writing. Similarly, the Abbey itself is described not in terms of what makes it distinct but rather in terms of what ties it to its history, what makes it representative of certain ‘types’: ‘Chrighton Abbey had belonged to the family ever since the reign of Stephen . . . . The central portion of the Abbey had been rebuilt in the reign of Elizabeth, and was of noble and palatial proportions. The southern wing, and a long music-room with eight tall windows added on to it, were as modern as the time of Anne. Altogether, the Abbey was a very splendid mansion, and one of the chief glories of our county’ (p. 163). What makes the Abbey particular, a ‘splendid mansion,’ is not what distinguishes it from other such mansions, but rather its place in the set of historically hybrid English manor houses. But though Braddon’s story eschews tableaux-style naturalist descriptions of its settings, it certainly represents its characters in terms that would be recognizable to Zola. For instance, rather than having us discover Sarah’s aunt’s character in her actions, Sarah simply describes the

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Squire’s wife as ‘a noble, warm-hearted woman’ (p. 164); similarly, Mrs Marjorum describes Julia Tremaine, Edward’s fiancée, to Sarah as ‘rather too proud for my liking’ (p. 167), and this is confirmed not by what we see Julia doing but rather by the assertion being repeated by other characters, including Sarah herself, who describes Julia’s ‘short upper lip expressive of unmitigated pride’ (p. 169), and her ‘proud disdainful temper’ (p. 171). And at the center of the story, gathering the most narrative attention, is a psychological confrontation between Julia’s cold pride and the warmth of Edward and the rest of the Chrighton family. As well as avoiding detailed description of its settings and events, the story also insists that narration is not at all central to its project. When the family learns of Edward’s death, the narrative inserts, in the middle of the paragraph, the odd little sentence ‘All was told’ (p. 188). The narrative here draws our attention to the non-centrality of the narrative, that is to say, what there is to ‘tell,’ what has been ‘told,’ is not crucial enough to mark the end of the story, or even of the paragraph. Rather, the story concludes with a description of the effects – again, psychological – of the events narrated; once more, description trumps narration. But I want to focus on how the story represents history, and the best way to get at that is to come back to the figure of Sarah, our narrator. Sarah is a poor cousin of the Chrighton family, the daughter of the local rector, forced by her parents’ early deaths to ‘earn my living in a position of dependence,’ which she does in Europe as a governess, since ‘Happily for myself, I had been carefully educated, and had industriously cultivated the usual modern accomplishments in the calm retirement of the Vicarage’ (p. 163). And her relatives say that they ‘admire [her] . . . industry and spirit’ (p. 168). We learn, further, that ‘I had no very near relations in England. My mother had died some years before my father; my only brother was far away, in the Indian Civil Service; sister I had none’ (p. 164). Sarah’s autonomy is communicated as loss; she has a melancholy reluctance to inhabit this position, but has made the best of it, as some sort of ideal liberal bourgeois subject, not dependant on relations or family but rather her own wits, skill, and determination. Returning to England, Sarah is 33 years old, a ‘confirmed old maid, a quiet spectator of life’s great drama, disturbed by no feverish desire for an active part in the play’ (p. 165). In Lukács’s terms, she is not a ‘participant’ in, but an ‘observer’ of the story she tells, which means that what is described gets represented not as the product of historical struggle but rather, as in Au Bonheur, as something fixed, finished, given (Lukács 1971, pp. 116–19). The setting, in other words, is mere background

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for Sarah, who has learnt the proper bourgeois mode of psychological independence from surroundings, unlike the landed Chrightons, whose identity remains tied up in their relationship to the land. And yet historical struggle, and in particular the struggle between feudal and capitalist social understandings, is what the story remains about. The house and its family function in the story as representatives of a feudal way of life, of traditions that have no place in capitalist modernity. Sarah’s stay at Chrighton Abbey is described thus: ‘December passed merrily. The old house was full of really pleasant people, and the brief winter days were spent in one unbroken round of amusement and gaiety. To me the old familiar country-house life was a perpetual delight’ (p. 171). This is not a laboring house, not an income-earning house, but rather a feudal manor, old-fashioned and genteel: ‘All the land in Chrighton parish, and for a long way beyond its boundaries, belonged to the great Squire’ (p. 163). And the owners of the house have a clear sense of their seigniorial relationship with the poor, one based not only on exploitation but also responsibility, visiting the poor and providing them with what they need at Christmastime, in contrast to Julia’s suggestion that it would be more ‘fair and just’ to come up with some more modern arrangement than this feudal one (p. 173).2 The ghost, like the family, is a figure for history of a certain kind. The stables and kennels that Sarah’s room looks over have been closed up by the current squire because he has ‘a secret horror of the sport [hunting]; for more than one scion of the house had perished untimely in the hunting-field . . . . Death in some form or other – on too many occasions a violent death – had come between the heir and his inheritance’ (p. 170). The family history is one of interrupted primogeniture, and when the ghost arrives to figure another such interruption, it does so in the shape of this traditional, feudal, aristocratic sport of fox-hunting. Edward is killed not in a hunt but in a different leisure pastime, a steeplechase, ‘an amateur affair with gentleman riders,’ thrown from his own horse Pepperbox, not a race horse but a hunter. Winning easily at the last fence, ‘Pepperbox baulked his leap, and went over headforemost, flinging his rider over a hedge into a field close beside the course, where there was a heavy stone roller. Upon this stone roller Edward Chrighton had fallen, his head receiving the full force of the concussion’ (p. 188). If it is a standard narrative of realist ghost stories that the ghost returns from the past into the present, from the feudal world into the capitalist, to disrupt modernity and demand some sort of compensation for the damage done to tradition, then this story carefully puts those valences in play, only to – like in ‘The Shadow in the

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Corner’ – deny them outright. For all that the story has carefully set up modern/traditional oppositions throughout (Edward versus Julia, the genteel life of the Abbey versus Sarah’s waged existence), it is equally careful here at the end to represent the traditional not as destroyed by modernity, or even destroyed trying to compete with modernity, and certainly not returning in order to destroy modernity, but rather as destroying itself. Edward, in a race populated only by the already dying out breed of gentlemen amateurs, dies alone, riding his own horse, a horse trained in the aristocratic sport of fox-hunting. He is killed by coming into abrupt contact with a roller, a tool used by the kind of labor required to sustain such a genteel pastime, a tool of the feudal world rather than the modern world. And the grammar is precise in refusing agency to anyone here, even Edward: there is a roller on which Edward’s head is hit, not a roller that hits Edward’s head, and not Edward’s head that hits the roller. The ghost that comes back to foretell Edward’s coming death is itself a representation of this aristocratic past, and Mrs Marjorum tells Sarah that what she has seen is ‘the dead,’ ‘that which always brings misfortune and sorrow to this house’ (p. 180). The ghost is not a warning, not revenge or punishment, but rather a sign of what cannot help but come to pass. The old-fashioned, traditional world of the Chrighton’s is dying out, and it is doing so by its own hand, the story insists – or better, in the agentlessness of the sentence of Edward’s fall, it is doing so without anyone to blame, without, even, any cause. Certainly it is not destroyed by the forces of modernity. The triumph of capitalism, oddly, is represented as a return to the natural state momentarily interrupted by the oddness of the feudal. After Edward’s death, Julia (who had wanted him not to ride, but was too proud to ask him not to do so for her sake) is transformed. She never marries, and indeed never smiles again, but spends the rest of her life as ‘an angel of mercy and compassion amongst the poor of the neighbourhood . . . . So does a great sorrow change the current of a woman’s life’ (pp. 188–9). We might retrospectively wonder at the parallel sorrow Sarah herself suffered, perhaps at the hands of this same Edward, that has led to her own life without marriage, given her own early admission that she is ‘very curious to see’ Miss Tremaine when she first arrives at the house (p. 168). If we can grant the parallel, then we can read the story as offering a further comparison between the ‘life of sorrow’ lived by Julia and the one lived by Sarah. In Sarah’s position, we see a reasonably straightforward triumph of the new over the old: her Chrighton blood was suppressed in the face of economic necessity, and she joined

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the modern workforce. Julia, in contrast, learns the inferiority of her modern attitude to the poor, and substitutes for it a proper deference to ancient traditions, but does so in a way that itself ensures that her choice will be without inheritance as well, living and dying an old maid with no heirs. She has the money to hold to the old, but at the same time the inevitability of its passing is reaffirmed. It was the project of the historical novel to answer the question ‘how did we get here from that strange thing called the past,’ and the project of the historical ghost story to offer a critique of and commentary on that project. Lukács argues that in naturalist writing, particular historical pasts are ‘reduced to pretexts for so many glossy images’ (Jameson 2005, p. 285); the state of society is ‘the way things are,’ a product of natural forces like psychology, and natural laws like the social-Darwinian struggle for survival, and hence not the product of social struggle, but rather of the absence of interruption. Under such narrative conditions history can feature only as such an interruption, as something that confronts the individual as a problem needing resolution. He might readily be writing about ‘At Chrighton Abbey.’ As well as its opposition between Edward and Julia, the story distinguishes between, on the one hand, Sarah and Mrs Marjorum, defined together by their observation of and knowledge of the ghost, their domestic labor in the maintenance and continuity of the household, and their femininity, and on the other hand Edward and the primogeniturally-identified (and primogeniturally-failing) Chrighton family, masculine, extra-domestic, non-laboring, identified with the ghost but not themselves capable of seeing or understanding it. Sarah escapes the Chrighton family curse of tradition because she is domestic, she labors, her identity is psychological rather than social and material, and she is feminine, all of which the story bundles together, somewhat incoherently of course, into an ideology of capitalist modernity. Not inheriting wealth makes her work and thereby makes her safe. Edward’s doom is given by his masculinity, his genteel leisure pursuits, his psychological and social investment in his identity as heir to the family property, and because he participates in the non-domestic world. Naturalism, which for Lukács is a disaster for the realist novel, can readily be seen here as the perfection of the ghost story. Psychologization and domestication of narrative, as well as the disjunction between characters and setting, become not just the practices of naturalist ghost stories, the way they go about telling their stories, but also their material, the subjects: these are ghost stories, in a sense, about the triumph of naturalism over realism.

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In the next section I extend this analysis to the ways ghost stories of this golden age address themselves to the natural world, and as well to how they address the question of history, always so crucial to the ghost story. In the naturalist novel history is a problem the individual faces, an interruption to the normal order of things; in the naturalist ghost story history is the perfect (petty bourgeois) object of horror, the force against which no resistance is possible, and over which no agency has effect.

Algernon Blackwood and petty bourgeois history as horror Another regular version of the ghost story that emerges in this period is the ‘outdoor ghost story,’ in which ‘ghosts and demons are apparitions of primal forces in nature’ (Sullivan 1979, p. 112). Exemplary is Algernon Blackwood’s ‘The Willows’ (1907). The trees in the story’s title are typical of Blackwood, who often experiments with a kind of Gothic pastoralism; stories in which the natural and the supernatural are indistinguishable, or signifiers for each other. They can be so, I argue here, because these naturalist stories rely on a particular way of thinking about history that is representatively petty bourgeois. Blackwood’s story is narratively simple, despite being (for a ghost story) quite long: the bulk of the story is given over to description, rather than narration, in the naturalist manner. For instance, of the island on which the narrator and his friend take shelter from the rising river, the narrator tells us that ‘I wandered about in a desultory examination of our hotel. The island, I found, was less than an acre in extent, a mere sandy bank standing some two or three feet above the level of the river . . . ’ (157). The description of the island and of his emotional state in response to it goes on, despite being the result of a ‘desultory’ inspection, for several more paragraphs. The narrator and his Swedish friend – only ever referred to as ‘the Swede’ – are canoeing down the Danube, through ‘a region of singular loneliness and desolation’ where it widens into a willow-swamp (p. 152). In their ‘Canadian canoe, with gipsy tent and frying-pan on board’ (p. 153), navigating the river with the skill of a ‘Red Indian’ (p. 161), the men are engaged in some sort of imperial adventure tourism, worldwide in its coordinates, that is at the same time a performance of male domesticity. There is no ‘single sign of human habitation and civilization within sight. The sense of remoteness from the world of human kind, the utter isolation’ is intensely felt by them both (p. 154). The story throughout emphasizes this distinction between the

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civilized, urban world and the natural world, understood as empty: the willow-swamp is ‘a place unpolluted by men, kept clean . . . from coarsening human influences’ (p. 184). Civilization is, in the story’s terms, a degradation of the natural world. The Danube, insistently personified as a ‘Great Personage’ (p. 155), starts to rise, and our adventurers are forced by its increasing unnavigability to set up camp on an island dominated by the story’s titular willows. The willows, and indeed the whole natural world, are likewise anthropomorphized right from the beginning: the trees are ‘an immense army of dancing, shouting willow bushes’ (p. 154). In this natural space, ‘the human voice, always rather absurd amid the roar of the elements, now carried with it something almost illegitimate’ (p. 163). Far from human habitation, this natural environment turns out to be not just pure and clean of human influence, but also (therefore) dangerous. The beauty of this natural landscape is declared bewildering, outside of normal human comprehension – sublime, in some basic sense. Being away from civilization, however degrading and degraded civilization is, turns out to be a threat to the humanity of our characters. That night, camped on this island, the narrator has a vision of huge figures passing up through the space occupied by the willows and disappearing into the air; he understands that ‘the standard of reality had changed’ (p. 167). He also thinks the willows are moving nearer to their tent. In the morning, the Swede points out that one of their paddles is missing and the bottom of the canoe gouged. Both the Swede and the narrator are disturbed, but are equally reluctant to admit their fears by discussing them with the other. The narrator, especially, tries to construct rational reasons for these events, but they do not convince even himself. Later that day, they hear a sound that ‘really defies description’ (p. 182), terrifying them. All the while the river keeps rising, and their safety is increasingly under threat. That night the narrator again sees the supernatural figures in the air above the willows, and can no longer come up with a rational explanation. The narrator and the Swede have different interpretations of what is going on; the Swede’s version is this: ‘All my life,’ he said, ‘I have been strangely, vividly conscious of another region – not far removed from our own world in one sense, yet wholly different in kind – where great things go on unceasingly, where immense and terrible personalities hurry by, intent on vast purposes compared to which earthly affairs, the rise and fall of

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nations, the destinies of empires, the fate of armies and continents, are all as dust in the balance. (p. 187) He tells the narrator that, confronted by such forces, ‘Our only chance is to keep perfectly still. Our insignificance perhaps may save us’ (p. 186). And so, surrounded by these oppressive and dangerous supernatural beings that are trying to mentally grab hold of them, our narrator thinks of ‘the modern sceptical world I was accustomed to move in at home. I thought of roast beef and ale, motor-cars, policemen, brass bands, and a dozen other things that proclaimed the soul of ordinariness or utility’ (p. 189); and in doing so manages to avoid the attention of the supernatural beings, who eventually pass on to other places. The next morning, the river is again navigable, their canoe is serviceable, and the two men set off again down the Danube, leaving the willows and their supernatural inhabitants behind. The story, which began as an escape from civilization, by its end has turned that around. What was initially desired is what the story is determined to make us realize is scary, destructive, to be spurned rather than wanted. This sub-genre of the ghost story aims specifically to undo a set of romantic ideas about the natural world: the horrific noise our protagonists hear is horrific, in the story’s terms, because it is a ‘sound outside humanity’ (p. 183). The natural world as alternative to civilization, as non- or extra-human, outside humanity, not encompassed by it, is specifically not a Thoreau-esque tranquility or a Wordsworthian ‘spot of time.’ The romantic sublime has become horror, a natural world full of malice directed at humanity. A hard-pressed nature eventually fights back. This is a story in some central sense about naming and symbols. From the narrator’s relief at having the Swede confine his thought ‘by the limitation of words’ (p. 183) to their resolution at the end not to name each other because ‘To name is to reveal’ (p. 188), the power of reducing an abstract concept to a name or a symbol is clear. But it is also dangerous. As the Swede puts it, the willows have become a threat because they ‘have been made symbols of the forces that are against us’ (p. 188). The story, that is, at the same time as it engages in these processes of naming and symbolizing, also tells us that such symbolic thinking is dangerous; the narrator and the Swede save themselves by restricting their thoughts to the concrete and the specific. More exactly, they restrict their thinking to the products of industrialized capitalism, refusing to extend their thinking to the history or social context of those products: the roastbeef and the car, rather than the farmer who raised the cattle, or the worker who put the car together. Our characters’ survival depends very

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precisely on disregarding the labors and laborers of the global system, and paying attention only to the products. To put this in terms of realism and naturalism, the story insists that epistemological modes that project or produce totalizing, social and historical knowledge are merely illusory. The Swede’s sense that there is a realm in which grand historical events are shaped, where ‘grand things go on unceasingly,’ is no more than a mask, a way of comprehending (or rather, mis-comprehending) a truth that remains unknowable. Which makes the story’s message very precisely anti-realist. When the corpse of a peasant washes down the river, our characters want to give it a proper burial, but that is not possible: the corpse of the peasant is the cost of history. In opposition to such an epistemological project, the story proposes a symbolic one. The turn to symbolism and away from networks of social relations is symptomatic of naturalism’s rejection of the realist literary project (Lukács 1971, p. 115). The story summons into being the ominous presence of an invisible activity, but cannot make it clear, indeed asks us very specifically not to name it. There is an explicit retreat from abstraction, from explanation and explication, to the concrete, to ‘being’ in some pure non-signifying sense, as the position of safety. The story is an unusual ghost story in that it has no interest in questions of the past and how we inherit it; no interest in history, understood as such. But in a different sense it is a story very precisely about history, history in some very broad (Hegelian) sense understood as the confrontation between humanity and nature, humanity’s quest to dominate nature. The long history of humanity is on this model one of progress, of the increasing dominance of and control over the natural world. In these terms, the horror of the story is the horror of approaching the limits of history, of approaching those aspects of the natural world which resist human control and authority – not in the sense that they do not yet submit to science, technology, and our ability to assert authority over them, to make them do what we want (because that is history, history as progress), but rather the idea that the natural world in some fundamental or essential sense is absolutely beyond the possibilities of control. The story’s ghosts function as a symbol for what is outside of history, then, for what in nature resists or refuses the control of humanity. For Marx, there is always a certain kind of agency available to humanity in generating historical forces: in his famous formulation, people make history, though not in conditions of their own choosing (1978, p. 594). But the story’s supernatural beings are not ‘comprehensible entities,’

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because they have no ‘relations with men’ (p. 187); history is here not something that allows even a limited kind of human agency in its production. Rather, history is beyond humanity entirely; it is an oppressive force determined, in fact, to crush whatever humans it comes across. Something odd is going on here, in the way that the supernatural, what the story calls an ‘other dimension,’ both is and is not history at the same time. It both sounds like descriptions of remote historical process and sounds like an otherworldly realm of the gods or personified natural forces. But this, it turns out, is precisely the problem with this way of imagining history: history itself loses certain historical characteristics. Only thus abstracted can the opposite of history be the ‘concrete’ realm of the individual, the urban, the domestic – roast beef and ale, motor cars and policemen. In the face of history, then, history allegorized as the supernatural forces that arise from the natural world and threaten the sanity, lives, and even integrity as individualized subjects of our adventurers, the Swede’s proposition that ‘Our insignificance perhaps may save us’ (p. 186) makes clear its ideological relationship to the theory of history it has presented. This is, very specifically, a petty-bourgeois version of the Hegelian model of history; history from the point of view of those who are not its agents. History is here understood as a force that oppresses us from outside, in the face of which we are insignificant; and it is then the story’s proposition that our insignificance, the fact that we can have no effect on ‘history,’ is our best resource. Far from encouraging a horror at the powerlessness of a petty-bourgeois position, then, the story in fact embraces that position as the only possible way to survive the force of history, a force unstoppable, uncontrollable, but survivable. At the story’s climax, the narrator thinks of the ordinary everyday objects and institutions of urban, technological civilization: it is, the story proposes, this civilization that makes us insignificant in the face of history and historical forces; and that is a good thing. Looking back at the story’s anxiety about allegorical reading, about reading practices that symbolize, then, we can posit another view of its foregrounding of language: the narrator’s desire for a language that can confine or control what is outside of it we can now see as part of a wider desire the narrator has for control and order. The story’s horror, effectively, is that it positions its narrator in a double bind: civilization is an emasculating, polluting, decaying force, from which our adventurers escape into the natural world; but the natural world refuses to be contained, managed, controlled by humanity and its technology, and here even its language. The only defense against the degenerative forces of

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civilization is the natural world, and the only defense against nature is civilization. History is the conquest of nature; history is allegorized as a force of nature. It is good, the story suggests, to restrict thought by forcing it to conform to the limits of language, but language always overflows its own limits and bounds, always allegorizes and symbolizes, regardless of our desires. The story abounds with moments of linguistic failure, moments in which the natural world – and the supernatural world – proves itself to be in excess of language. This too is a general characteristic of ghost stories from this period: Mary E. Wilkins’s story ‘The Shadows on the Wall’ (1903) is typical, in which ‘Nobody means anything,’ as one of the characters puts it (p. 446). And later on, “Don’t ask and don’t speak,’ said Caroline. // ‘No, I am not going to,’ replied Mrs. Brigham; ‘but –” (p. 456). Mrs Brigham, needless to say, does not finish her sentence. The characters who are nobody and who do not speak and do not mean are specifically the women of this story, trapped in the domestic sphere. The domestic lives of middle class women are here characterized as a process of refusing knowledge, or perhaps a little more complicatedly, of secretly acknowledging knowledge (the intense injunctions against speaking, against meaning, suggest they know there is something to say, something to mean) but refusing meaning. The refusal of meaning, in other words, is both a characteristic of horror (in Blackwood, the terrible sound that ‘defies description’ and is ‘outside humanity’) and of the resistance to such horror. (Another example, among many, of such ghost story’s marking their own descriptive failures, indeed, making such failure into a central concern of the story, is H. G. Wells’s ‘The Door in the Wall’ (1911): ‘It was very difficult for Wallace to give me his full sense of that garden into which he came’; p. 9. ‘Of course, I can convey nothing of that indescribable quality of translucent unreality, that difference from the common things of experience that hung all about it’; p. 13.) Here, then, is one of the clearest distinctions between the naturalist and the realist ghost stories: for the realists it was meaning, and not its refusal or absence, that functioned in this dual position as both desired situation and object of horror.

Conclusion The main argument of this chapter, that the ghost story achieves its stylistic perfection and in the same movement loses one of its key critical functions, draws on Horkheimer and Adorno’s argument about style (2002, p. 103). Most critics see the decades between 1880 and 1930 as

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the ‘golden age’ of the ghost story: the stories of this period represent with some consistency levels of technical proficiency and stylistic mastery reached only sporadically by earlier stories. And in those terms, the critics are right. But for those same reasons, by dint of precisely that consistency of ‘quality,’ ghost stories lose the abrasive relationship that earlier stories had with a comparable literary mode. Ghost stories of the golden age have a relationship with naturalism that is neither critical nor dialectical but rather make the ghost story simply a version of naturalism, a ‘naturalist supernatural.’ For Horkheimer and Adorno, style is a negative truth: ‘The great artists were never those whose works embodied style in its least fractured, most perfect form, but those who adopted style as a rigor to set against the chaotic expression of suffering’ (p. 103). Artists whose mastery of a particular style – any style – is perfected are artists who have embraced without question the dominant ideology that structures their historical moment. Only where style breaks down, where it confronts and makes visible the social contradictions out of which it is produced, does it express a truth. Yet it is only in its struggle with tradition, a struggle precipitated in style, that art can find expression for suffering. The moment in the work of art by which it transcends reality cannot, indeed, be severed from style; that moment, however, does not consist in achieved harmony, in the questionable unity of form and content, inner and outer, individual and society, but in those traits in which the discrepancy emerges, in the necessary failure of the passionate striving for identity. (p. 103) What the idea of a unity of style promises is a universalism: an absolute coherence, the possibility of some absolute representation. An artwork’s subject matter (some particular subject), promises to be reconciled with the idea of the true universal through its absorption (through style) into the dominant form of universality. The artwork, that is, promises to universalize its subject matter via its style. But such a promise is always hypocritical, always ideological, because no accessible ‘truth’ is absolute, is outside of ideology; any actual social order has its truths, and (usually) claims that they are universal, but universal truths remain forever inaccessible, or at least, always simultaneous with other contradictory universal truths. For Horkheimer and Adorno, art expresses its truth or universal value not in stylistically coherent works but rather in works where styles are visibly in conflict. The ‘perfection’ of the ghost story

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in its ‘golden age’ stories is precisely such a moment in which ideology becomes mis-understandable as universal. From its earlier engagement with realism, the ghost story turns in this period to a ‘naturalist supernatural,’ in the process abandoning the more explicitly social and political concerns of realism for the more psychological and individualist concerns of naturalism. The insistence on concrete factuality is certainly an engagement with reality, but a naturalist one rather than a realist one; a turn to journalism and observation as conveyers of truth, a belief in the felt experiences of everyday reality as the truth of those experiences, and a turn away from the social totality, away from the invisible structures as the truth that underlies the everyday experience. Ghost stories become not an engagement with reality but a distraction from it. If these naturalist ghost stories are at all odd in their naturalism, though, it is in this way: they are naturalist without really being interested in the suffering of ordinary people, indeed, without being interested in ‘the everyday’ at all. Where naturalist novels were a way for writers like Zola and Flaubert to insist on the importance of the lives and experiences of ‘everyday’ people, by which they meant the poor and the dispossessed, naturalist ghost stories function as a way to continue to be interested in the aristocracy, the landed gentry, to focus on the middle-class aspiration for a way of life now no longer possible, that is, the life of the landed gentry. In a sense, my argument relates again to the version of the history of the novel that argues that England had its version of an anti-realism in Conrad rather than in naturalism; both naturalism and Conrad can be understood as in some sense a critique of the realist project from within realism. Conrad, it will turn out, plays a crucial role in the ghost story of this period, too, as I will argue in the next chapter, and helps as well to make the transition from ghosts in ghost stories to the role that ghosts play as they are adopted and adapted into other modes of writing, as is the focus of my final two chapters. The next chapter is still focused on ghost stories of this golden age, ghost stories that we can continue to call a naturalist supernatural, but focuses more narrowly on those stories that take questions of empire as a central concern in terms of setting, character, or haunting, concerns that this chapter has somewhat artificially set to one side. We will also, though, continue to pursue these questions of naturalist representation as we put empire back at the center of our attention.

4 Ghosts That a White Man Can See: The Ghost Story and Empire

Empire and the Gothic The question that frames this chapter is this very broad one: What does it mean to talk about empire and the Gothic together? Though I focus on ‘golden age’ ghost stories, from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it is worth beginning with the relationship between empire and the Gothic in more general terms so as to get a sense of what is specific to the ghost story. ‘Gothic’ as a term is keyed to imperial history in all sorts of ways, but most basically in its etymology. In the Roman context, the Goths were people outside of empire, a tribal people of Northern Europe who resisted and fought back against the dominant imperial force of their day. Gothic thus marks the not yet or incompletely colonized space, or even the limits or failure of empire. ‘Gothic’ in this non-horror register is one half of a pair with neoclassicism: by all accounts, the term ‘Gothic’ as applied to architecture began as a derisive term applied by neo-classicists to describe what they saw as the barbaric and primitive architecture of medieval Europe. For the neo-classicists, columns with capitals and pedestals, metopes and triglyphs, architraves and the like all claim to instantiate, in the built environment, the values of the Roman world in an explicit rejection of the feudal, monarchic, and/or ecclesiastical values that the classicists understood themselves to oppose. On the neo-classical account, then, the pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses of Gothic architecture instantiate the inheritance of the medieval and feudal world of monarchy and especially of ecclesiastical authority that the neoclassicists were determined to overthrow. In architectural terms, that is to say, ‘Gothic’ in no direct sense means ‘of the Goths.’ However, the 124

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term’s initial derisive meaning derives precisely from that history: what makes the Goths (and the Gothic) ‘rude’ and ‘barbaric’ is their extra-imperial status. From its earliest versions, this neo-classicism included both republican versions and Caesar-ite authoritarian ones – Milton versus Dryden, say, in the literary context – and the politics of classicism were very much up for grabs. But the distinction between republican and authoritarian is not a distinction between an imperial and an anti-imperial classicism: when historians talk about the shift from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire, they do not mean from a bounded nation-state to a state with overseas holdings. The word ‘empire’ has had two rather different meanings: it can mean an aggregate of peoples or states under the ultimate authority of one sovereign state or hegemonic system, or it can simply mean any authoritarian state. In the Roman case, it mostly means the second – the shift from the Republic to the Empire means a shift from power-sharing to authoritarianism. This matters, because the Roman Republic was already an empire in the other sense, a republican empire. ‘Republic’ and ‘Empire’ have never been incompatible. The neo-classical style of the eighteenth century had in precisely these ways no trouble being at one and the same time the dominant expressive mode of Republicanism and the dominant expressive mode of Empire. A drive through up-state New York, passing through towns called Troy, Ilion, Utica, Rome, Syracuse, Pompey, Smyrna, Minoa, Homer, and Marathon, makes clear one historical valence of this trend. The republican values proudly proclaimed by these names sit side by side with the imperialist values implicit in the scattering of towns with names derived from the languages of the indigenous peoples. But it is the City Halls, Courthouses, and large public and private buildings (libraries, legal offices, museums and the like) of these towns, and indeed the towns of almost any colonial or ex-colonial nations, that are the clearest remaining evidence of the dominance of neo-classicism within imperial aesthetics. Such monumental architecture aims (among other things) to cow the natives into awed submission, with the implication that without such displays they might not recognize the natural superiority of their colonizers. It is also designed to buttress or even produce for the colonizers their own identity, with the unacknowledged recognition that the colonizers need their identity reconfirmed, that such identity is a work in progress, that it can slip (Stoler 1995; Baucom 1999, pp. 79–80). Even outside of architecture, the term Gothic still usually indicates a medievalism, as neo-classicism’s ‘other.’ British writers have used the

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Gothic to describe the still Catholic, still feudal world, or to point to crypto-Catholic and malevolently aristocratic features of the British social order. One wonders then whether a colonial Gothic is even possible, since it makes no sense to talk about a medieval America or Australia. Is there an imperial Gothic in a non-horror sense, an imperial medievalism? Of course: most visibly and famously Bombay’s Victoria Railway Terminus, in which the gothic is deployed for the purpose of the same sorts of projects (dominance, identity-supplementation) as was imperial neo-classical architecture. However, as Ian Baucom argues, the ‘Englishness’ of this Gothic, as well as the medievalism, is questionable even as it is asserted: inscribed within the Victoria Terminus are ‘the beasts and foliages of the subcontintent’ (Baucom, 1999 p. 84). The Terminus’s Gothic announces, in other words, ‘that from now on to be ‘English’ is also, however marginally, to be Indian’ (p. 84). The Gothicism of the Victoria Terminus – and indeed Gothic imperial architecture as a whole – Baucom concludes, is deeply schizophrenic: in Gothic imperial architecture, just as in neo-colonial imperial architecture, imperial power is asserted and at the same time anxieties about the success of such assertions are legible together. The medievalism of the Gothic depends, all of this is to say, on the existence of an earlier meaning, tribal or barbaric, even as the reassertion of those earlier meanings undermines the latter. Classicism and the Gothic each bear two sets of meanings, in ways that make each term (and its aesthetic) unstable. Classicism is both republicanism and a certain Caesarite authoritarianism; Gothic is both tribal and medieval. The earliest forms of Gothic writing in England that shift the meaning of ‘Gothic’ away from this aesthetic register to one of horror are the novels of Horace Walpole, Anne Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis. In terms of this micro-history of the Gothic, one of the most interesting things about these novels is that their idea of what is Gothic, and of what is scary within the genre, works to reverse in a certain sense the root etymology of the word: what is named as ‘Gothic’ is no longer a Northern European tribal identity, described from the South, from within the Roman imperial center, but rather a Southern European national one, described from the North, from within the British imperial center. These novels are consistently set in Southern Europe, and especially in Italy, and their villains are Southern European aristocrats with comfortably villainous names like Schledoni and Montoni. What counts as ‘Gothic’ are the ruined traces of history left on these post-imperial landscapes, and the descendants of those once-great names are just as ruined by that history as the estates their ancestors left them along

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with their names and their histories. If anything marks the Gothic as a particular sub-category of horror, that is to say, it is that the Gothic is almost always a matter of the outmoded and so always has something ghostly about it, even when it does not have actual ghosts. ‘Gothic’ always suggests the lingering past, while ‘horror’ can just mean buckets of blood. But this relationship with a lingering past gets complicated when Gothic literature travels across the Atlantic, as it does quite early on, and when it travels to other parts of the imperial globe. In North America, for instance, without an aristocracy, without ruined castles and abbeys marking a particular kind of lived relation to a feudal past, Gothic novels need something else to mark or serve as the Gothic ‘horror.’ A writer like Charles Brockden Brown in part simply imports religion, aristocracy, and deviancy from Europe: Wieland, for instance, features a villainous ventriloquist who arrives from Europe to disrupt the pastoral idyll of life in Pennsylvania. But Brown’s contribution to the Gothic as a literary mode is his representation of indigenous people and the natural landscape (the ‘untamed wilderness’) as objects of Gothic horror. It is in the colonies that the term Gothic recovers some of its original meanings: not the Middle Ages, but the tribal and barbaric. In Brown’s Edgar Huntley, even the twist that seems to turn the Gothic metaphor back on itself in the end retains this imperial framework. Partway through the novel, Edgar (who is both our narrator and protagonist) wakes from having sleepwalked into a pit in a cavern. He finds ‘an Indian tomahawk’ with which he then kills a panther that comes upon him in the dark, a ‘savage’ and a ‘brute’ that was ‘lurking and wait[ing]’ (pp. 159–60). The natural world is troped as gothic horror, and though the natural world is described as savage and brutal the only actual brutality is Edgar’s, with the native weapon as his instrument. When Edgar makes it to the mouth of the cave he discovers four ‘uncouth figures’ sleeping, their ‘moccasins . . . adorned in a grotesque manner’ (p. 164). They are, as he suspects, Indians, ‘brawny and terrific figures’ (p. 164), and there is a fifth standing guard over a captured female settler. The Indians are to him more or less continuous with the wilderness in which they live: Having come through the pit and caves and killed the panther, the Indians are the next problem he encounters, and beyond them he sees a continuity with further ‘natural’ problems. ‘Should I pass in safety [i.e., sneak past the sleeping Indians], I might issue forth into a wilderness, of which I had no knowledge, where I might wander till I perished with famine, or where my footsteps might be noted and pursued and overtaken by these implacable foes’ (p. 166).

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Over the next several chapters Edgar slaughters all five Indians, and rescues the white woman. Like Odysseus’s encounter with the Cyclops in The Odyssey, it is the civilized hero who initiates all of the violence in the scene; panther and Indians alike are the victims of this violence, but Edgar’s narrative insists on his victimhood. ‘How otherwise could I act?’ he asks after the first of his murders (p. 170). The last of his murders can serve as representative of both the horror Edgar inflicts and his horror at doing so. Having already killed the first four, Edgar is ‘satiated and gorged with slaughter, and thought upon a new act of destruction with abhorrence and loathing’ (p. 187). Nonetheless, when he sees the final Indian approaching – ‘His disfigured limbs, pendants from his ears and nose, and his shorn locks, were indubitable indications of a savage’ (p. 188) – Edgar shoots him, out of a sense of ‘indispensible necessity’ (p. 189). Wounding the Indian, he begins to leave, but then returns, since ‘To kill him outright was the dictate of compassion and of duty’ (p. 189). Failing again to kill the Indian with a gunshot, he finally bayonets the wounded man to death. His post-mortem philosophical analysis makes clear that the blame for any of this cannot (to his mind) be placed with him, but rather with ‘nature’: Such are the deeds which perverse nature compels thousands of rational beings to perform and to witness! Such is the spectacle, endlessly prolonged and diversified, which is exhibited in every field of battle; of which habit and example, the temptations of gain, and the illusions of honor, will make us, not reluctant or indifferent, but zealous and delighted actors and beholders! (p. 190) Not only is Edgar ‘compelled’ by ‘nature’ (and thus implicitly by the Native Americans themselves) to perform these acts, but there are, by the next sentence, no acts here at all: the whole experience has been a ‘spectacle,’ and if Edgar has indeed been made an ‘actor’ rather than merely a ‘beholder,’ the term suggests that he is an actor in the stagedrama sense, rather than a participant in life. In short, Brown’s narrative offers as figures of horror the natural world and, continuous with that world, indigenous peoples. But the novel’s Conradian twist is that what is really horrific is not this natural world of grotesque savages and disfigured brutes, but rather what such a natural world compels civilized people to do and to become. The Indians are to blame for settler violence, just as the Goths were to blame for the brutality of Roman imperialism.

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More than a hundred years later and in a different white-settler context, Frank Sargeson’s New Zealand story “Gods Live in Woods” (1943), shows how the Gothic description of native landscapes continues to serve colonial ends. The story is about Henry, a farmer, who has clearfelled and ‘[broken] in his farm from heavy bush country’ (p. 226), and Henry’s nephew Roy, an urban-dwelling rationalist who has come to stay with his uncle on the farm. They walk into the bush surrounding Henry’s farm, to retrieve a few sheep that have wandered off, and the bush is described in the standard gothic-horror terms: it is secretive, oppressive, imposing, foreign, spectral. In the process of rescuing a stray sheep, Roy leaves Henry and pursues the sheep into the bush on his own. Returning to the farm after nightfall, Roy has been thoroughly spooked by the bush, and says to Henry ‘You know uncle Henry, I’d certainly get rid of that bloody bit of bush if I were you’ (p. 232). The story depends on a distinction between native bush, which is scary and gothic, dangerous to sheep, farmers, and city-boys alike, and civilized farmland, not gothic, utilized rather than useless land, but always under threat from, needing to be defended against the bush. The native landscape is the gothic space; settler society has been in this regard a project of de-gothicizing that landscape, which in turn means eradicating the native (native bush, native peoples, native ways of life) from it. But the story’s second dichotomy is equally crucial to its narrative project, distinguishing between the city-boy, who wants to cut down the bush because it is gothic in these terms, and the farmer, who knows to give the bush its space, its due, and in the process claims a relationship to the land, a kind of autochthony, a nativeness of his own that, through claiming a proper relationship with the native (and Gothic) landscape, further displaces from authenticity and legitimacy the position of native peoples. But it has not only been colonial writers who have turned to the Gothic to help describe and make sense of the processes and experiences of colonization. As Gerry Turcotte makes clear in the Australian context, if for the colonizers the ‘new world’ felt unnatural and hence Gothic, so too for the colonized did the colonizers and their values seem equally unnatural. Early settler narratives that recounted ‘the familiar clichés: [Australia’s] trees shed their bark, swans were black rather than white, and the seasons were reversed’ share the postcolonial Gothic with, for example, Mudrooroo’s novels, in which early white Australian colonists are described from the point of view of the original Aboriginal inhabitants as vampires and ghosts (Turcotte 1998, p. 10).

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Some scholars have insisted that the Gothic as a mode or genre, because Western, is only irresponsibly applied to indigenous writing. Jennifer Lawn can serve as a representative example, arguing in the case of New Zealand that ‘The term “gothic” requires much circumspection when applied in a Maori context. Whereas the ghost ought not to be there within a Western rationalist perspective, spiritual presences are expected and socially acknowledged in the Maori lived-world, through the intertwining of past, present and future in every moment’ (18). I will have more to say about indigenous ghosts in chapter six, but here we can at least say that that the different valence of the ghost and of the Gothic for Maori (and, indeed, indigenous writers the world over) does not mean either that such writers cannot help but draw on colonial and imperial versions of the Gothic, as well as indigenous ones, in their writing, nor that such indigenous histories of ghosts, spirits, and the supernatural are not themselves being constructed and reconstructed in relationship with other Gothic modes. It should not surprise us at this stage to find the Gothic on both sides of the division between the celebration of empire and its critique. The modern ghost story in its early forms, with Scott and Le Fanu especially, marked at different moments both the imperial and the extra-imperial as its object of horror, and insofar as the ghost story is a sub-genre within another genre, it seems to fit more straightforwardly within the Gothic than within, say, the short story.1 This chapter focuses on ghost stories from the same ‘golden age’ that was the subject of the previous chapter, a period once spoken of as the ‘imperial age’ of English history (Hobsbawm 1987; Lukács 1950, p. 143). Calling the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century ‘imperial’ in terms of English history unhelpfully downplays the importance of imperialism to English identity, nationhood, wealth and power in earlier and later moments. Nonetheless, ‘imperialism’ as an idea gained much wider valence in popular discourse in the 1880s and 1890s in England as a positive identification of a nationalist project and a nationalist description of the present moment (Young 2001, p. 35). Ghost stories of this time come to engage in the project of representing empire much more explicitly, and in ways that share this new set of valences. Which is not to say that there are not earlier ghost stories that take imperial settings and imperial questions as central to their narratives: ‘Dawn Island,’ by Harriet Martineau (1845), for example, was written ‘for the National Anti-Corn Law Bazaar,’ and in it a white merchant brings free trade (and therefore prosperity) to a Pacific Island, thereby laying the island’s ghosts to rest. But stories like Martineau’s are more common after 1880.

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Imperial ghost stories from this period occupy one (or more) of three broadly representative ‘types’ of narrative, that provide another frame for the readings of the ghost stories that follow. In the first type, native superstition is contrasted with white rationalism, demonstrating either the foolishness of the native, for believing such nonsense, or the foolishness of the white settler, for imagining that rationalism can account for life outside of European urban centers; in both cases, the underlying insistence of the narrative is that only Europeans and white settlers have history, and indigenous people are without it. Examples include Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Beach of Falesa,’ and Kilping’s ‘The Tomb of His Ancestors.’ In the second type, native ghosts cause problems that white imperialists resolve. The underlying insistence is that while there is indeed indigenous history, such history is a problem that colonization and imperialism fixes. William Fryer Harvey’s ‘Sambo’ is exemplary of this type. And in the third type, the colonial landscape is populated with white ghosts (rather than indigenous ones), and the story thus provides a sense of legitimacy through history to imperial occupation. The history that matters, such stories insist, even in colonized lands, is white history. In Landon’s ‘Thurnley Abbey,’ one of the characters explains that ‘there are few ghosts outside Europe – few, that is, that a white man can see’ (p. 470). Landon’s character suggests that however haunted nonwhites are, it is the white ghosts that matter. Kipling’s ‘At the End of the Passage’ is another example, as is his famous ghost story ‘The Phantom Rickshaw,’ in which the haunted character, confronted with the ghost of an Englishwoman carried by Indian coolies, declares that ‘one may see ghosts of men and women, but surely never of coolies and carriages. The whole thing is absurd! Fancy the ghost of a hill-man!’ (p. 15).2 These different narrative types are each structured around a contradiction inherent in modern bourgeois ideas about history, the same ideas of history that Walter Scott first articulated in his particularly modern way, but which take on new narrative forms here. The contradiction, in brief, is this: on the one hand, these stories imagine that only middleclass Europeans can properly be understood as the subjects of history, the only people who even really ‘have’ a history. But on the other hand, these stories model an idea of the ‘end of history’ peculiar to the dominant class’s loss of perspective in advanced industrial society, which is to say, the same people who are imagined as the only subjects of history are also imagined as being outside of history.

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In what remains of the chapter, then, I focus on four imperial ghost stories, and develop three arguments about the work that such stories do. First, a reading of Arthur Conan Doyle’s ghost story ‘The Brown Hand’ (1899), in which I argue that imperial ghost stories, when they translate ideas of history and inheritance from the metropole to the colony, construct entirely distinct versions of what history is, and who inherits it. Second, a reading of Ellen Augusta Chad’s story ‘The Ghost of Wanganilla: Founded on Fact’ (1895), in which I argue that, like in other versions of the imperial gothic, in imperial ghost stories the indigenous and the landscape-as-wilderness replace the aristocrats as objects of horror. But in these ghost stories, this functions as a complicated (anxious) recognition of the non-white history that it is the project of imperial historicism to erase. Third, readings of Kipling’s ‘In the House of Suddhoo’ (1886) and Conrad’s ‘The Secret Sharer’ (1910), which tie this chapter back to the previous one about naturalism and also to the next one about modernism, and which argue that empire is where the cognitive mapping project of realism most visibly breaks down, as it tries to cross the water. My focus is the role that representations of empire play in the collapse of the realist literary project.

Empire, history, and inheritance Arthur Conan Doyle’s story ‘The Brown Hand’ (1899) centers on a particular version of the problem of history. Its opening sentence intersects India with that regular ghost story feature, threatened inheritance of landed property: ‘Everyone knows that Sir Dominick Holden, the famous Indian surgeon, made me his heir, and that his death changed me in an hour from a hard-working and impecunious medical man to a well-to-do landed proprietor’ (p. 43). ‘Everyone knows’ this much, our narrator Dr. Hardarce tells us, and that Sir Dominick was ‘my Indian uncle’ (p. 43). There were, he says ‘at least five people between the inheritance and me,’ but what he wants to explain in this story is that Sir Dominick’s selection was not, as it might seem, ‘arbitrary and whimsical,’ but rather had a clear logical reason. The focus on the kind of journalistic knowledge (‘Everyone knows’) and the need to redeem it not by negating it but simply adding to it, according to a model of knowledge as additive or accumulative, as we saw in the last chapter, is part of the naturalist work of these ghost stories. The landscape around Rodenhurst (Dominck’s estate, on the edge of Salisbury Plain) contrasts the prehistoric with the feudal: on first arriving, Hardacre is ‘impressed by the weird nature of the scenery. The

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few scattered cottages of the peasants were so dwarfed by the huge evidences of prehistoric life, that the present appeared to be a dream and the past to be the obtrusive and masterful reality’ (p. 44). This is a space, then, in which the past has priority over the present, but where what marks the ‘present’ are peasants and their cottages, themselves more commonly representative in ghost stories of a feudal past. This contrast between the ‘present’ and the pre-historic past, then, obfuscates the distinction between modernity and a feudal past: according to the story, given the focus on the contrast between prehistoric and feudal England, the present of motorcars and capitalism coexists happily with the feudal manor-house and peasants of the rural landscape, or rather, the coexistence of motorcars with peasant cottages characterizes England, in the same way that Holden (and, by the story’s end, Hardacre as well) is marked as English in being both a medical doctor (modern) and a landlord (feudal, or at least agrarian-capitalist). There are, then, two ‘outsides’ to this Anglo-modernity that the story points us towards: the pre-historical landscape on which Rodenhurst is built and the outside-of-civilization India, which provides the story’s background. Sir Dominick, our narrator tells us, ‘was the most distinguished Indian surgeon of his day. In the Army originally, he afterwards settled down into civil practice in Bombay, and visited, as a consultant, every part of India’ (p. 43). Now, however, he has returned to England an old and ‘broken man’ (p. 44). ‘My nerve was a byword in India. Even the Mutiny never shook it for an instant,’ but now he is ‘reduced,’ ‘timorous’ (p. 48). Actions in the service of Imperialism have reduced this once-great man to a physical and emotional wreck, and cost him his masculinity. Once a man with nerve unshaken even by the Mutiny, he is now feminized (‘reduced’ and ‘timorous’) by his imperialist experiences. What is at stake for Holden, and indeed for the story, is English masculinity. Hardacre is invited to visit Holden’s estate only without his wife, and in order for Holden to divulge the secret of his haunting to Hardacre Holden’s wife first has to leave the room. That the story turns on the loss (and replacement) of a severed limb only makes more clear its castration anxieties. But these gender-identity questions take shape within a very specific imperial context. When Holden learns that Hardacre is something of an expert in psychical matters, he tells him that he is ‘the very man I have wanted to meet’ in that he is ‘cool and steady,’ with ‘some special knowledge’ of the supernatural, and ‘you evidently view them [ghosts] from that philosophical standpoint which robs them of all vulgar terror’ (p. 48).

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Hardacre is involved with the Psychical Society, a project of Victorian spiritualism determined to scientize and academicize the discourse of the supernatural, and this is to be understood as distinct from ‘primitive’ and ‘savage’ beliefs in monsters, spirits, and gods. At the same time, this discourse of Victorian rationalism is asserting itself over the language of the Gothic, as well; once properly re-described, ghosts will no longer induce in us the ‘vulgar terror’ that older versions of the Gothic aimed at. This redescription thus adds a class element – the Gothic is ‘vulgar’ – to the gendered narrative already visible. In order to have him confront the ghost, Holden has Hardacre spend the night in his laboratory, with its many ‘glass jars containing pathological and anatomical specimens,’ ‘the remains of what was once a most excellent collection, but unfortunately I lost the greater part of them when my house was burned down in Bombay in ’92. It was a most unfortunate affair for me – in more ways than one’ (p. 49). Even what remains, notes Hardacre, ‘bloated organs, gaping cysts, distorted bones, odious parasites . . . [was] a singular exhibition of the products of India’ (p. 49). India, or more to the point, the products of India, are represented here, the fruits of Holden’s medical labor on behalf of the country, by disease and suffering, which in turn are (the story goes on to explain) the products of poverty and ignorance. The room is not one conducive to sleep: it smells like a lab, it has those gruesome jar-contents, and there is no blind to shut out the light of the three-quarter full moon. But eventually Hardacre falls asleep, and is woken by the sound of someone in the room, someone he takes to be ‘an Indian servant of Sir Dominick’s’ (p. 52). As his eyes get used to the light, he makes out this figure moving along the row of jars, examining them: as the figure passes through the moonlight, he sees it is a ‘short and squat’ man, in a ‘dark-grey robe,’ with a ‘chocolate-brown’ face and ‘a ball of black hair like a woman’s at the back of his head’ (p. 51). When this figure gets to the end of the row, at the foot his settee, it throws up its arms ‘with a gesture of despair, and vanished from my sight’ (p. 52). As it does so, Hardacre sees that it has no right hand, the arm ending ‘in a knobby and unsightly stump,’ and only on its disappearance does Hardacre thinks there is anything ‘sinister’ about it (p. 52). Two things worth noting about the ghost immediately are that it looks like a servant to Hardacre only until it becomes apparent that it is missing a hand, for who would keep a one-handed servant (both aesthetic and labor efficiency arguments coinciding); and that the ghost shares in the troubled masculinity which centrally concerns the story,

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with its hair ‘like a woman’s’ and its severed limb, its self-conception as a bearer of useful labor hacked away. In the morning, Hardacre tells Sir Dominick what he saw, and Sir Dominick tells him the back-story: some ten years ago, on his way to Peshawur, Holden removed the hand of ‘a native who was passing through with an Afghan caravan’; the hand ‘was suffering from a soft sarcomatous swelling of one of the metacarpal joints,’ and only the hand’s removal would save him (medical jargon both asserts the necessity of the operation, and turns the power imbalance into an act of paternalistic kindness). They can barely communicate, since the native ‘talked a bastard Pushtoo,’ and when afterwards he asked what the doctor’s fee was, ‘The poor fellow was almost a beggar, so that the idea of a fee was absurd, but I answered in jest that my fee should be his hand, and that I proposed to add it to my pathological collection’ (p. 53). The ‘in jest’ comment is an odd one, that again strangely disguises the location of power in this encounter, since it is clear from the end result as well as from Holden’s already extensive collection that he is not joking at all. The hillman refuses, for religious reasons; after his death, be believes, his body will be ‘reunited,’ and must be kept in good condition (p. 53). When he realizes the doctor is serious about keeping it carefully, though, he changes his mind and lets the doctor have it. ‘ “But remember, sahib,” said he, “I shall want it back when I am dead” ’ (pp. 53–4). When the house fire in Bombay destroyed most of Sir Dominick’s collection of ‘the products of India,’ ‘The hand of the hillman went with the rest’ (p. 54). And so when the hillman died (he remains nameless throughout the story), he comes to collect, but there is no hand there. The backstory turns the haunting into a story about Holden’s failure to look after what he has promised to look after. The failure is cast as beyond his control, of course, not something he deliberately caused or even could be imagined as stopping, but it is nonetheless a failure. Insofar as Holden figures British imperialism, then, we can look back at the early description of him more carefully: His figure was the framework of a giant, but he had fallen away until his coat dangled straight down in a shocking fashion from a pair of broad and bony shoulders. All his limbs were huge and yet emaciated . . . For the appearance and bearing of the man were masterful, and one expected a certain corresponding arrogance in his eyes, but instead of that I read the look which tells of a spirit cowed

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and crushed, the furtive expectant look of the dog whose master had taken the whip from the rack. (p. 46) His once-powerful figure is reduced to gauntness, and though the spread of his arms sweeps a vast area, at the core is an emaciated and understrength body. This description is indicative of a whole set of imperial anxieties, in which Holden’s body stands in allegorically for the British Empire, that the story sets out to address. And, in the story’s terms, it is the haunting ungratefulness of the colonized that turns the robust imperialist/empire into the emaciated scarecrow. The contrast between Rodenhurst (feudal) and Salisbury plains (prehistoric) is echoed in the contrast between the Afghani hillman (barbaric, savage; his belief in the reuniting of the body after death is ‘an old one, and the mummies of the Egyptians arose from an analogous superstition’; p. 53) and the feudal relationship of master and serf that the doctor offers in taking the hillman’s hand in payment (as against a genuinely modern relationship of monetary exchange). Also, the literal taking of the hand relates as well to the metaphorical taking of the hand in a marriage ceremony, a common British description of the relationship between England and India under British Imperialism. In effect, in India the English reproduce feudal relationships over the top of a prehistoric landscape, a process that the Holdens repeat on their return to Salisbury. From Holden’s perspective, the Indian rebellion – what he tellingly calls the ‘Mutiny’ – can only be understood as the irruption of pre-modern savagery, rather than an expression of modernity itself: Indians’ refusal to accept a status of either feudal serf or prehistoric savage. The ghost in some sense then can be understood as representing the ‘traumatic kernel’ of modernity, the imperial anxieties that are inherent in British imperial modernity but remain unacknowledged as such. The ghost wants its hand; Holden no longer has it. Hardacre, though, consults some of his psychical texts that explain how to deal with what ghosts want, and learns that a ghost’s tie to the material world can be broken not only when its wish is fulfilled but also ‘when a reasonable compromise has been effected’ (p. 56). After a trip to London to acquire from a medical friend ‘A brown man’s hand,’ Hardacre returns with the hand of a ‘Lascar . . . from the East India Dock,’ which he puts in a jar and on the shelf with the other lab specimens (p. 56). That night, the hillman turns up, sees the hand, but picks up the jar and hurls it on the ground, and disappears. Deeply disappointed, Hardacre only then notices it is a left hand; he spends the day going back to the hospital and returning with a right hand, again from a brown worker’s body and

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again in a jar. That night, the Hillman as normal comes and angrily wakes Holden, then leaves for the lab. Holden tells Hardacre that in a few minutes I saw him, for the first time since this persecution began, return to my chamber. He was smiling. I saw the gleam of his white teeth through the dim light. He stood facing me at the end of my bed, and three times he made the low, eastern salaam which is their solemn leave-taking. And the third time that he bowed he raised his hands over his head, and I saw his two hands outstretched in the air. So he vanished, and, as I believe, for ever. (p. 59) And indeed the hillman never returns; Sir Dominick and Lady Holden lived the rest of their days happily, and ‘finally died during the great influenza epidemic within a few weeks of each other’ (p. 60). The story persistently shows brown people having or causing problems that white people solve: the hillman’s illness, his beliefs, his ghostly return, the Bombay fire and the Mutiny all feature as problems, and for the most part problems caused by Indian history. Indian history is then a problem to which the solution is Empire, a solution provided by the English, troped in the story as beyond history, outside of it, able to look on philosophically from some position outside of it. The story is in this sense a reparative fantasy: the ingenuity of modern medicine papers over the racial antipathies of colonialism. The story’s key is the interchangeability, the ready substitutability of hands for one another, which allows us to read the class politics of empire here: not all hands are equal, the story says, but the right sorts of hands can be substituted for one another in ways that make the natives happy and bring peace, prosperity, and good inheritances to white imperialists. The story is effectively one in which the British master turns out to be a good master when he successfully offers an Indian an acceptable substitute for the Indian’s property (body-as-property, labor-as-property) that he, the Briton, has safeguarded but then lost. And in which the Indian changes from a rebellious spirit to a happy salaam-ing one when his British master gives him some facsimile of what he has promised to do – not the actual hand he promised to look after, but a substitute. ‘The Brown Hand’ begins by setting out the costs to Englishness of empire, most especially in its representation of a masculinity under threat and even damaged. But the story’s project is to show how these costs can be overcome by the application of cool, rational, and especially capitalist knowledge and practice. Taking the model of history and inheritance from traditional ghost stories, Doyle’s story translates

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those issues to the arena of empire. Hardacre concludes his narrative with this comment: ‘I, at least, have reason to bless the memory of the man with the brown hand, and the day when I was fortunate enough to relieve Rodenhurst of his unwelcome presence’ (p. 60). The whole narrative is framed by, in fact serves as the conditions of possibility for, the inheritance by the narrator of a feudal estate (no modernity here) carved out of a prehistoric landscape, purchased by Sir Dominick with money he accumulated as part of the British imperial project in India. But that imperial project only ever gets represented in the story by the palatable figure of the doctor, the servant of the people and the scientist, rather than the entrepreneur or the colonial administrator, as if Britain only went to India to make people well and expand the world’s knowledge. And the story’s resolution makes for not a celebration of modernity but rather the rescue of the narrator from the condition of modernity (he was ‘a hard-working and impecunious medical man’) to a feudal condition of prosperity (he is in the end ‘a well-to-do landed proprietor’; p. 43) which brings into focus a particular contradiction. Empire, made possible by modernity, becomes a project about both the spread of modernity (railways, capital, etc.) and the place where modernity can be denied; Empire is both what modernizes India, for its own benefit, and what allows for the English to escape from modernity, escape, indeed, from history. The story manages this contradiction through its representation of history: history is something India and Indians have, and it is a problem that a version of Britishness resolves from the ‘prehistoric’ location of Salisbury, a position outside of history. And the inheritance of both this land and this subject position is what is at stake in putting to rest, by insisting on the substitutability of his labor, the Afghani ghost that haunts the British doctor all the way back to England.

White-washing the Colonial landscape Ellen Augusta Chad’s ‘The Ghost of Wanganilla: Founded on Fact’ (1895) makes an appeal to observable truth in its subtitle.3 The narrative value of the story, it is implied, is based on its factuality, its accuracy in recounting what really happened, its verisimilitude. Like ‘The Brown Hand,’ a distinction between white history and indigenous history is central to the work the story does, though the distinction works differently here. Like settler-gothic narratives such as Wieland and ‘Gods Live in Woods,’ the landscape functions as the object of horror, as the story raises questions of identity and belonging in an historical frame.

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The story opens with Harry Meredith insisting to his visiting friend, Lionel Straubenzie, ‘an English schoolmate recently arrived from England’ (p. 94) – the Germanic name emphasizing Lionel’s Europeanness in contrast to Harry – that Australia does indeed have and know ghost stories, despite Lionel’s incredulity that ‘your “marvellous Melbourne” is altogether too new for that style of thing’ (p. 94). After a dinner during which the conversation ‘turned mostly upon English topics – both Harry and his pleasant frank-mannered wife claiming the old country as their own’ (p. 94) – Harry begins his ghost story, the events of which took place some ten years earlier. The landscape within which he narrates the story, and within which the events he narrates took place, is described first of all in terms of what it is not: ‘differing as it did so entirely from the lovely English landscapes . . . which, in truth he [Lionel] thought could not be equalled anywhere’ (p. 95). England is emphatically ‘home’ and Australia a poor substitute, described in terms of what is absent from it and what it lacks. Harry is a ‘squatter,’ the story tells us, which means that he belongs to the social and financial elite of Australia, so-called because rather than buy their stations (huge farms, on the scale of South American estancias or the ranches of the North American West), squatters simply claimed ownership by right of occupation. Such stations, Harry explains to Lionel, were widely scattered. Social meetings were therefore both rare and highly regarded, headed by a ‘monthly assembly’ – a dance – to which neighbors rode ‘in a party’ (p. 95). The ghost, which often appeared to these nighttime riders, was a ‘figure, apparently that of a woman, with outstretched arms and altogether defiant attitude, . . . motionless as a statue’ (p. 96). Though Harry, like Lionel, ‘laughed at the idea of anything of that nature in practical Australia,’ it is described not only by ‘timid girls,’ whose narratives he could have ignored, but also by ‘men whose bravery was unquestioned’ (p. 96). In order to impress one of the girls ‘who was rapidly becoming “my bright and particular star,”’ Harry declares his ‘intention of going up to the hill the night of the assembly’ to confront the ghost (p. 96).4 He repeats his intentions once the party is on its way to the dance, and his ‘star’ (whose name we learn only at the very end of the story is Ellie) begs Harry not to attempt something so foolish, although ‘Of course I do not believe in ghosts,’ she adds, managing to let Harry know in doing so that she indeed returns his affections (p. 96). At precisely this moment the ghost appears, looking much as the stories described it: ‘a woman of more than ordinary height, the arms . . . held aloft in anger, or, it might be, despair, and it seemed dressed in a long, white robe’ (p. 97).

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As he approaches the ghost, Harry begins to question his skepticism regarding the supernatural, but insisting ‘that there must be some other explanation’ he pushes on, only to have his horse, in its own fear, throw him, whereupon he breaks his arm, hits his head, and wakes up in a strange bed some two weeks later (p. 98). The house turns out to be Ellie’s parents’ place, his betrothal to Ellie more or less fixed, and he, recovering from ‘a threatened brain fever,’ eventually learns that the other ‘fellows’ in the party of dance-attendees went up the hill both to rescue him and solve the mystery of the ghost, just as a storm which had been threatening finally broke upon them (pp. 98–9). They discovered that the ‘ghost’ is really no more than an old gum tree, previously hit – and bleached – by lightning; at which moment, the ghost-tree stump was struck once again by lightning, and this time knocked out of the ground, as if, once known for what it actually is, the natural world itself destroys it. Harry is sent by the doctor on a ‘two years’ trip to Europe’ as part of his recovery, and with him goes Ellie, now his lawfully wedded wife (p. 100). Returning to the present, Ellie comes out onto the veranda where the two men have been sitting, and on Harry’s request takes a paper cutter, which he had carved from the wood of the ghost-tree, over to show Lionel. The story ends with her holding this knife out to him, and saying that now ‘You can not only say you have heard an Australian “ghost” story, but actually touched the ghost’ (p. 101). The story is an example of what E. J. Clery calls the ‘supernatural explained’: at the end the ghost is unmasked, and turns out to have been not supernatural at all. Thus for all Harry’s disagreement, Australia is, the story confirms, ‘too new’ for ghosts, a common trope of stories set in settler colonies (for instance, a character in Susanna Moodie’s 1852 memoir Roughing it in the Bush claims of Canada that it is ‘too young for ghosts,’ a place where ‘no crime has ever been committed’; p. 219). ‘The Ghost of Wanganilla’ is in many senses a conventional story of Australian nationalism, celebrating the typical Australian hero, the brave rural Anglo male colonist, who penetrates the female-identified Australian landscape. Susan Martin has argued persuasively that stories like Chad’s were crucial to the development of Australian nationalism in the 1890s. The standard understanding of the production of Australian national identities, which Martin wants to complicate, is in terms of a simple opposition between the masculine hero, increasingly re-imagined as ‘Australian’ in contrast to anemic or feminized ‘English’ men, fighting a battle against the hostile and maternal landscape. In its nationalism, the story shares an imperial project with Doyle’s story, in that what is under threat in the story, but restored by the ending, is an

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imperial masculinity – gender remains a central concern of ghost stories in general. The concern with masculinity is clearest in the image of the female ghost-tree struck by lightning and overturned in the moment of the male (rationalist, scientific) gaze identifying it. As the story opens, Harry is happy to be home, having missed ‘the Master’s birthday’ – i.e. Christmas – for the first time since his marriage, and having spent it in ‘the crowded metropolis’ (p. 94). The values established on these opening page are Christian, and anti-urban. And the story’s narrative is of a female-identified landscape being overcome by the bravery and skepticism of male explorers, whose home is not this Australian ‘bush’ (wilderness) nor the Australian city, but England. The triumphant values are England over Australia, Christian scientific skepticism over superstition, and the country over the city. But such conclusions only remain stable so long as we limit ourselves to a very superficial reading of the story. Any closer attention reveals that each of the polarities of this narrative of Australian nationalism – male/female, England/Australia, skepticism/superstition, country/city, rational/emotional – is in fact already collapsed within the story. Let us start with gender. During the story’s crisis, Harry is radically emasculated by the ghost: his arm broken and his brain fevered, he is forced first to the domestic space of the bedroom and then the secondary but still domestic ‘home’ of England. But right from the beginning the narrative links Ellie, Harry’s ‘star,’ with the ghost: not only are they the main female figures in the story, but it is to impress Ellie that Harry decides to confront the ghost, and the moment in which Ellie reveals her love is also the moment that the ghost appears. When Harry carves the paper knife from the wood of the ghost-tree, he does so ‘for me,’ Ellie says. Harry confronts the ghost and in doing so, it seems, wins Ellie, substituting one female for another. So when the story ends not with Harry himself picking up the papercutter, but with the image of Ellie holding the knife made from the ‘ghost,’ as she addresses not Harry but another rich English male, the story suggests that the ghost’s ability to emasculate such men has been passed on intact to her. The narrative may have civilized the feminine, turning the ghost into letters (the story) and a letter-opener, but it leaves Ellie as the figure with access to those letters (a knife for opening letters; and Ellie’s name straightforwardly stands in for the author’s own), and cannot completely lay to rest the threat that the female presents to colonizing English masculinity. Likewise, the national identity binary quickly collapses on close reading. The English cannot simply be read as conquerors over this

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Australian landscape. Harry’s broken arm and brain fever are trauma enough to force him to flee to Europe for two years, and he is not the only character who returns to England and Europe, escaping the dangers of the Australian landscape: Ellie’s parents, too, ‘have been lately at home for the benefit of Mr Onslow’s health’ (p. 96). As far as conquerors go, then, the English are clearly battered, weakened, retreating and emasculated by their experiences in the outback. Further, the story goes to some effort to distinguish Harry from Lionel: though they were at school together in England, it is only in Lionel’s mind, not Harry’s, that the Australian landscape is marked by its lack, its failure to ‘be’ England. Harry clearly works for his living – this is why he was required to be in the hated urban space of Melbourne, rather than the beloved outback, for Christmas – while Lionel seems far more comfortably of the leisured class. Harry and Ellie live in, work on, and love the Australian countryside. So while the (feminized) Australian landscape is the story’s villain, its hero is carefully placed between Australia and England, rather than simply being ‘of’ England, and ‘against’ Australia (or vice versa); the story shares something like the politics of Sargeson’s ‘Gods Live in Woods,’ a heroic masculinity aligned against both a feminized-work-affiliated urbanism and a feminine-identified landscape – something like the frontier masculinity of US culture, a heroism only available between the savagery of the native-identified West and the degenerative civilization of the East Coast cities. Harry’s experience with the ‘ghost’ is traumatic, both in terms of the physical wounds it leaves him with – the broken arm, the concussion – but also mental or emotional, especially the ‘threatened brain fever,’ which is the trauma that requires the two-year European trip to recover from. But insofar as the ghost/tree is representative, in the story, of the Australian landscape, and insofar as the cure for this trauma is leaving Australia, it is clear that the story invites us to understand as well the experience of the colonial occupation of Australia as traumatic. Harry occupies a very narrow space of Australian heroism, between the laborer-bushman of A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson’s ‘The Man from Snowy River,’ on the one hand, and on the other the Kipling-esque heroic English settler-gentleman. Each of these figures represents a different version of nationalist identity (nationalisms that predate Australian federation in 1901), one that looked primarily to England as home and model, the other that was decidedly more independent minded. Even this distinction is complicated further by the class politics here: Paterson’s hero is emphatically working class, as against the land-owner;

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nationalism did not so readily divide along class lines. From the early 1890s a long drought, the collapse of several banks, falling export prices for Australian wool, and a crack-down on Union action exploded the wide-spread myth of Australia as a ‘working-man’s paradise,’ which in turn threw into crisis both of these representations of masculinity. In one sense, what marks ‘The Ghost of Wanganilla,’ and accounts for some of its representational paradoxes, is its complicated attempt to suture aspects of these two heroes together, transcending the differences between the working-class heroes of the ballads and the Anglo-identified landlord. In doing so, however, it transposes the inconsistencies of nationalist narratives onto the characters, leaving us with an emasculated male hero; a ‘won’ woman and a conquered landscape which together retain the power of emasculation; and a national identity which remains, finally, neither fully English nor Australian. But the story is, in the end, resolute, declaring that none of these inconsistencies or complications interfere with Harry and Ellie’s heroism, because that heroism in the end is asserted as a function of their Christianity. That is, it suggests that what should be admirable is such virtue, rather than the values of figures such as the Man from Snowy River, who exhibit physical skill without any moral accompaniment, and, equally, rather than the leisurely contemplation of beauty that a character like Lionel performs. It is, in that sense, defiantly didactic. But this Christian element provides the final level on which the story’s exclusions and inclusions put it firmly in accord with the politics of both an inherited middle-class English and a working-class Australian ideology. Just before the absolute ending of the story, in which Ellie holds the knife out for Lionel to ‘touch,’ Harry declares that ‘the Master has, indeed, blessed my home,’ and prays that ‘this New Year see us ever doing more for His cause, and for those whose lot in life is not so bright as ours’ (p. 100). We are reminded that the story establishes Harry and Ellie from the beginning as Good Samaritan figures, although these particular claims express a morality entirely in accord both with squatter economics and with the story’s naturalist narrative mode: discrepancies in income and lifestyle don’t have historical causes but are rather a natural state of things. It is simply the ‘lot’ of some people to be poor, just as Harry’s own situation is a result of him being ‘blessed’ by God, rather than do to with inherited wealth, education, gender, race, and access to capital. The story, then, erases history from its concerns in this one sense; and we can go back to the beginning, indeed to the very title, and see how another sort of history is also present in the story only under erasure.

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The story is ‘The Ghost of Wanganilla,’ and though it turns out the ghost is not a ‘real’ ghost the title suggests another kind of ghost that haunts not the characters within the story so much as it haunts the story itself (Martin 1998). ‘Wanganilla’ is an Aboriginal-sounding name, and the landscape of the story is thus identifiable as an aboriginal space: if it does not currently have aboriginal inhabitants, it certainly did at some stage. And these aborigines haunt the landscape in ways common to colonial narratives, as Samira Kawash explains, summarizing Fanon’s description: The settler’s view of the native as part of the landscape (the native does not exist) is haunted by the persistence of the native as living being (the native exists) who nonetheless cannot appear as such. Hence, the native can only exist as the non-existent. The ‘empty’ landscape perceived by the colonizer is shadowed by an uncanny double, a landscape traversed by the ‘non-existent’ colonized . . . . The thing that has been excluded as the condition for the colonizer’s view of the ‘empty landscape’ – the existence of the native – returns as a monstrous apparition that threatens the order of the landscape and the colonizer who rules it.’ (pp. 252–3) For Fanon, the colonial perspective of the landscape necessarily produces the indigenous as ‘monstrous apparition’: the landscape, declared empty, turns out to be populated by beings who, in order to retain the myth of terra nullius can register only as monstrous or as ghostly. Martin puts even more precisely the way this works in intersection with gender in ‘The Ghost of Wanganilla’: The white female ghost and the bleached gum tree serve to displace the fact that the landscape is indeed occupied by others – haunted not by a white woman, but by the dispossessed people of the region, who are absent from the story, but present in the apparently Aboriginal name of the district in which the ghost appears, and in the title of the tale. Nineteenth-century notions of Australian nationhood are entirely founded on just such fantasies of absence and invisibility, and yet, as in this story, are haunted by them. (p. 90) Thus the ‘anger, or, it might be, despair’ with which the ghost holds aloft its arms suggests the reactions towards the colonizers of the people who genuinely occupied the landscape. But Harry’s inability to read the ghost – is it expressing anger, or despair? – is symptomatic of the

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unreadability of both that landscape and its inhabitants to the English colonists. As I argue more fully in the next section, these imperial ghost stories draw attention to the breakdown of Western epistemological projects in these imperial spaces. Harry’s narrative pushes us towards its emphatic conclusion that, in the ‘altogether too new’ and ‘practical’ Australia, there are no real ghosts. Through the rational explanation of the seemingly supernatural, the absent Aboriginal people whose ‘lot in life’ is ‘not so bright’ are displaced onto the figure of a white woman, gendered otherness standing in for racial otherness. The ghost of Wanganilla, in Harry’s terms, is a white woman, and even she is not real, but only the misperception of a landscape truculently resistant to English management. His narrative’s representation of national identity, centered on the image of the Christian squatter family, crucially depends on the absence of these ghosts from the Australian landscape. Systematically murdered and chased from their lands by the squatters who wanted to run their sheep and cattle on the Australian plains, the legal status of Aborigines is reflected quite precisely in their present absence in ‘The Ghost of Wanganilla.’ And yet the story itself, though not Harry’s narrative within it, draws our attention to precisely the ghosts that Harry so emphatically denies. Harry’s narrative thus erases a history of Aboriginal inhabitance and white settler violence by proposing a version of Australia as having no history of its own, except what the settlers brought with them. Chad’s ghost story, however, pushes back against Harry’s narrative precisely because of the narrative expectations for a ghost story to be about history. Even when the ghost story fails to have a ghost with a history, that is to say, it produces the ghost of a history. But even this reading of the story is itself a further form of erasure, since it too describes Aboriginal people as no longer existent, no longer present, which is yet another form of erasure for the many thousands of Aboriginal people still living in Australia, still living in 1895 and still living today. The ghost is, as we might have suspected, a useful and important figure for addressing the problems of absence and presence that indigenous people raise for imperialists and colonial settlers. What complicates these straightforwardly empire-focused readings of the genre is what happens to the realist literary project in these imperial stories, and it is to that complication that this chapter now turns: the narration of Empire functions as a key frame for the collapse of the realist literary project, partly into naturalism as we saw in the last chapter, and partly into modernism, as we shall see in the next.

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Cognitive mapping across the sea Ghost stories persistently address epistemological questions, and in these imperial ghost stories, these questions are unsurprisingly about imperial knowledge. The opening of Kipling’s ‘Phantom Rickshaw’ is a blunt example of the way epistemological matters get foregrounded, declaring ‘One of the few advantages that India has over England is a certain great Knowability’ (p. 8). India is ‘knowable,’ the narrator explains, because its social relations, the networks and structures of which it is made up, are smaller than those of England, encompassing only some few thousand people, rather than the millions that make up England. And those social relations, under Empire, are clearly demarcated, hierarchically organized into military and civilian, official and non-official, regiments, batteries and provinces. Such social relations, clearly, do not include Indians, do not include indeed much of what we would call ‘India.’ The ‘knowability’ of India is confined to the Clubs and administrative dining rooms, barracks and mess halls, tea-rooms and hotels, because for Kipling’s narrators the truth of Empire is located in those social spaces and relations. And yet, as Kipling’s stories consistently make clear, it is precisely the belief of his narrators that they ‘know’ India, when what they really know are only its tea-rooms and barracks, that gets them into trouble. And it is the ghosts of these stories that mark the limits of imperial knowledge, its failure to provide a navigable ‘cognitive map,’ in Jameson’s terms, of empire. To put it as bluntly as possible: Kipling’s stories make visible the contradiction implicit in imperialist epistemology. Imperialism requires for its successful functioning that its participants have a cognitive map that excludes almost every aspect of their daily lived experience. This problem with the possibility of representing empire is at the heart of the collapse of the realist literary project that the ghost story of this period charts, a collapse that Conrad’s career charts in great detail, but a collapse also visible in Kipling’s ghost stories. ‘In the House of Suddhoo’ is the story of a scam practiced on an old man called Suddhoo by a character who might or might not be a ‘seal cutter’ and who pretends to be able to control ghostly spirits. A seal cutter is someone who cuts or carves the stamps, designs, crests and mottos with which one makes a seal, a role crucially tied up with authenticating and legitimizing, and that he only seems to be such suggests that one of the things that marks India, this India, the India of the house of Suddhoo rather than the India of the Anglo-English clubs, is the subversion of such mechanisms of authentication.

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The narrator begins with a description of the House of Suddhoo and who lives there: a grocer called Baghwan Dass, the supposed seal-cutter, and two Kashmiri prostitutes, Azizun and Janoo. And there is Suddhoo himself, of course, who ‘sleeps on the roof generally, except when he sleeps in the street’ (p, 65). All the characters pay rent to Suddhoo, then; but Suddhoo is apparently quite simple-minded and himself regularly homeless. Baghwan Dass and the seal-cutter are friends; Janoo owes money to Baghwan Dass, and is forced thereby to buy her food from him; she is also determined to ‘get from Suddhoo many rupees while he lived, and many more after his death,’ she says (p. 69); the complex web of interconnections even involves the narrator, in that Suddhoo’s cousin ‘had a son who secured, thanks to my recommendation, the post of head-messenger to a big firm in the station’ (p. 65). Of himself, he says ‘Then there is Me of course; but I am only the chorus that comes in at the end to explain things. So I do not count’ (p. 65). He sets himself up, that is, as a narrator in naturalist terms, much like Sarah in ‘At Chrighton Abbey,’ a ‘passive observer,’ not a participant. But it is a disingenuous introduction, as is suggested by the incongruity between his insistence that he does not ‘count’ and the egotistical self-assertion involved in capitalizing ‘Me’ as he does. His claim not to ‘count’ suggests that he understands himself as outside of, above and beyond, the web of relationships and connections that ties the inhabitants of the house together, able to look down on them, to intervene from time to time, but not limited by them in the same way that the house’s occupants are. Suddhoo’s son, we learn, all via this young Englishman narrator, is suffering from pleurisy; the supposed seal-cutter has ‘heard of Suddhoo’s anxiety and made capital out of it’ (p. 65). Suddhoo, anxious about asking the seal-cutter for help, summons our narrator and asks him whether, as Janoo has told him, the British government has banned the practice of magic. ‘I said that so far from magic being discouraged by the Government it was highly commended. The greatest officials of the State practised it themselves. (If the Financial Statement isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.)’ (p. 65). Clearly a joke, albeit not a very good one, this line is nonetheless not only that. Rather, it points us towards the way that a system or structure that ties the British Empire together can be experienced by those who are part of it only as something supernatural: when the truth of the experience is entirely removed from the truth of the structure, the structural truth can only seem supernatural. Despite his own ignorance of any of the issues involved, however, the narrator promises confidently to come with Suddhoo and sort

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things out. The seal-cutter is not practicing magic, the narrator learns, but rather getting telegraphs on the condition of Suddhoo’s son from a friend in Peshawar, before Suddhoo gets news, which knowledge he passes off as magic, ‘jadoo’ (p. 66). He says, further, that he can avert some impending disaster to the son by way of his ‘clean jadoo’ (good magic) together with ‘heavy payment’ (p. 66). The members of Suddhoo’s household gather round to watch the seal-cutter’s performance, which the narrator admits is pretty terrifying. He is held captive by a demon; a baby’s head appears in a basin and speaks to them; but then he ‘betrayed himself by his most impressive trick,’ spouting fire out his nostrils, which our narrator also knows how to do, and so is reassured that ‘The business was a fraud’ (p. 67). So far the story seems pretty straightforward: Indians are superstitious and gullible, but also tricksters; they spend their time fooling each other, and only the rationality-plus-authority of the English can save the gullible Indians from the fraudster Indians. Or so our narrator thinks, as he steps forward to expose the seal-cutter and save Suddhoo’s money. But then the story’s conclusion has this certainty tumble down around him: I am helpless in the matter for these reasons. I cannot inform the Police. What witnesses would support my statements? Janoo refuses flatly, and Azizun is a veiled woman somewhere near Bareilly – lost in this big India of ours. I dare not again take the law into my own hands, and speak to the seal-cutter; for certain am I that, not only would Suddhoo disbelieve me, but this step would end in the poisoning of Janoo, who is bound hand and foot by her debt to the bunnia [Baghwan Dass] . . . . Suddhoo is completely under the influence of this seal-cutter, by whose advice he regulates the affairs of his life. Janoo watches daily the money that she hoped to wheedle out of Suddhoo taken by the seal-cutter, and becomes daily more furious and sullen. She will never tell, because she dare not; but, unless something happens to prevent her, I am afraid that the seal-cutter will die of cholera – the white arsenic kind – about the middle of May. And then I shall be privy to a murder in the House of Suddhoo. (pp. 69–70) The narrator finds himself implicated in a web of inter-personal relationships that, though he has bragged about a position of authority over (he found Suddhoo’s cousin’s son a job, after all), he turns out to be entirely at the mercy of: these are relationships that are too intricately balanced

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to disrupt without disaster, and he is not outside them at all, as he thought, but inside. Anything he might do to intervene will result in the death of someone, as well as the end of his own career; far from being the suave outsider capable of stepping in and resolving the situation, he turns out to have been the dupe of them all, even the supposedly simple Suddhoo. These relationships of dependence, debt, obligation and need are outside of the ready comprehension of the young Englishman, at least initially, and produce situations which English law cannot resolve without disaster. Here, then, the story becomes something different from what it has been up to this point. On the one hand, Kipling’s story shows us a young Englishman in India suddenly confronting the fact that his law and his authority are useless in the face of the complex relationships that make up Indian reality; through his overconfidence in his ability to resolve Suddhoo’s problem, despite his own lack of relevant information and knowledge (of both the British legal system and of the immediate Indian context), he finds himself helpless and trapped. On the other hand, rather than despair in the face of this helplessness, this epistemological as well as practical failure of British Imperialism, the tone of the story’s conclusion is an odd kind of delight, a joy at the immense power of this incomprehensibility (Ricketts 1999, p. 99). To put this in terms of the cognitive mapping project I described realism as having: this story describes the failure of the narrator to sufficiently know the Indian social scene he ventures into, and attributes his trapped helplessness at the end to the failure of that epistemological project: Indian society is inscrutable to any English attempt to know it. Which is not to repeat Orientalist assumptions about the inscrutable Orient, but rather declares Orientalism a failed epistemology: British Imperialism cannot know Indian social relations, cannot provide a cognitive map of the Empire. But the story then itself serves as not just a narrative of this epistemological failure; the narrative is about the joy of that failure, rather than despair. The story, in its conclusion, invites us to share the narrator’s pleasure at reaching the limits of that kind of knowledge, and focuses us instead on a different kind of knowledge; a naturalist project of a detailed observation of particulars. The story’s pleasures are not the mapping out of the networks; those are only gestured at, vague and obscure even at the end to both narrator and reader. Rather, the story’s pleasures are the meticulous observations of the house of Suddhoo, and especially of the seal-cutter and his rituals. According to Kipling’s version of the naturalist project, empire is where comprehension breaks down, the kind of comprehension promised by Dickens and

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by realism; but narration survives, even thrives, as a naturalist project, in that breakdown. Observation and seeing, in fact, or the metaphor of vision for knowledge, is in the end what the story is all about. Right in the opening paragraph, it becomes clear that the narrator’s viewpoint is partial in an important way. He tells us that we will be able to recognize the house of Suddhoo ‘by five red hand-prints arranged like the Five of Diamonds on the whitewash between the upper windows’ (p. 64). The narrator and the implied audience, that is, share a frame of reference that encompasses a deck of cards and its surrounding social customs and conventions: the card-room, the Club, a shared notion of gameplaying, gambling, and their place in civil society (Gilbert 1972, p. 65). If we are to make sense of this sentence and hence the story it frames, we are invited to think our way not into the social networks of the streets of Lahore and of Suddhoo’s house, but rather into the social networks of our young Anglo-Indian narrator, and to observe India from his perspective. The narrator fails to resolve the crisis instigated by the seal-cutter’s claim to deal with spirits, and in the process the story marks the failure of a realist narrative project; it is an exemplary naturalist narrative project, expounding a rationality of scientific objectivism, observation and surface detail, rather than realism’s rationality of history and social structure. It is both a naturalist story, and as well a commentary on the narrative triumph of naturalism over realism in an Imperial setting. ‘In the House of Sudhoo’ is a naturalist story about the failure of realism; ‘The Secret Sharer,’ to put it in parallel terms, is a realist story about the same thing, sharing Kipling’s story’s sense of the failure of realist epistemologies when confronted with the distance, scale, complexity, and intangibility of empire, but without Kipling’s sense that naturalism offers an alternative. The secret around which Conrad’s story turns is the presence on board the narrator’s ship of Leggatt, and the narrator’s decision not to reveal his presence to the crew. In the opening pages of the story, we learn that our narrator/protagonist is a young captain who has just been given his first command, of a ship about to set sail from the Gulf of Siam for England. Before it leaves, Leggatt, the imprisoned first mate of another British ship also anchored in the Gulf, escapes, swims to this ship, and is offered sanctuary by our captain. But it is unclear whether Leggatt really exists, or whether he is some kind of spectral doppelganger of our captain. No one else in the story sees or talks to him, and the captain experiences a strange and singular bond with him (p. 40): ‘an

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irresistible doubt of his bodily existence flitted through my mind. Can it be, I asked myself, that he is not visible to other eyes than mine? It was like being haunted . . . . I think I had come creeping quietly as near insanity as any man who has not actually gone over the border’ (p. 50). The distances that we have become accustomed to in ghost stories, provided by narrative frames that separate us from the haunting, have collapsed. As well, the distance between the story’s haunted figure and its ghost is also collapsed. ‘A mysterious communication was established already between us two – in the face of that silent, darkened, tropical sea’ (p. 26), he says, early after meeting his ‘secret sharer,’ his ‘double,’ ‘his own grey ghost,’ ‘my other self.’ Our captain is left with ‘the confused sensation of being in two places at once’ (p. 35). His double looks the same, was educated at the same school, and in fact doesn’t need language at all to communicate with our narrator: the double tells his story ‘in brusque, disconnected sentences. I needed no more. I saw it all going on as though I were myself inside that other sleeping-suit’ (p. 28). The kind of identity established between co-participants in the imperial project is so close as to make language superfluous. The captain’s secret is indicative of his relationship to his ship and his crew: he feels a stronger sense of community with this fellow who is a lot like him than he feels with his crew; his (and the crew’s) doubts about his authority provide the story’s other key narrative tension. The story resolves them together, of course, when the captain risks the ship and his authority to save Leggatt, and in the process, with Leggatt’s help, gains the respect of his crew and stabilizes his authority. The story invites the suspicion that the captain hallucinates the whole extended scenario; too much seems to confirm Leggatt’s presence (the ship’s steward hears sounds he makes: his hat, at the story’s climactic moment, floats past the ship) for this to be a dominant reading, but it is not an impossible one. But the story’s title invites us to wonder whether there are other secrets involved, shared and not shared, such as the captain’s queer desires: he and Leggatt whisper to each other, in the secrecy of his bunk, things ‘not fit for the world to hear’ (p. 52). Another secret that crucially underlies the story, a secret that the story keeps by sharing (as against the capitain’s queerness, which works by the reverse), is that Leggatt is actually a ghost. When the narrator declares that spending time with Leggatt is ‘like being haunted,’ when he calls Leggat ‘my own grey ghost,’ there is a kind of double-disavowal going on. Pointing out how much like a haunting his encounter is suggests, first and foremost, that the encounter is not a haunting, that Leggatt is not a ghost. And yet nothing in the story confirms in a definitive

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way his presumption that Leggatt is not a ghost, and a ghostly Leggatt would explain both the tangible effects (noises, contacts) that Leggatt does produce and the otherwise wildly unlikely possibility that no one else on board sees him. Like Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, ‘The Secret Sharer’ leaves open the question of whether there is or is not a ghost, whether the main character is or is not haunted. Its first person narrator, as in many imperial ghost stories, is also the (possibly) haunted protagonist. In other words, like the other imperialist ghost stories discussed in this chapter, this is a story that does not distinguish between the character who is haunted and the character whose perception of the scenes we are invited to share and to sympathize with. This story does not offer us a sympathetic observer to identify with, looking on at the ghost or at the situation of haunting. The sympathy of the narrator can no longer function, as it does in the historical novel, as the resolution to the problem posed by traumatic history; and nor does the ghost story use such narrative sympathy to suggest more complex inheritances of traumatic history, as realist ghost stories do. Rather, sympathy serves as a new narrative problem, in at least two directions. First, sympathy is here expressed more or less only with the self, or with a version of the self; the captain and the ghost/fugitive are only barely distinct persons, if distinct at all, and so the sympathy of the captain does not reach across the distinction between modern and pre-modern, the way sympathy does in Scott’s writings. In fact, those ‘pre-modern’ peoples with whom our captain’s ship is presumably trading here in Siam are entirely absent from the story and from the landscape: the opening of the story stresses his aloneness, his singularity in this foreign landscape, just as Kipling’s Anglo-Indian narrators are ‘alone,’ even when surrounded by thousands of Indian workers. The story points to the way that imperial knowledge limits sympathy to sympathy with the same, rather than with what is different. Of the captain of Leggatt’s ship, our narrator observers that ‘He was densely distressed – and perhaps I should have sympathized with him if I had been able to detach my mental vision from the unsuspected sharer of my cabin as though he were my second self’ (p. 40). Even an observation of the other, in other words, turns quickly into an observation of the self, and explicitly of the impossibility of sympathy with the other when it potentially conflicts with sympathy with the self. Second, sympathy no longer functions, as it did in the historical novel and more problematically in earlier ghost stories, as a distancing mechanism (or as an end in itself). In Scott’s historical novels, learning to sympathize, substituting our sympathy for any possible action, is the

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key narrative project, and in his ghost stories such sympathy marks the irrecuperability of the past to the present. Here, on the other hand, it is the captain’s sympathy for his double which is the motivation for his action, which forces him into immoral and even criminal activity: lying to a fellow captain, endangering his ship and crew, and hiding a fugitive. That by the end of the story he learns to assert a properly adventurous mastery over his ship and crew registers as equally troubling since such action is premised on his newly enacted criminality. Our sympathy with his sympathy thus pushes us into a sympathetic admiration for his imperial adventurousness, his heroic masculinity, but at the same time implicates us in what the story determinedly insists is the morally questionable, self-gratifying and self-involved aspects of such adventurousness. The ghost ratifies risk and heroic masculinity as necessary to the imperial project, and thus rectifies, once again, a crisis of imperial confidence. It repairs and restores the ineffectuality of law and order through imperialism: empire entails going ‘beyond’ law and order, adventuring into the unknown. ‘The Secret Sharer,’ like Heart of Darkness, is not so much interested in the damage done by imperialism to the colonized parts of the world as it is in the damage done to the colonizers and imperialists themselves; and the narrative structure of ‘The Secret Sharer’ works to insist that at the fringes of Empire ‘we’ break not only the moral, legal, and epistemological codes of others but also our own, codes that provide our frameworks for understanding the world. In the end, what is most interesting about ‘The Secret Sharer’ as an imperial ghost story is the way it makes clear what is distinct about the location of trauma in such stories. The story’s brutal violence is Leggatt’s murder of a crewman, the crime for which he is arrested and the reason why he fled his ship (either swimming all the way to our narrator’s ship or, if a ghost, perhaps drowning on the way). But insofar as Leggatt serves in the story as a double of the narrator, the story breaks down the distinction between self and ghost, haunted and haunting, in ways that make the story itself a ‘double’ of Conrad’s novel Lord Jim, another story centrally concerned with imperial epistemology. In Lord Jim, the trauma of Jim’s story for Marlow is his realization that Jim, though he is ‘one of us’ and looks perfectly trustworthy, is precisely not to be trusted. The veneer of public-school imperial adventurer is not a guarantee of Jim’s strong moral fibre; rather, it turns out that there is no more to Jim’s character than that veneer. Throughout the novel, presumptions about shared identity are collapsing, and Lord Jim turns anxiously and repetitively around precisely the failure of Jim to be what

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he appears. This failure induces in Marlow, the novel’s narrator, an overwhelming inability to tell the story: the far reaches of Empire is where young men are supposed to be heroes and have adventures, but when they are not heroes the adventures turn out to be untellable according to the conventions of imperial romance. In the second half of the book, though, when Jim finds a way to be the hero he has always imagined himself as, the story does indeed turn into a rollicking imperial yarn, but a yarn whose hero exists only under an odd kind of erasure generated by the first half of the novel (Thorne unpublished). We could imagine a Lord Jim-like version of ‘The Secret Sharer,’ in which the story’s horror, like the novel’s, focused on the way Leggatt’s honest English appearance masked his failure of (English, bourgeois, masculine, imperial) humanity. But in fact, when Leggatt declares ‘Am I a murdering brute? Do I look it?” (p. 128), the captain accepts the rhetorical question as not needing an answer. That he doesn’t look it counts – for him and for our narrator – as evidence, almost as incontrovertible evidence, a different version of a testimony that transcends empirical proof. And the story goes out of its way to make Leggatt’s crime understandable, and if never quite forgivable then certainly sympathetic. In fact, such sympathy does not even need to be earned: it is, rather, built into the community shared by Leggatt and the narrator. Explaining to the narrator what he has done and why, and how he feels about it, Leggatt interrupts his own explanation thus: ‘But what’s the use telling you? You know!’ (p. 46). Imperialist knowledge can render comprehensible and sympathetic the murderous actions of fellow imperialists, even when it cannot know or sympathize with the colonial landscape. In ‘The Secret Sharer’ the identity between captain and mate is based on a shared class identity as colonial merchant seamen, products of the education system producing precisely just such administrators of empire. In Lord Jim, Marlow’s sympathy for Jim is a kind of complicity, a complicity that we come to share as we share read Marlow’s own narrative as a kind of testimony, a complicity that is crucial in generating the unnaratability of the story. And ‘The Secret Sharer’ centers as well on the complicity of the narrator with Leggatt, that again leads to an epistemological and narratological breakdown. By refusing us what ghost stories regularly offer, the space between a narrator who can instantiate the position of liberal sympathy and the haunted figure for whom our sympathy is engaged, Conrad’s story draws attention to the way that the spectatorial position of liberal sympathy that supposedly reaches across the self/other divide with its sympathetic identification can never find

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anything in the other that is not simply a version of the sympathizing self. Both story and novel, in their different ways, are about the recognition that empire is unnarratable; that the generic frameworks we have in place for telling stories about empire are unraveling, or indeed impossible, at this moment of high imperialism.

Conclusion What happens when ghost stories put empire at their center? No single coherent thing, of course, but rather a range of things. Though they remain broadly speaking interested in questions of history and its inheritance, for instance, such stories develop new modes of representing both inheritance and history. History is at the center of imperial epistemologies in these ghost stories, whether marking the problems of colonized subjects that empire arrives to erase (colonized people have history, and that’s a problem empire will fix), or marking the greater legitimacy of the imperialists’ relation with the land (imperialists have history, and thus the land belongs more properly to them than to the history-less natives). And these ideas about history are figured through haunting. Like the naturalist ghost stories of which they are a subset, they represent as they share in the failure of the realist narrative project, and the ‘triumph’ of naturalist modes of writing. But with Conrad, especially, where the marking of narrative failure becomes in itself a narrative project, imperial ghost stories begin as well deploying the tropes and gestures of modernism in the pursuit of a project recognizable modernist. If ‘naturalist,’ that is to say, these imperial ghost stories push further naturalism’s critique of realism into a critique of the possibilities of narrative at all (and thus each story’s ghost is never properly exorcised, each story’s crisis of faith in the imperial project is never properly remediated and imperial confidence is never properly restored). When we turn in the next chapter to the history of the ghost story in relation to modernism, though, we find that something complicated has happened. Though there are modernist ghost stories (and the chapter begins with a reading of one such), more significant is the way that modernism absorbs the ghost story, rather than maintaining a relationship with it that these earlier genres had. And so the chapter turns to looking at the figure of the ghost within modernist texts, rather than ghost stories, looking at the work that the ghost does for modernism’s various projects.

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It should not be a surprise to find that when confronted with modernism the ghost story’s genre distinctions increasingly collapse or are blurred, since the undermining of such distinctions is one of modernism’s key characteristics (Jameson 1981, p. 106). But paying attention to the figure of the ghost will help us, the next chapter argues, make sense of some of the ways that modernism is not, as it presents itself, the rejection of genre entirely, but rather has a set of generic projects of its own, ones that are continuous in perhaps unexpected ways with both the realist and naturalist ones so far described here.

5 ‘I had not Thought Death had Undone so Many’: Modernism and the Ghost

This chapter focuses on the intersection of the ghost story and modernism. There are two related parts to this encounter: the ghost story becomes something slightly different, under the influence of modernism; and within modernist texts, outside of the ghost story, the figure of the ghost takes on new functions. A quick look at Eliot’s Waste Land makes clear what is different about modernist ghosts. The poem’s epigraph includes the Sybil’s desire to die, and the opening section is entitled ‘The Burial of the Dead.’ Death and the dead dominate Eliot’s modern city, but especially its workers: Unreal City, Under the brown fog of a winter dawn, A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, I had not thought death had undone so many. Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled, And each man fixed his eyes before his feet. (pp. 60–4) London is both the workplace of this crowd and an ‘unreal city,’ a phantasmagoric dreamscape. The crowd is both the living workers, crossing London Bridge on their way to the financial district (where Eliot too worked, in a bank) at the economic heart of the British Empire, and as well the spirits of Dante’s Inferno. The living and the dead are interchangeable; the living seem dead, and the dead, like the ‘planted’ corpse, like the speaker of the opening lines of the poem, might well be living. The realm of international trade and finance in which London’s whitecollar living-dead work is like a factory, within which their actions are machine-like. The despair and frustration and regret of these damned workers is expressed in their sighs, at least as responsible for London’s 157

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‘brown fog’ as the industrial chimneys pumping waste into the air and, in ‘The Fire Sermon,’ into the river. These are alienated workers whose work produces nothing substantive, instead engaging in ‘unreal’ financial transactions (Levenson 1984; Hay 2003). But it takes enormous intellectual labor to wrench the meaning of the ghost away from its nineteenth-century roots and towards this new modernism. We have seen something of this labor in Conrad’s deployment of the ghost story to make indistinguishable, in certain regards, the haunted sea-captain from his ghostly double. And we can see the same labor fifty years later when Kerouac, in On the Road (1957), uses a haunting to describe his narrator’s situation. It is early in the novel, only his second day hitchhiking. He has just slept the day away in a cheap Iowa hotel. I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was – I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost. (p. 15) This is plainly a version of the modernist ghost in the terms established here, the abstract and alienated person who sees himself as a ghost. But we can really see the labor of getting the ghost to carry this new, no longer Victorian meaning, the labor involved in switching from ghost-as-history to ghost-as-alienated-person, because the switching is happening right there in the text. The final phrase of this quotation does the work, and in doing so is strictly speaking incoherent – something like a stupid mistake. His whole life is haunted, he says, but then he follows that up with saying that it is the life of a ghost. The problem, the thing that looks like an error, is that ghosts are not haunted; rather, ghosts do the haunting. But that of course is actually the success of the passage. Up to this last phrase, it reads like a pretty straightforward Gothic scene: an old building, low creaking, mysterious footsteps. And then suddenly the narrator realizes, with a start, that he is the ghost. To an extent, my argument here is a particularized version of an argument made by many others but most famously Marshall Berman, about modernity in general. Such arguments take issue with Weber’s

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description of the process of modernization as one of disenchantment, which Weber summarizes thus: ‘The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the “disenchantment of the world” ’ (p. 155; Weber is quoting Schiller. See also Orlando, p. 234). And a disenchanted world is a world without ghosts: hence Edmund Wilson’s famously expressed surprise in 1944 that the ghost story persisted into the age of the electronic light (Cox and Gilbert 1986b, p. xv). And Wilson was hardly the first: according to Edith Wharton, Osbert Sitwell likewise ‘informed us the other day that ghosts went out when electricity came in’ (Wharton 1997b, pp. 8–9). There is also a version of the Weberian argument that argues for not modernity’s but modernism’s incompatability with the ghost. In his introduction to Companion to the Gothic, David Punter makes this argument in the form of a question: that the literary movement of modernism is a turning-away from the tropes and themes of the ghostly. [M]ight we prefer to see in modernism precisely that movement of the mind that seeks to exorcise the ghost, to clean out the house, ruined though it may be, and assert the possibility of a life that is not haunted as it situates itself resolutely in a present that strains towards the future? (p. ix) Modernism, according to Punter, is the celebratory ideology of modernity: cleansing and sterilizing, focused on the future, refusing to allow for the existence of ghosts. But Berman argues that Weber and the Weberians have got this all wrong. Modernity and modernism both, he argues, are characterized in very specific ways by a kind of ghostliness. Berman insists that what marks everyday reality under conditions of modernity is not the eradication of superstition but rather the presence of the ghost: the experience of modernity, he says, is ‘of agitation and turbulence, psychic dizziness and drunkenness, expansion of experiential possibilities and destruction of moral boundaries and personal bonds, self-enlargement and self-derangement, phantoms in the street and in the soul’ (1982, p. 18). And, he maintains, modernism is the attempt to represent precisely this ghostliness. Even William Carlos Williams’s programmatic slogan ‘No ideas but in things’ is best understood as a response to the increasing ghostliness, in this new modern sense, of the world and our experiences: ‘The idea of the concrete springs to the fore when reality itself seems to have become abstract’ (Eagleton 2006, p. 140). Which is to say that we can make the same argument in terms of modernist

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representation as a response to changes in capitalist forms: ‘capitalism’s power to deterritorialize and decompose what had been solid and familiar had rendered ‘realistic’ representation unrealistic’ (N. Brown 2005, p. 101).1 When realism no longer offers models of representation that render reality ‘realistically,’ literature turns to other modes, including the ghost story, in order to achieve such ‘realistic’ representation. Adorno, in Minima Moralia, points out something similar in the literature of German expressionists: In Trakl’s ‘Along’ there is the line: ‘Tell how long it is we have been dead’; in Däubler’s ‘Golden Sonnets’: ‘How true that we are all long dead.’ The unity of Expressionism consists in expressing that people wholly estranged from one another, life having receded within them, have thereby become, precisely, dead. (p. 191) For Adorno, that is, German modernist literature represents modern people as dead precisely to the extent that they are modern. And this is not escapist fantasy but an attempt to render the truth of contemporary experience. The remainder of this chapter looks at three texts in detail, examining the complexities of the ghosts’ representation in them. First, something we can call a modernist ghost story: Henry James’s ‘The Jolly Corner’ (1908); then two modernist texts in which the ghost is a crucial figure in different ways: Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) and Kenneth Slessor’s Australian poem ‘Five Bells’ (1939).

Modernist ghost stories: Henry James and finance capital Not all ghost stories of the early twentieth century are modernist; indeed, by far the majority, and those written by the most popular and prolific authors, are not. The status of modernism within the ghost story mirrors its status in culture more generally: as Malcolm Bull argues, modernism came to exist only in the gaps left between the dominant modes of classicism and consumerism (2001). Over the first half of the twentieth century, the ghost story further consolidated its status, as developed by naturalist ghost stories, as a conservative genre: a nostalgic preference for an imagined version of a feudal pre-modernity where class distinctions were properly maintained, history was readable in the landscape, and moral codes of Englishness prevailed. This version of the genre’s key figures include Hugh Walpole, L. P. Hartley, Walter de la Mare, Arthur Machen, and H. Russell Wakefield.

‘I had not Thought Death had Undone so Many’


But there are also, unsurprisingly, ghost stories that are modernist, stories that challenge the naturalist model of the ghost story in recognizably modernist ways. Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Haunted House’ is one such, as are, in different ways, Elizabeth Bowen’s many ghost stories. But my focus here is on the way Henry James’s ‘The Jolly Corner’ offers a narrative precedent for modernism’s radical reconfiguration of the relationship between past and present. The language of ‘The Jolly Corner,’ like much of James’s writing, resists easy interpretation. It requires a certain kind of readerly labor to untangle the sentences, not because the sentences are vague or opaque, but rather because they hold themselves to – and demand from readers – an uncommon level of precision and particularity: what Nicholas Brown, representatively, has called the ‘Jamesian tendency towards knotty grammatical subordination’ (85). At the same time, and not surprisingly, the story puts epistemological questions, questions of the precision of knowledge and thought, at its center. The story’s opening sentence sets up such questions of the possibility of knowledge, expectations of knowledge, and the value of (different kinds of) knowledge: ‘ “Everyone asks me what I ‘think’ of everything,” said Spencer Brydon; “and I make answer as I can – begging or dodging the question, putting them off with any nonsense” ’ (p. 49). Spencer’s imprecision and hyperbole – ‘Everyone’ asks him about ‘everything’ and he offers in return only ‘nonsense’ – is immediately set up in opposition to the narrator’s precision and carefulness. At the same time, however, the context in which these epistemological questions take shape is provided by the questions we have come to expect of ghost stories: questions about the relationships of people to property, and about the relationship between past and present. Spencer, now 56, having spent the last 33 years in Europe, has returned to New York, with a reputation as an aesthete and a wastrel, someone who has wasted his life on sensation and aesthetic pleasures; Europe’s decadence is bluntly contrasted with a hard-headed US business-sense. But Spencer’s decadent lifestyle in Europe was possible because of two New York properties that he still owns, so even as the contrast is made, the story insists on a relation of dependence: European decadence is made possible by income generated from American property and rent, from Spencer’s involvement with the property market. The two buildings Spencer owns are to his mind utterly distinct from each other. One, where he grew up, is a corner house, its corner-status as well as its personal history imbuing it with a certain individuality;

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the other is a ‘mere number in its long row’ thereby readily given over by him to modern ‘reconstruction as a tall block of flats’ (p. 51). As Geoffrey Gilbert puts it, the collapse of the second property’s specificity is a requirement for the specificity of the first to register, allowing ‘the singularities and anomalies which reside within the empty space of the commodity, and within the space of social consensus upon which exchange values depend, to be expressed’ (2004, p. 250). Spenser finds he is ‘distinguishing more than ever between them,’ and that he cannot imagine allowing such modernization, such serialization, to happen to the ‘jolly corner’ house (James, p. 51). His chief pleasures, having returned to New York, are walking through the empty corner house, and spending time with Alice Staverton, an old friend, a long-time New Yorker, and a ‘delicately frugal possessor and tenant’ (p. 51). What he most likes about her is their common age, their belonging to an era now gone: ‘her precious reference, above all, to memories and histories into which he could enter . . . . [The] presences of the other age, presences all overlaid’ by other things, but shared, or shareable (p. 52). This is especially so given his unfamiliarity with, and dislike for, a New York he no longer recognizes.The things he remembers from his youth as ugly he now finds (because of their association with his youth, with the past), charming, whereas he finds repulsive ‘the “swagger” things, the modern, the monstrous, the famous things . . . . They were so many set traps for displeasure’ (p. 50). In organizing the money-making redevelopment of the non-corner house, Spencer has discovered a talent for business, for money-making architectural ugliness, that he did not know he had: ‘If he had but stayed at home he would have anticipated the inventor of the skyscraper. If he had but stayed at home he would have discovered his genius in time really to start some new variety of awful architectural hare and run it till it burrowed in the gold mine’ (p. 53). He has begun to be obsessed by ‘what he personally might have been’ had he stayed in New York rather than leaving (p. 57). He tells Alice that living in New York, living this other life ‘must have produced some different effect for my life and for my “form”’ (p. 58). The kind of person he might have been he sees around him – rich New Yorkers – and thinks they have no charm of their own, ‘beyond that of the rank money passion’; he is convinced ‘I had then a strange alter ego deep down somewhere within me’ (p. 58). Alice says she is sure such an alternative self ‘would have been quite splendid, quite huge and monstrous’ (p. 58). Spenser says he is determined to see this alternative self, and Alice admits that she has, twice, in a dream, but puts off Spencer’s desire to hear her description to ‘some other time’

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(p. 60). He becomes convinced that this alternative self, him as he would have been had he stayed, haunts the house on the jolly corner, and he (Spencer) takes to walking its rooms at night in the hope of seeing this double, this other self. Which is to say, he himself haunts the house, as much as does his double. He takes Alice to see this old place, together with Miss Muldoon the housekeeper, and tries to tell her what attracts him to it: ‘values other than the beastly rent values, and in short, in short – !’ (p. 54). What he likes, that is, is that it escapes the reduction to a commodity, much as her own house does, escapes even his own linguistic competence in this broken-off sentence. Trying again, he tells her that its value can be measured in different terms, terms explicitly of reading, of the dead and of the past: he tells her of ‘the value of all he read into it,’ doorknobs ‘which suggested the pressure of the palms of the dead; the seventy years of the past in fine that these things represented’ (p. 54). But Alice reminds him that his ability to read this one house in these non-monetary terms is dependent on his possession of the other property and its involvement with the market: ‘In short you’re to make so good a thing of your skyscraper that, living in luxury on those ill-gotten gains, you can afford to be sentimental here!’ (p. 54). Alice insists on reminding Spencer that his determination to understand the house in aesthetic, high-culture terms depends on precisely the kind of market-value capitalism against which the house has value for him. Haunting his old house at night, he imagines himself hunting his alternate self, in terms that make it clear that the characteristic of monstrosity has been transferred from Spencer’s double to himself: he feels ‘like some monstrous stealthy cat’ (p. 63). What he wants is ‘as clear as the figure on a check presented in demand for cash’ (p. 62): for all that the house has value in non-monetary terms, that is, monetary exchange still serves as the figure for a clarity mostly unavailable outside of monetary abstraction. In fact, for Spencer, ‘reason’ itself is necessarily a practice of calculation, of comparing equivalent terms, of the kind of judgment-making that is for him characteristic of the business-sense he loathes about America. He says to Alice that his decision to leave America was without reason, an entirely perverse decision: ‘if I had a reason about the matter at all it would have to be the other way, and would then be inevitably a reason of dollars [ . . . .] There are no reasons here but of dollars. Let us therefore have none whatever – not the ghost of one’ (p. 56). Again, reason and clarity are qualities of money and finance; and, further, all three collectively are opposed in the sentence by the ghost.

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Spenser becomes convinced that rather than running from him, his spectral alternate self has turned on him, at which Spenser feels both ‘terror and applause’ (p. 65). Confronted with a closed door that he is sure he had left open, Spenser is suddenly terrified of the impending confrontation with this ghost. Instead of hunting his ghost, he now decides that meeting it would be deadly. This reverse he experiences as ‘the start that often attends some pang of recollection, the violent shock of having ceased happily to forget’ (67). And with this comes another epiphany: ‘He tried to think of something noble, as that his property was really grand, a splendid possession; but this nobleness took the form too of the clear delight with which he was finally able to sacrifice it. They might come in now, the builders, the destroyers – they might come as soon as they would’ (p. 72). He decides that the past needs to be erased after all, that what it contains (such other possibilities) is horrific rather than nostalgic. Confronting this ghost, then, is troped as the horror of remembering not because the ghost comes back from the past suddenly and forcefully recollected, but because the world-view the ghost represents, a worldview in which history and memory are irrelevant to monetary value, comes in this moment of confrontation to be Spencer’s view as well as the ghost’s. He is no longer able to summon aesthetic or historical reasons to oppose to the ghost’s financial logic: he has indeed become ‘monstrous’ in precisely his own terms from earlier in the story. He flees the house, but at the front door a figure emerges out of the darkness of the entryway. He initially recognizes it as his alternate self, cowering behind raised hands, one of which ‘had lost two fingers’ (p. 74). But then, when the hands go down, he decides it cannot be his face, ‘the bared identity was too hideous as his’ (pp. 74–5); ‘Such an identity fitted his at no point, made its alternative monstrous’; it ‘was the face of a stranger,’ it had ‘a life larger than his own’ (p. 75). It comes towards him, and he retreats and faints. He wakes with his head in Alice’s lap, and has ‘this sense [that] what he had come back to seemed the really great thing’ (p. 76). Alice tells him she loves him, and he tells her he loves her too: he decides that he has been ‘carried back’ from something like death, and the interruption of movement had brought him to knowledge, to knowledge – yes, this was the beauty of his state; which came to resemble more and more that of a man who has gone to sleep on some news of great inheritance, and then, after dreaming it away, after profaning it with matters strange to it, has waked up again to serenity of certitude and has only to lie and watch it grow’. (p. 76)

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Coming to knowledge, Spenser decides, knowledge of (and acknowledgement of) his and Alice’s love for each other, is like realizing you have not, after all, spent all your inheritance; being in love is like watching investments grow. Money, now, is the universal currency not only for reason but also for love: whatever rejection of the world of finance was implicit in Spenser’s flight from America for Europe, the story’s conclusion suggests, his happy ending is a result of his about-face embrace of it. Alice also tells him that she saw his ghostly other, and that is how she knew to come to find him at the house. It is his alternate self, she insists, his refusal or failure to recognize it notwithstanding: she even saw the same hand missing two fingers. The whole point of his desire to meet this other self was, she says, to see how different it was from him, but then he refused to recognize anything at all different as himself – much as he felt about New York, at the story’s opening. The story’s ideological point is tricky but blunt. Through his confrontation with the ghost, a ghost that represents not his past but an alternative-present version of himself, a ghost with whom he shares a past but from whom his own life-path diverged for no reason (no dollarrepresentable reason) – through this confrontation, Spenser comes to give up his dependence on a nostalgic past (he is now happy to ‘sacrifice’ the house to the property developers), embracing (belatedly, with Alice’s assistance) finance-capital and modernity together with that aspect of himself represented by the ghost that he can not, until then, see in himself. This conclusion is framed as a triumph over the ghost: ‘ “He has a million a year,” he [Spencer] lucidly added. “But he hasn’t you [Alice]” ’ (p. 80). Possession of Alice, Spencer insists, is more important that financial success. But possession of Alice is crucial, since, first, it simply repeats a relationship of ownership, now expressed not in monetary terms but through a patriarchal version of marriage. And, second, because through possessing Alice, Spencer gets both to assert a newly discovered capitalist masculinity and to hold onto, through transferring them to Alice, his aesthetic values as well. And this because of the way the story has set up Alice’s peculiar relationship to property. When Spencer first returns to New York, it takes him some time to learn the way to Alice’s house, ‘among the dreadful multiplied numberings which seemed to him to reduce the whole place to some vast ledger page, overgrown, fantastic, of ruled and crisscrossed lines and figures’ (p. 52). But once there, her house is set apart from such interchangeable equivalences, ‘a small still scene where items and shades, all delicate things, kept the sharpness of the notes of a high voice perfectly trained, and where economy hung about like the scent of a garden’

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(p. 52). Her house, that is, is characterized by both its singularity, its refusal of the logic of equivalence provided by the ‘ledger page’ urban planning that surrounds it, in which all the houses seem to Spencer alike and interchangeable, and as well by its frugality, its refusal of profligate expenditure, an ‘economy’ which is what allows it, for Spencer, to be distinguished from the homogenization that surrounds it. Indeed, in the story’s terms, these two characteristics turn out to be the same thing, an idea of property that stands outside of its transformation into money because it is both singular and economical, economical because aesthetic and with an aesthetic of high culture. In Gilbert’s terms, once again, ‘She has managed a resistance to the economy which is unaccountable; which escapes absolutely any mapping in money’ (2004, p. 251). So in ‘having’ Alice, Spencer gets to ‘have’ all the nostalgic relationship to a past that Alice continues to represent (her house of frugality, of history, and of singularity), a past reduced to mementoes and doilies on the mantelpiece. He will tear his house down, the house on the jolly corner, make it into apartments and rent them out, which will then in turn fund his life with Alice, even as he insists that it is the aesthete version of himself who ‘has’ Alice, not the millionaire capitalist; and for all Spenser’s refusal to acknowledge himself in this other, Alice quietly insists they are the same person. The story can also be read as pushing us to think of the ‘ghost’ as the one haunted by Spencer, and of Spenser as the ‘real’ ghost: the financial success-story New Yorker who is haunted by the might-have-been version of himself, a version that left New York for Europe and became an aesthete rather than working in property development. His determination to tear down the old house erases both Spencer’s own actual past and the ghost’s potential alternative, the ghost’s might-have-been, while Spencer gets to live out his own might-have-been in his own dabblings into landlord-ism and property development, at the same time as he gets to hold onto the past in the shape of Alice and her commitment to the objects and spaces of that past in her home. As in Kerouac’s gesture, haunting and being haunted blur into each other in the modernist deployment of the ghost. The ghost does not represent ‘the past’ or ‘history’ or ‘tradition’ because the story projects all of those onto the figure of Alice, onto the story’s domestic love-interest. The ghost, instead, figures finance capital, modernity, development, even in an odd sense realism itself, or the cognitive mapping project as a whole, in that the ghost is the figure that represents the relationships and dependencies between Spenser’s

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aesthetic life and the structural economic base on which it depends, and that Spencer’s future seems determined to exclude. His disavowal of selfhood eschews the Romantic paradigm of identity, and also asserts the hegemony of American commercial culture and entrepreneurial capitalism over European idealism – indeed, encompasses such idealism within its newly expanded capitalist frame. And this is the key innovation that modernism offers to the ghost story. Modernist ghosts persist into the age of the electric light because modernist ghosts are no longer (or, at least, are no longer only) figures for a past that persists into the present but rather figures for precisely what is most modern about the present, for a modernity in which ‘all that is solid melts into air.’ But James’s story is especially compelling in that it keeps central the dependence of the new form of the ghost on the earlier. Ghosts can figure modernity in its alienation and abstraction only because there already exists an understanding of the ghost as figuring the trace of historical trauma. The new ghostliness of a present in which ‘all that is solid melts into air’ displaces or replaces the older ghostliness of traumatic history, but it nonetheless continues to be premised on a version of the older haunting. The ghostliness of dematerialized, dedifferentiated capital invariably brings about the ghostly return of the dis-synchronous pre-modern (Baucom 2001, p. 162). In ‘The Jolly Corner,’ the ghost functions to bring Spenser into modernity, into a monetized economy (p. 76). Money, by the end of the story, is the universal currency not only for reason but also for love. Spencer’s appropriation from the ghost of a monetized logic, and his consequent loss of the aesthetic, historicized values that refuse monetary equivalence, is available to Spencer only because those aesthetic and historical values are projected by him onto Alice and consequently remain ‘his.’ Spencer’s wealth makes him a ghost of this new modernist kind. It hardly needs to be said that the story in no sense makes visible the lives of the tenants whose rents provide Spencer with his livelihood; but that livelihood is nonetheless haunted in the older fashion, by a difference that Alice and her extraeconomic aesthetics represents and that haunts Spencer’s claim to ownership.

‘Raw Head and Bloody Bones’ Joyce’s Dublin is not a new city but an old one, not a proto-imperial one but a colonial one, and it thus poses different representational problems.

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But in Ulysses we find Dublin haunted by modernist ghosts as well as Victorian ones. Ghosts are regularly mentioned in Ulysses; for instance, in the middle of a history lesson, as a desired alternative to that history lesson, one of Stephen’s students implores him to ‘Tell us a story, sir. Oh, do, sir, a ghoststory’ (p. 25). And in the Circe episode, Bello (who had been Bella) demands of Bloom also, among other options, a ghost story: ‘Tell me something to amuse me, smut or a bloody goodghoststory or a line of poetry, quick, quick, quick!’ (p. 538). Throughout the novel, Dublin is a city of the dead; Joyce consistently turns to the gothic to invoke the funereal culture that pervades his Ireland. As part of his internal dialogue, Stephen remembers a poem about a vampire; he explains his theory that Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet is a ghoststory’ (p. 188); he wonders whether to visit his aunt and uncle, and thinks of their house, and his own, as ‘Houses of decay, mine, his, all’ (p. 39), as he passes a dead dog, washed up on the beach (p. 44); throughout the novel various characters attend a funeral, remember dead Irish heroes, and ponder the fate of the man who has recently drowned in the harbor. And so it continues. In the context of the novel’s widespread fascination with the dead, I want to focus on two of the novel’s ghosts. The first is the ghost of Stephen’s mother, which haunts him at various moments in the text, and which functions in the terms of the traditional ghost story, the ghost as trace of historical trauma. The second ghost, of Bloom’s dead son, Rudy, appears at the end of the Circe episode, and functions as a modern ghost in Berman’s sense. The ghost of Stephen’s mother is first mentioned in the novel’s opening scene. In its opening pages, the narrative offers us Mulligan’s observation that the sea is ‘our great sweet mother’ and ‘Our mighty mother’ (p. 5), and then promptly Stephen’s memory of his dream of his mother, returning to him as a ghost: Silently, in a dream she had come to him after her death, her wasted body with its loose brown graveclothes giving off the odour of wax and rosewood, her breath, that had bent upon him, mute, reproachful, a faint odour of wetted ashes. (p. 5) This opening scene sets up a set of relationships between Ireland, Stephen’s mother, and the sea, a set of comparative associations that return throughout the book (Taussig 2000). Confronted by his mother (he later calls her a ‘ghostwoman with ashes on her breath’; p. 38), he recollects his guilt at being in France when she became ill, and at

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refusing to pray with her, once he had returned. His memories ‘beset’ him (p. 10); his relationship with them is confrontational. In his mind, his mother accuses him of being a gothic monster – ‘Ghoul! Chewer of corpses!’ – but then he turns his inward guilt into an outward anger, towards his mother’s ghost: ‘No mother. Let me be and let me live’ (p. 10).2 The ghost of Stephen’s mother appears as part of a complex web of associations and references. ‘Omphalos’ (Greek, ‘navel’ or ‘belly-button’) is used twice in these early passages to describe the Martello tower Stephen lives in, reminding readers that in the Odyssey, Homer calls Calypso’s isle ‘navel of the sea’ (Book I, l. 50); an old peasant woman, who we are reminded is a traditional symbol of Ireland, brings milk to Stephen and his companions, an association suggesting that Ireland is a Calypso-figure who feeds Stephen, but keeps him trapped in this omphalos, at once both the Martello tower and Calypso’s island, or indeed Ireland itself as an island, for which the Martello tower stands synecdochally. The image of Ireland as both old peasant woman and trap is reinforced when Stephen tells Haines that the third of the three masters he serves – after the Imperial British state and the Roman Catholic Church – is Ireland, ‘a crazy queen, old and jealous,’ ‘who wants me for odd jobs’ (p. 20). The figure of an old peasant woman standing in for Ireland returns later, in the Circe episode where Stephen fights with the English soldier Private Carr; there, an ‘Old Gummy Granny’ gives Stephen a dagger, saying ‘Remove him, acushla’ (Irish, ‘beloved’), and that if he will only kill the English soldier, ‘you will be in heaven and Ireland will be free’ (p. 600). One of the ‘odd jobs’ for which Ireland wants Stephen, then, is an anti-colonial resistance. The association of mother and grandmother is reinforced in Stephen’s response to his student’s demand for a ghost story. Rather than the dry, emotionless history that the classroom offers them – dates and places of Pyrrhus’s battles, the dry intellectual wit of Stephen’s pier-asdisappointed-bridge – the student wants a ghost story, that is, a different kind of story about the past, about its observable persistence into the present. But what Stephen gives him, instead, is a riddle: The cock crew The sky was blue: The bells in heaven Were striking eleven. Tis time for this poor soul To go to heaven. (p. 26)

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Stephen’s students are understandably puzzled, even once Stephen lets them know that the answer is ‘The fox burying his grandmother under a hollybush’ (p. 27). The riddle’s traditional answer, according to Gifford (1988), is the ‘fox burying his mother under a holly tree,’ but Stephen combines or confuses (again) his own dead mother together with the grandmotherly figure of the ‘crazy queen, old and jealous.’ Why, when asked for a ghost story, does Stephen offer this odd riddle? The riddle is not so much a riddle as a joke at the expense of riddles, since it is unanswerable unless the answer is already known. Stephen’s riddle, that is, mocks the idea that narratives can teach us things we do not already know, that they can have explanatory powers. What the student wants, with this ghost story, is a narrative that explains the past by offering emotionally and ethically explicable relationships to it. But Stephen’s puzzle is an explicit denial of that desire. History, then, is crucial here, mediating between Stephen’s refusal of the students’ ghost story and his own haunting, not least because Stephen’s famous description of history as a nightmare comes in this same episode. ‘History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake’ (p. 34). He means at least three things all at once here. First, the personal history which Stephen re-experiences in his nightmare and from which he wants to escape: his memories of his mother, her return as a ghost in his dreams. This family history, lived-history, he is literally experiencing as a nightmare, making him into a ‘chewer of corpses,’ haunted by a mother he wishes would ‘leave me alone’: it is a history that he wishes to leave behind, to move on from. The second, related to the first by the overlap in the novel’s imagery between his mother and the old peasant-woman who stands in for Ireland, is that he wishes he could escape from the nightmare of Irish history. Stephen makes his comment in response to the religiousEnlightenment version of history as a process of continuous, inexorable progress that Deasy, Stephen’s Anglo-Irish Protestant employer, has just offered him: ‘All history moves towards one great goal, the manifestation of God’ (p. 34). And Stephen repeats to himself his comment, in the office of the Telegraph, in the midst of a discussion about tradition and the past, centering on the ‘right’ rhetoric with which to represent Ireland. Hearing Myles Crawford, editor of The Daily Telegraph, narrate the historical anecdote of the way that Ignatius Gallagher gave to the New York World newspaper the story of the Phoenix Park murders, gave them ‘the whole bloody history,’ Stephen thinks, ‘Nightmare from which you will never awake’ (p. 137). And in that episode he responds to other examples of Irish nationalist rhetoric which draw analogies

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between ancient and contemporary history by thinking ‘Miles of ears of porches,’ suggesting that the speeches are poisonous to their listeners, like the poison Hamlet’s uncle pours into what the ghost calls the ‘porches of mine ears’ (I.v.71). And ‘dead noise,’ Stephen says, suggesting that the rhetoric is itself dead, ghostly (p. 143). Their stories are a kind of history – poisonous, dead – that Stephen experiences as nightmarish, and from which he wants to awaken. Deasy’s imperial history is teleological in its narrative of inexorable progress; the stories told in the Telegraph office produce history by inventing a tradition, a set of foundational myths, from which Irish society is then discovered to have developed. Circular rather than teleological, they are a version of history as horrific to Stephen as is Deasy’s teleology. History is a nightmare that haunts Stephen in this sense not because he finds the past scary or atrocious or needing to be ‘laid to rest,’ but because history is scary, history as a narrative that sets limits to the past and our ability to think it. The third version of history that is a nightmare for Stephen is the teaching of history, the history classroom. The ‘Mirthless high malicious laughter’ of the schoolboys, Stephen’s own lack of control, and his social inferiority makes teaching history miserable – a nightmare – for him. Indeed, academia generally is to Stephen such a nightmare despite his investment in it. Sitting with one his students, in the Nestor episode, Stephen “proves by algebra that Shakespeare’s ghost is Hamlet’s grandfather” (28). The irrationality of proving by algebra a genetic relationship suggests Stephen’s mockery of academic disciplines, of disciplinary knowledge; equally, the category-error – author and character as inhabiting the same world – furthers the mockery. Stephen does quit his teaching job: this version of the nightmare he does escape. But in the sense in which history is the imposition of narrative onto the past for the purpose of creating the illusion of either progress or continuity, the kind of history the students want a ghost-story-alternative to, an alternative Stephen’s riddle denies to them and to himself – in that sense, Stephen has no way out. When the ghost of his mother returns to haunt Stephen in the Circe episode, it is clear that the ghost is a figure for history in all the senses in which, for Stephen, it is a nightmare, and not only for his mother, not only for family history. Stephen dances the ‘Dance of death,’ at the end of which ‘He stops dead’ and Stephen’s mother, emaciated, rises stark through the floor in leper grey with a wreath of faded orange blossoms and a torn bridal veil, her face worn and noseless, green with grave mould. Her hair is scant and lank. She fixes her

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bluecircled hollow eyesockets on Stephen and opens her toothless mouth uttering a silent word. A choir of virgins and confessors sing voicelessly.’ (p. 579) The following scene plays out, in Stephen’s imagination, a combination of the dream that he has remembered in the first episode, his guilt that he is responsible for his mother’s death (not that he in any literal sense causes her death, but Mulligan’s malicious accusation of this, and the ‘reproachful’ ghost, haunt Stephen throughout the day), and his continued rejection of Catholicism in the face of her dying prayers for him. She asks him to pray and repent, at which he turns on her, using the same terms he used against himself earlier: ‘The ghoul! Hyena!’ and then ‘The corpsechewer! Raw head and bloody bones!’ (p. 581). Stephen refuses not just to pray, but to have her – or others – pray for him, damaging the room’s gaslight chandelier as he attempts to swipe the ghost with his walking stick. In Yeats’s play Cathleen ni Hoolihan, the old woman who is a figure for Ireland is turned, by the sacrifice-in-war of Ireland’s young men, into a young woman with the walk of a queen. But in Stephen’s gothic fantasy, the ghost-figure of his mother/Ireland, rejected by Stephen, turns into something much more horrific: ghouls and hyenas both feed on the dead, and ‘Raw head and bloody bones’ is the name of an Irish fairy monster, and, as the name suggests, a horrific rather than a benevolent one. No longer maternal and comforting, the jealous old queen confronts Stephen in all of the horror of her nationalist demands. And in his attempts to exorcise this ghost, Stephen manages only to smash a light and get himself thrown out of the brothel. While Stephen’s student wants ghost stories in place of history, wants ghost-narratives by which he can structure his relationships to the past rather than the structure offered by their history-lesson, for Stephen history is already a nightmare that haunts him. Though he is haunted by a ghost from his past, it is Stephen who dances the dance of death, Stephen who ‘stops dead’ – Stephen, that is, is the dead one here. As much as the ghost that haunts him, he too is haunting the streets of this modern-colonial city, just as James’s Spencer is both haunted and haunting. ∗

The second haunting I want to address also occurs in the Circe episode, after Stephen’s confrontation with ‘raw head and bloody bones,’ in which a confrontation between Bloom and a very different kind of ghost ends the episode.

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When Stephen and Bloom move from the pub to a brothel, at the beginning of the Circe episode, where they plan to spend the remainder of the evening, they move from the more-or-less respectable (though not without poverty or without the dead) parts of Dublin to the slums of ‘Nighttown.’ Their arrival at the Mabbot Street entrance is marked in Ulysses by a change in narrative genre. The novel takes on the style of a gothic drama, with italicized stage directions and scene-settings interspersed between the lines of the characters. ‘The Mabbot street entrance to nighttown’ has before it ‘skeleton tracks, red and green will-o’-the-wisps.’ The houses are ‘flimsy’ and have ‘gaping doors.’ Around the ice gondola ‘stunted men and women squabble,’ and the ice-creams that they eat are ‘wedged lumps of coal and copper snow.’ ‘Through the murk’ strange lights and sounds pass (p. 429). Among the characters of this opening scene are ‘A deafmute idiot with goggle eyes . . . shaken in Saint Vitus’ dance,’ ‘A pigmy woman’ who ‘swings on a rope,’ ‘A form sprawled against a dustbin’ who ‘moves, groans, grinding growling teeth,’ ‘a gnome,’ and ‘A crone’ who ‘makes back for her lair’ (pp. 429–30). The drunken disorientation of the characters turns the scene they observe – of colonial urban poverty – into a gothic scene, inhabited by gothic characters, blurred indistinguishably with the surrounding sounds of slum life: ‘A plate crashes; a woman screams; a child wails.’ And looking on, there is a gothic audience for the scene, ‘Figures wander, lurk, peer from warrens’ (p. 430). Why depict Nighttown in particular as especially gothic? To answer this question, we need to explore two different aspects of Joyce’s novel: its ideas about Dublin as a colonial city, and its ideas about advertising, both of which tell us something about the unevenness of modernity. Joyce’s Dublin is clearly a colonial city. As Luke Gibbons says of Ireland generally, Irish society did not have to await the twentieth century to undergo the shock of modernity: disintegration and fragmentation were already part of its history so that, in a crucial but not always welcome sense, Irish culture experienced modernity before its time. This is not unique to Ireland, but is the common inheritance of cultures subjected to the depredations of colonialism. (p. 6) Gibbons, that is, makes for Ireland the argument that Paul Gilroy had already made in The Black Atlantic for enslaved Africans: that modernity comes early for those enslaved by the capitalist colonial economy. More specifically, though, a colonial city like Dublin is a paradigmatic example of what Frantz Fanon calls an ‘occult zone of instability,’

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describing the spaces where the colonizing and colonized cultures intersect (p. 227). What does it mean, though, to say that colonialism makes of the colonized landscape an ‘occult zone’? The modern colonial world, says Fanon, is ‘a world cut in two’ (p. 29), divided into the ‘settler town’ and the ‘native town.’ The native town is ‘starved of bread, of shoes, of coal, of light’ (p. 30). Nighttown is such a native town, a slum, a shantytown: poorly lit and under-resourced, as the gothic description at the opening of the Circe episode makes apparent. The space where these two towns intersect, the colonial city, is what Fanon describes as an ‘occult zone of instability where the people dwell’ (p. 227). This space is unstable, its realities shifting, its perceptions unfixable; and these instabilities are what make the space ‘occult,’ best described – even in Fanon’s theory – by the language of the gothic. The colonized are perceived as gothic figures: ‘the native, bent double, more dead than alive, exists interminably in an unchanging dream’ (Fanon p. 39). Joyce’s deafmute idiot, stunted men and pigmy women, the gnomes and crones from Circe are such gothic natives, defamiliarized poor people and children, revisioned through a drunken haze. But the colonizer, too, is described by Fanon in gothic terms. While from the point of view of the colonizers, Africa ‘was the haunt of savages, a country riddled with superstitions and fanaticisms’ (p. 211), colonialism is itself a mad scientist or Frankenstein figure, ‘not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content. By a kind of perverted logic, it turns to the past of the oppressed people, and distorts, disfigures, and destroys it’ (p. 210). Joyce’s Citizen identifies the colonizers in such gothic terms when he calls the English ‘Tonguetied sons of bastards’ ghosts’ (p. 325). Fanon’s project, which he shares here with Joyce, is one of rescuing a lost past: ‘The colonized man who writes for his people ought to use the past with the intention of opening the future’ (p. 232). And to do this, the colonized writer must enter the gothic, as Joyce does in ‘Circe’: ‘it is to this zone of occult instability where the people dwell that we must come’ (Fanon p. 227). Joyce and Fanon are in agreement here on realism’s limitations as a framework for representing subaltern voices. After Circe’s gothic opening scene a beagle that Bloom sees takes on Dignam’s face – Dignam whose funeral Bloom has attended – then transforms into Dignam, albeit Dignam wearing a ‘brown mortuary coat,’ and with ‘Half of one ear, all the nose and both thumbs . . . ghouleaten’ (p. 472). The Circe episode as a whole is wildly hallucinatory; in it, Nighttown is indeed an unstable zone where nothing is fixed. Bloom dies at one point, and then attends his own funeral (p. 544); Bella, the madam of

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the brothel, changes sex instantaneously and becomes Bello (p. 530). The ‘occult’ element to this instability is clear in the monsters and the fairies, and especially the ghosts that populate its streets: the ‘voice’ that demands that Bloom ‘Swear!’ repeating the demand of the ghost of Hamlet’s father (p. 543); Bloom’s dead father; Stephen’s dead mother. Stephen’s central encounter of the episode is not with Bella’s prostitutes, but is rather an incident of colonial violence. Offered a weapon by the old crone, Ireland, he confronts the two English soldiers, representatives of English rule in Ireland. Drunk, and a scholar rather than a warrior, only Bloom’s intercession saves him from a serious beating. Imperial spaces like Fanon’s ‘occult zones’ are marked by uneven modernity, intersecting or overlapping aspects of modern and premodern life. The Nighttown scene emphasizes the unevenness of Dublin’s modernity: Bloom’s talismanic potato, carried in his pocket, is juxtaposed with the tram lines and lights that he strolls past while carrying it; prostitution, ‘the oldest profession,’ likewise is juxtaposed with the gramophone and gas lamps that have become its modern props; the green and red lights of the railway signals are will-o’-thewisps. As Seamus Deane says, ‘Ireland’s bivalve relationship with and within the United Kingdom produced anomalous conditions in which economic backwardness and modernizing projects were intermixed just as, politically speaking, the country was alternately bribed into passivity or coerced into obedience’ (Deane 2003, p. 111).3 This idea of uneven modernity gets us some way towards explaining why Nighttown is so insistently gothic, but also important is Bloom’s often noted fascination with advertising. Bloom’s job is in newspaper advertising, and as he walks around Dublin he is continually observing both advertisements and how things are displayed for sale. Standing on a street corner, Bloom’s eyes cannot help ‘wandering over the multicoloured hoardings. Cantrell and Cochrane’s Ginger Ale (Aromatic). Clery’s summer sale’ (p. 76). The episode most focused on display, in this sense, is Lestrygonians, in which parallels are drawn between the Lestrygonian cannibals that Odysseus faces and the consumer habits of Dubliners, which includes not only their eating but all their consumption and so too their advertising. Bloom notices, for example, a rowboat anchored in the Liffey with an advertising board displayed. ‘Good idea that,’ Bloom thinks, and then ‘All kind of places are good for ads. That quack doctor for the clap used to be stuck up in all the greenhouses’ (p. 153). (‘Greenhouses’ here refers to public urinals.) As Bloom notes to himself, an excellent place to advertise a cure for venereal diseases to ‘Some chap with a dose burning him’ (p. 153).

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Bloom sees his world according to the logic of advertising, that is to say, the display and sale of commodities. But Bloom is almost as continuously conscious of death, dead bodies, and ghosts as he is of advertising. Dubliners, he thinks to himself, seem obsessed with the dead: ‘Extraordinary the interest they take in a corpse,’ Bloom thinks to himself during Dignam’s funeral procession (p. 87). He is not alone in this; in this regard, whatever his insecurities about the topic, he is a quintessential Dubliner. Looking at a house and garden long neglected, he thinks ‘Whole place gone to hell’ (p. 100), this one house standing synecdochically for Dublin as a whole. On his way to Dignam’s funeral, Bloom thinks ‘Dead side of the street this’ (p. 95), looking out on Dublin as the funeral procession wends through town. But though the other side of the street attracts more customers, there is no ‘living’ alternative. At Dignam’s funeral, Bloom imagines a scene of graverobbing in the language of a cheap gothic novel: ‘You will see my ghost after death. My ghost will haunt you after death’ (p. 115). He thinks too of the ‘dead names’ and ‘dead land’ as he hurries home with his kidney for breakfast (p. 61); of his son Rudy, who died when he was eleven days old; his father, who committed suicide. Bloom, like the novel’s other Dubliners, is obsessed with death, with the dead, and with ghosts. He even explicitly links death with advertising, when he imagines a flu epidemic as a series of traveling salesmen: ‘Canvassing for death. Don’t miss this chance,’ he imagines them saying (p. 90). Advertising and death, death and advertising: if these are what Bloom spends much of his time thinking about, and even thinks about together, do they in fact have anything to do with each other? If, for Bloom, death can be advertised, the reverse of the relationship is also true, as is made clear by Walter Benjamin’s theory of the function of objects for sale: an object for sale, as Benjamin puts it, ‘In relation to the living, . . . represents the rights of the corpse’ (1973, p. 166). For Benjamin advertising and advertised goods line up together with death and the dead against the living. Bloom’s modern colonial world is a world dominated by advertising and modern capital, and to be modern is to live in a world dominated by the dead rather than the living. Fashion is what most directly connects death with advertising, by way of sex, which is of course the other thing that Bloom spends much of his day thinking about. In Benjamin’s terms, ‘fashion was never anything other than the parody of the motley cadaver, provocation of death through the woman, and bitter colloquy with decay whispered between shrill bursts of mechanical laughter’ (1999a, p. 62). Fashion is death because in it time is brought to an ever-repeating standstill;

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change can only ever be a characteristic of objects and not people or history, and the ideal of human beauty is a timeless youthfulness. Modernity is, he says, a ‘the time of hell’ because ‘precisely in what is newest [it] never alters – that this ‘newest’ remains, in every respect, the same’ (pp. 842–3). Fashion, even while it celebrates the new, rejects the possibility of meaningful change. Behind a façade of continuous change – every season has its new fashions – the human ideal that fashion urges on us is the changelessness of eternal youth (Buck-Morss 1989, p. 99). And changelessness, Benjamin reminds us, is the territory of the dead. Benjamin follows this idea to its logical conclusion when he argues that to live in such a modern world is, in certain senses, to be a ghost. ‘The world dominated by its phantasmagorias – this . . . is ‘modernity,” says Benjamin (1999a, p. 26). ‘Phantasmagoria’ does not necessarily mean ghostly, but as Benjamin uses the term, he draws on the ghostly logic and ghostly associations of the term. The modern world is phantasmagoric because it is populated by commodities being advertised, and the logic of that advertizing has come to dominate our entire social structure. Those commodities, no longer simply objects, having had their use-value superceded by their exchange-value, are further de-realized by the process of advertizing; no longer simply commodities, having had their exchange-value superceded by their display-value, they became phantasmagoria. Any ‘real’ characteristics – and use value – they might have once been recognized as having, have been subsumed under this new regime of value, display. What are left are the characteristics of display-value, of novelty, of fashion: characteristics that are phantasmagoric, ghostly, adding a further layer of mediation to the relations between people. The modern phantasmagoric city is an amnesiac dreamscape, and its citizens are asleep, seeing their world phantasmagorically, as the ghost of itself, and they themselves as ghosts populating that world. All of Dublin’s citizens are caught, like Stephen, in a nightmare; but not all of them realize it, and not all of them want to awake. Nighttown’s gothic introduction, then, marks not only the slum’s uneven modernity, its status as ‘occult zone,’ but equally its status as a modern city marks it as phantasmagoric. All of this helps us understand the way that the Circe episode ends, after Stephen’s smashing of the light, his pummeling by Private Carr, and Bloom’s subsequent rescue. It ends with Bloom’s sudden, stark, and unexpected confrontation with the ghost of his son Rudy, who died eleven years ago, at the age of eleven days. Not Rudy as he was – the past – but Rudy as he would be

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today, in a re-imagined present, the present as an alternative future of the past. (Against the dark wall a figure appears slowly, a fairy boy of eleven, a changeling, kidnapped, dressed in an Eton suit with glass shoes and a little bronze helmet, holding a book in his hand. He reads from right to left inaudibly, smiling, kissing the page.) BLOOM (wonderstruck, calls inaudibly) Rudy! RUDY (gazes, unseeing, into Bloom’s eyes and goes on reading, kissing, smiling. He has a delicate mauve face. On his suit he has diamond and ruby buttons. In his free left hand he holds a slim ivory cane with a violet bowknot. A white lambkin peeps out of his waistcoat pocket.) (p. 609) The ghost that Bloom sees here does not speak, is literally wordless: as in so many nineteenth-century ghost stories, the ghost figures an unspeakable trauma, here Bloom’s personal trauma, the loss of his son, but as well the more generalized Irish trauma: modernity, colonization, national belonging. Within Irish myth, the traditional function of the changeling is to disrupt the continuity of the ordinary, and thereby to prompt narrative: the real child needs to be rescued or to find its way home. But here, the ghost’s appearance explicitly interrupts and ends narrative, the Circe episode ending at this point, with its appearance. Rudy’s ghost is entirely symbolic in its mode of representation. With no dialogue, and objects that wear their meaning on their surface – the glass shoes and bronze helmet symbolic of the fairy world, the white lambskin symbolic of his sacrificial nature, for instance – the ghost provides meaning within a phantasmagoric logic of display. The ghost as mythical Irish fairy-changeling allows Bloom to claim the Irish identity – the ability to interpret and understand his son’s loss through the symbolism of Irish myth – so rudely denied him by the citizen, earlier in the day, according to whom Bloom’s Judaism disqualified him from being Irish. Rudy, however, is familiar with his Jewish heritage in a way that Bloom himself is not, reading ‘right to left,’ as Bloom remembers his father reading: ‘kcirtaP. mangiD. Poor papa with his hagadah book, reading backwards with his finger to me’ (122). In that scene, Bloom’s mind leaps from the typesetter setting Dignam’s obituary notice, the letters arranged backwards, to his own (dead) father, reading in Hebrew; again, death mediates the association. Rudy has transcended the duality that the citizen invokes to exclude Bloom; Rudy is a boy kidnapped by Irish fairies, reading Hebrew from his grandfather’s hagadah.

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As well, Rudy is attending Eton, school for the English elite, and so in Rudy Bloom fantasizes the transcendence of both his class limitations and the Irish-English colonial conflict that so preoccupies Stephen, Deasy, the Revivalists, and the Citizen throughout the day. The ghostly fairy-changeling can overcome colonial boundaries precisely because, in Fanon’s terms, it is an occult figure in the contact-zone between two cultures of a colonial city. Bloom’s marginality to these debates about colonial identity allows him to imagine overcoming these oppositions with this hybrid representation of them all. Of course, it is not all that simple, as the abrupt ending of the episode at this point suggests. Bloom’s inaudible appeal to this ghost does nothing to make the culture of commodity capitalism and colonial oppression disappear. If Stephen is haunted by the nightmare of history, Bloom is haunted not by the past but by the present: by a ghost who has nothing to do with history, and everything to do with modern phantasmagoria – display value – and with the occult instability of the colonial encounter. But importantly, this haunting does not provide the history that makes ghost stories, for Stephen’s student and for Bella, a desired narrative form; rather, like Stephen’s riddle, here the ghost interrupts and repudiates narrative development. We see in Ulysses Joyce’s complicated deployment of both modernist and Victorian ghosts, ghosts that figure the past and its unfinished business, as well as ghosts that figure an abstract and alienated present. The relationships one can have with such a ghost are new and open, but Bloom can as yet do no more than stand there and whisper ‘Rudy.’ If the episode ends abruptly, this is because Joyce, too, for all the experimentation he dazzles us with throughout the novel, is here following the logic of the ghost story, refusing narrative satisfaction, such refusal deployed against the easy conclusions that the novel’s variously offered nationalist histories (Deasy’s, the Revivalists, the Citizens, and so on) might offer. In Ulysses, modernism labors to represent the ghostliness of the experience of modernity by way of the ghost. In Kenneth Slessor’s most famous poem, ‘Five Bells,’ the ghost is more straightforwardly a figure for modernity rather than history, and this allows the ghost to perform a different function.

‘Five Bells’: ghosts, modernism, and the colonial world Language’s difficulties with representing reality is something that ghost stories and modernism always had in common. Ford’s modernist novels, for example, according to Nicholas Brown, ‘derive their power from

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a mode of narration in which history is approached in the mode of the sublime, as the unnameable. Faced with the onslaught of a history that cannot be conceptualized and therefore appears wholly external to them, Ford’s characters can only recoil” (Brown 83). Such a mode of narrating history reproduces the project of the naturalist ghost story. This version of modernism, we might even say, simply reproduces in a more highbrow mode what ghost stories had been struggling with for a century. These problems of representation are especially important to Kenneth Slessor’s modernist ghost-poem ‘Five Bells’ (1939), because the ghost that it is about never makes it into the poem. It is not a version of the ‘supernatural explained,’ a ghost story in which what was thought to be a ghost turns out not to have been; rather, the poem is about a failed haunting. Slessor’s narrator wants to be haunted; that he cannot be, or rather, that he is haunted only by a ghost that never appears, is then the poem’s central point, and the vehicle by which it makes its various commentaries on Australian nationalism, on modernity, and indeed on modernism as well. In ‘Five Bells,’ the narrator demands to be haunted: Are you shouting at me, dead man, squeezing your face In agonies of speech on speechless panes? Cry louder, beat the windows, bawl your name! But I hear nothing, nothing . . . (p.121) The ghost never does arrive. The narrator’s stance of open-ended waiting is never rewarded, never closed off. But the questions that this passage raises are the questions of the remainder of this chapter. What does it mean to want to be haunted? And what does it mean to fail to be haunted, for that desire to remain unfulfilled? ‘Five Bells’ begins with the narrator sitting in his room and looking out the window at Sydney Harbor, trying to reach out to Joe Lynch, the dead man. This is followed by three remembered moments that the narrator and Joe shared, in Moorestown, in Sydney, and in Melbourne, and then by another attempt to reach out to Joe, or to understand his death. The concluding section of the poem returns to the narrator, still looking at the harbor, and hearing – still – the five bells (or half past ten, as ships’ bells ring the time) that were ringing when the poem began. The poem is thus structured around a distinction between two kinds of time. There are at least two ways to characterize what happens to time under conditions of modernity. One, common to Continental Enlightenment

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thought, understands ‘the experience of modernity’ as ‘the synchronization of experience, the reduction of historical time to a single, dominant base time, the homogenizing, leveling, everywhere-available time of modernity’ (Baucom ‘Specters’ p. 79). This is the process described by Benedict Anderson in his theorization of the rise of modern nationstates, and especially of the role played in the production of national identities by newspapers. Newspapers offered readers – who were otherwise without any way of imagining their relationship to each other – a shared experience of both ‘calendrical coincidence,’ the date at the top of each page of the paper that points to the ‘steady onward clocking of homogenous time’ (p. 33), and as well of the ‘simultaneous consumption (“imagining”) of the newspaper-as-fiction,’ a ‘mass ceremony’ that ensures at the same time as it brings into being the community of those simultaneous consumers (p. 35). The modern nation-state, Anderson argues, is built on the idea of ‘imagined community’ that such a temporality allows for, what he calls, after Walter Benjamin, ‘homogenous, empty time’ (Anderson 1991, p. 33; Benjamin 2003, pp. 261, 263). Slessor’s lifelong career as a journalist gave him first-hand experience of the role that this kind of temporality plays in the construction of national identity. But he was aware that this was not the only way to imagine time, to imagine oneself and one’s community in relationship to temporality, and indeed ‘Five Bells’ turns upon a distinction between this version of time and another. The poem begins thus: Time that is moved by little fidget wheels Is not my Time, the flood that does not flow. Between the double and the single bell Of a ship’s hour, between a round of bells From the dark warship riding there below, I have lived many lives, and this one life Of Joe, long dead, who lives between five bells. (p. 121) This narrative voice – marked by italics, which speaks these opening seven lines, before withdrawing for most of the poem, only interrupting occasionally to intone the tolling of the ‘five bells’ which mark the passing of this mechanical time – this voice establishes the distinction between these two modes of time. The first is time that is ‘moved by little fidget wheels,’ mechanically ticking forward, turning the future into the past by insisting on the equality and interchangeability of each distinct moment, their mechanical measurability. This is ‘empty, homogenous time,’ the time of the nation-state. But then, the italicized narrative

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voice ‘interrupts’ the other voice not to mark the passing of time, but rather the non-passing of time: the poem, in its entirety, happens in the very short instant of the ringing of the five bells. Empty, homogenous time, is, as it were, put on hold for the duration of the poem; the poem marks a continuous pause in the passage of that kind of temporality, while this other kind of temporality displaces it. So what is this other kind of temporality? Even in its basic denial of a singular mode of temporality, it declares itself heterochronic: if Continental Enlightenment thought was characterized by such synchronization of experience, then, in Baucom’s summary again, the Scottish Enlightenment can be characterized in comparison as ‘the experience of a contemporaneity that was not contemporaneous with itself, an experience of time as that which was fractured, broken, constellated by a heterogeneous array of local regimes of time’ (2001b, p. 79). Taken together, these temporalities are more projects rather than descriptions of reality; on this understanding, modern nationalism as Benedict Anderson describes it is then the imposition of a unified and collective experience of time, an enforced simultaneity, onto radically disjunctive experiences of time. And that is, in a microcosmic way, what this opening of the poem immediately gives us: a distinction between one time, moved by ‘fidget wheels,’ and ‘my Time’ which is declared different, local to the narrator and, perhaps, to Joe who is dead. To say all this in a different language, the poem reproduces structurally the temporality of trauma. One of the features of trauma, according to Cathy Caruth, is ‘a break in the mind’s experience of time’ (p. 61). The trauma of Joe’s death is both what unites the narrator with Joe and what divides them from each other; the narrator’s trauma is as much the trauma of his own survival as it is of Joe’s death. Heterochronic time has been the time of the ghost since Hamlet at least, when the Prince announces that the return of the ghost of his father marks that ‘the time is out of joint’; so it is no surprise that this heterochronic time is also a time in which ‘Joe, long dead’ nonetheless ‘lives between five bells.’ This alternative time is as well ‘the flood that does not flow,’ a time of stasis rather than movement, identified later in the poem as ‘memory,’ a time in which what the narrator remembers is the dead. ‘Where have you gone? The tide is over you, / The turn of midnight water’s over you, / As Time is over you, and mystery, / And memory, the flood that does not flow’ (p. 124). Anderson’s ‘empty, homogenous time’ is then a time of modernity, not the time, and modernity is marked by both the reduction of time

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to a singular and the proliferation of local, regional, traumatic times. Modernity is heterochronic: heterochronicity is not simply a moment in which the past resurfaces in the present, a momentary temporal out-of-jointedness, but rather a determining characteristic of modernity, modernity as a permanent state of being temporally out of joint (Derrida 1994; Baucom 2001b, pp. 77–8). Rather than be surprised that ghost stories persist into the age of the electric light, then, it turns out that ghost stories are a constitutive structuring narrative of such an age; so much so, in fact, that (as we have seen) they are ubiquitous and crucial in modernist writing broadly, and not just within their own genre. Modernism in general can be characterized by the critique of and complication of the model of nationalism Anderson sees developing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. If Anderson’s version of nationalism can be seen as characterized by the development of a public space marked by this experience of the collectivity (nation) through simultaneity as well as the development of new kinds of private space and individual interiority marked by subjective experiences of time, then modernist texts like (especially) Joyce’s Ulysses perform their critique of nationalism through their critique of such models of temporality, through, precisely, their heterochronicity. The recurrence in ‘Five Bells’ of the italicized voice marking the sounding of the ‘five bells’ suggests this disjunctive heterochronicity, the non-passing of time according to one mode of temporality, that is also the passing of time according to another. The poem’s second narrative voice, the one identified by a lack of italics, further clarifies the meaning of this time, the ‘flood that does not flow,’ identifying it as the place to which the dead man has gone: Where have you gone? The tide is over you, The turn of midnight water’s over you, As Time is over you, and mystery, And memory, the flood that does not flow. (p. 124) The dead man, Joe Lynch, is outside of modern time, under the sea and a time specific to the sea (‘midnight’s water’), and memory, itself characterized as a form of water (‘the flood that does not flow’). Slessor has adopted from Conrad’s modernism the idea that at sea realism breaks down, representational modes of knowledge fail. Joe’s death was traumatic – he drowned – and marked by improper rituals of closure and memory – his body was never recovered, never buried. ‘You have no

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suburb, like those easier dead / In private berths of dissolution laid’ (p. 124). Central to Slessor’s poem is that its ghost never arrives. How then do we talk about it? The poem’s narrator attempts to engage with, to remember and be haunted by, Joe in particular ways: . . . . You have gone from earth, Gone even from the meaning of a name; Yet something’s there, yet something forms its lips And hits and cries against the ports of space, Beating their sides to make its furies heard. Are you shouting at me, dead man, squeezing your face In agonies of speech on speechless panes? Cry louder, beat the windows, bawl your name! But I hear nothing, nothing . . . only bells, Five bells, the bumpkin calculus of Time. (p. 121) The windows (ports, panes), mediate between two worlds, but here the form of mediation is the denial of communication. The narrator imagines Joe’s face trying to speak to him through the impenetrable window that separates them. The narrator sits at a window in the dark, looking out, seeing not only the world outside but also a ghostly reflection of his own face, superimposed – and made strange – on that landscape. He is the ghost he sees reflected in the window. And he invests that distorted self-reflection with the presence of the dead Joe Lynch. But that the only visible ghost is the narrator is part of the point that the poem turns on: beginning with a plea for the ghost to act, the narrator comes to realize that it is his own actions – and inactions – that are at issue, rather than the ghost’s. ‘I felt the wet push its black thumb-balls in, / The night you died, I felt your eardrums crack’ (p. 124), he says, but this is part of the same projection of the self: he was not with Joe, did not drown with him, and cannot simply ‘remember’ it, having never experienced it directly in the first place. The narrator questions his thoughts about Joe, identifying them as ‘profitless lodgings,’ but then these become the terms by which they are to be valued, much like Spencer’s Jolly Corner house: profitless because worthless to a logic of exchange. That is to say, ‘profitless’ thoughts of Joe are valuable precisely to the extent that one cannot profit from them, cannot exchange them for something else, to the extent that they are singular rather than serial, melancholic rather then mournful. The narrator does not seek, in these thoughts, to ‘lay Joe to rest,’ but rather

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to keep hold of Joe, to refuse to exchange (by giving up or sharing) his memories of Joe. If the poem itself is, to some extent, the betrayal of that refusal, it is further the expression of the narrator’s desire to know Joe, to discover the secret knowledge that Joe, in his unknowable state as a ghost, has come to figure. Joe is ‘Gone even from the meaning of a name,’ a meaning which could perhaps be discovered if only the ghost would ‘Cry louder, beat the windows, bawl your name!’ (p. 121). Later in the poem, however, the responsibility for this inability to uncover meaning is shifted from the ghost to the narrator: ‘if I could break the glass’ (p. 122), the narrator admits, then the ghost would be able to speak its meaning. The quest, therefore, seems to be for an unmediated knowledge of Joe, one without the window that divides them. If I could find an answer, could only find Your meaning, or could say why you were here Who now are gone, what purpose gave you breath Or seized it back, might I not hear your voice?’ (p. 124) Here, the original image has been completely reversed: it is the finding or giving of meaning that would allow the narrator to hear the ghost’s voice, rather than the hearing of the ghost’s voice that would create meaning or understanding. To put this in terms of melancholy again, the secret that Joe represents cannot speak because its nature, as secret, means that it has been declared unique, it has been refused a place within a system of exchange. And since meaning is such a system of exchange – through difference and deferral, no doubt, but through the exchange of signs nonetheless – it is not that the ghost needs to speak in order to have meaning, it is that being fitted within a system of meaning would allow the ghost to speak. But how is this ‘meaning’ to be generated? We might imagine, since it seems to be the poem’s self-designated task, that it would be through discovering the specificity of Joe. The bulk of the poem, between the opening and the closing attention to the position of the narrator as he remembers Joe, is given over to three distinct memories of Joe, of the narrator’s shared experiences with Joe. Kevin Hart argues that poem’s project is to uncover the ‘meaning’ of Joe, but that the poem’s narrator fails to achieve this. ‘Three different images of Joe are offered, and the challenge is to piece them together, to determine the meaning of Joe which each bespeaks in part.’ But ‘no such integration takes place . . . . [T]he Joe Lynch we see and hear is inhabited by différance; he is forever being constituted, but the means of constitution stymies the possibility

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of completion being reached’ (p. 193). Hart, in claiming that the poem is a deconstructive exercise, puts much emphasis on the parallel between the Derridean concept of différance and the misspelled word “differant” that, in the poem, the narrator repeats from Joe’s journal, which Hart reads as describing a thing both deferred and (self-)different, and thus reads the meaning of Joe, in the poem, as equally ‘differant.’ But the poem’s key insight into the process of remembering is that to re-member is always also to dis-member: Joe is, in these remembered scenes, broken down into his constituent parts, incapable of any kind of unified identity. Even as the poem pushes us towards the specificities of Joe – his ‘coat with buttons off,’ his ‘gaunt chin and pricked eye’ (Slessor p. 122), for instance – what we are led to is not a presence but a set of fragments: in the dark, even when alive, Joe ‘bore no body, had no face,’ and his voice ‘rattled out of air’ (p. 122). Even Joe’s material possessions, his ‘differant curioes,’ as Joe’s journal names them, are ‘All without meaning now, except a sign / That someone had been living who now was dead’ (p. 123). After giving us these three scenes of Joe, the narrator acknowledges his failure to establish a definitive meaning for Joe’s name: instead, he concludes, ‘you are only part of an Idea’ (p. 124). The narrator’s attempt to find – or control – Joe’s meaning is an admitted failure, but in the process of failing to be haunted, it has come to a different recognition: Joe’s meaning is bound up in something that extends beyond Joe himself, in the sense that a ghost always signifies not just a dead person, but also a social figure, as we have seen throughout this book. As Avery Gordon puts it, about ghosts in general: ‘The ghost is not simply a dead or a missing person, but a social figure, and investigating it can lead to that dense site where history and subjectivity make social life’ (1997, p. 8). In the poem’s terms, Joe is only part of an idea, so Gordon’s question is the right one here: what ‘dense site where history and subjectivity make social life’ can Joe’s present-absence lead us to? The poem suggests several answers to this question, of which I want to discuss two, but then, more crucially, it suggests that no such answers are possible. In one of the narrator’s memories, as he and Joe walk to Moorebank in the night, talking of English high culture – Milton and the Rights of Man – and patriarchal colonization – Tahitian girls, and Sydney girls – lightning strikes: . . . blank and bone-white, like a maniac’s thought, The naphtha flash of lightening slit the sky, Knifing the dark with deadly photographs. (p. 122)

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The image of a white knife penetrating a dark landscape projects onto the landscape the racial conflict of Australian colonial settlement. John Pilger describes how a school atlas, published in the same year as Slessor’s poem, represented the geographical conquest of Australia in these same color terms: ‘white “exploration” of Australia [is] “the curtain of darkness . . . being slowly rolled back.” Like contemporary images of Africa, the areas of “explored” Australia were represented as white oases in an otherwise dark continent’ (2002, p. 180).’4 Where the atlas displaces the violence of colonization onto the domestic image of the gentle rolling back of a curtain, Slessor’s poem makes visible the violence of the penetration of white culture into the dark continent (the knifing), governed by a logic of madness (the maniac) and technology (the photographs), even as it displaces the process as a whole onto the natural environment. The image works much like ‘The Ghost of Wanganilla,’ then, as we saw in the previous chapter, which also features a white knife, and which also re-enacted the erasure of Aboriginal people from the landscape through a story told of white people’s encounters with the natural environment. Joe and the narrator are witness to an allegorical retelling of the settlement of Australia, the deadly knifing of Aboriginal culture by English colonization. But the ‘dark’ which got knifed becomes itself the deadly aggressor, when, in the narrator’s imagination, ‘I felt the wet push its black thumbballs in’ as he remembers sharing the experience of Joe’s drowning. ‘The wet’ is what has killed Joe; but it is also what Joe has become, the ‘Idea’ that he is now part of. As we have already seen, this ‘wet’ – tides, the sea – is also the time of memory, where Joe now lives, as well as the thing that killed Joe. So the ‘Idea,’ the secret, is both the thing that has died and the thing that kills, desired and feared, the displaced location of guilt about the past and a willingness to embrace it, as well as fear of the past returning. ‘Joe’ has come to represent both the colonial history of violence and the colonized history of resistance. Likewise Joe and the narrator’s remembered discussion of ‘Milton, melons, and the Rights of Man’ (p. 122) suggests Australia’s reputation, in the late nineteenth century, as a ‘working-man’s paradise,’ a paradise, from Slessor’s perspective, since ‘lost’; Joe’s death, after a radical youth ‘sharp with rage’ that ‘had been leached away’ (p. 122), figures the passing of a radical Australian labor movement, and the persistent colonization of the formally-free Australia by British capital. Certainly these images, fragmentary and fleeting though they might be, are there in the poem. But the poem insistently refuses to let them accumulate into anything substantive, not least by keeping the ghost

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out of the poem. These histories – a history of Australian colonization as one of violent penetration, a history of Australia as working-man’s paradise – have no story, and can only appear as this ghostly ‘Idea,’ brief flashes that the poem offers up but that simply sink again beneath the waves of memory and of Sydney harbor. The poem’s haunted depths of the sea suggest a history that is not simply empty; but Joe’s nonappearance shows that Slessor’s poem can do no more than point to such a potential history. The claim that Australia is too young to have ghosts, then, is re-written from Chad’s earlier ghost story. In Chad’s story, the claim amounted to the anxious insistence that Australia was too modern to be haunted, or an observable refusal to see the ghosts that do in fact haunt Australia. Here, such a claim gets reframed around the refusal of the desired ghost to appear, the poem insisting that the ghosts that Australia does have but cannot see are the (heterochronic) ghosts that mark it as modern, as well as the ghosts of histories denied by the claim to a (sterilized, homogenous) modernity. The poem ends with the narrator trying to hear Joe’s voice, and hearing instead ‘the scraping squeal / Of seabirds’ voices far away, and bells, / Five bells. Five bells coldly ringing out’ (p. 124). But to hear those bells, to really hear them, means ‘liv[ing] many lives, and this one life / Of Joe, long dead, who lives between five bells’ (p. 121). The poem’s narrator effectively enacts the kind of politics of waiting that Derrida proposes in Specters of Marx: Awaiting without the horizon of the wait, awaiting what one does not expect yet or any longer, hospitality without reserve, . . . just opening which renounces any right to property, any right in general, messianic opening to what is coming . . . – and this is the very place of spectrality. It would be easy, too easy, to show that such a hospitality without reserve, which is nevertheless the condition of the event and thus of history . . . , is the impossible itself . . . . But it would be just as easy to show that without this experience of the impossible, one might as well give up on both justice and the event. (p. 65) Waiting for a ghost, Derrida observes, is both impossible and necessary, the precondition for justice towards the past and change in the future, and involves a refusal of the ‘empty, homogenous’ time of modern nationalism. Slessor’s poem suggests that modernity is haunted, and even as it foregrounds its own inability to confront its ghost, it marks out the heterochronic logic by which one can await forever in a single moment, impossible and necessary. The poem narrates Australian

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modernity’s failure to engage with the past and with the present, through its tale of a failed haunting. Joe does not return; the narrator does not break the glass that separates himself from some other world. Slessor’s poetry obsesses over such mediating objects, and over the process of mediation; windows, mirrors, sea surfaces, all become not simply objects with which, through which, in which we see a ghost, but objects whose presence makes the possibility of seeing ghosts both imaginable and impossible. James’s stories, like Conrad’s with which they were contemporaneous, begin to use the ghost to figure not the past returning to the present, but rather the present itself: Eliot’s ‘unreal city’ or Walter Benjamin’s ‘world dominated by its phantasmagorias.’ Modernity, for the modernists, is characterized by ghostliness, but not straightforwardly a ghostliness of the past’s persistence into the present. For the modernists, modernity is characterized by the insubstantiality, illusory and displaced nature of the precisely modern institutions of market, technology and home. But this is not to say that the nineteenth century version of the ghost disappears, even in these modernist texts: rather, the modernist ghost of alienation remains dependent upon the ghost as historical trauma, reproduces that earlier ghostly narrative within itself. If modernism cares more about deformations of selfhood, poetry like Slessor’s nonetheless suggests that such deformations are the product of the persistence of the past into the present, of the unresolved traumas of colonization and capital. In the final chapter, I turn to some more recent texts that develop what the modernist and the colonial narratives discussed in this chapter have done with the ghost, in the context of explicitly postcolonial narratives. Though there are interesting postmodern ghost stories, the next chapter looks at postcolonial rather than postmodern writing. In part this is because postmodernism is, in terms of the characteristics that I am interested in here, not a break from but a continuation of modernism: heterochronicity; alienation and abstraction; the breakdown of high/low culture distinctions (see, for example, Bull 2001). And in part it is because the focus of this book has been, throughout, questions of empire and imperialism, and these are once again central in postcolonial writings that feature ghosts.

6 The Ghost Story and Magic Realism

Introduction In the second half of the twentieth century, indigenous and minority writers and artists have regularly found the figure of the ghost useful. Toni Morrison’s Beloved is the most widely known representative of one way that writers use the figure of the ghost, in which it retains more or less intact its nineteenth-century European function: the ghost is a restless soul, a walking trauma, and the book’s impossible project is the responsible remembering and representing of that traumatic history. But ghosts serve no single kind of usefulness in these narratives, because for one thing ‘indigenous and minority’ is an already-infelicitous pair, running together radically different historical experiences. Graham Huggan’s analysis of Guyanan and Caribbean ghost stories is perhaps most deliberate in running the two together: Ghost stories in the Caribbean often have a dual purpose: they revive in order to dispel the ghosts of a past conceived by Europe, a history couched in the paralyzing terms of dispossession and defeat . . . . At the same time, they reclaim a past anterior to European conquest, a history whose outlines blend with those of originary myth, and whose ghosts are not horrifying apparitions from another, unwanted era but welcome catalysts for the recovery of a buried ancestral consciousness. (p.129) Indigenous history, a history of association with the land, and AfroCaribbean history, a history of rupture in the Middle passage, come (on Huggan’s analysis) in these stories to figure each other. 190

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Critical works that focus on the role of the ghost in postcolonial writing tend to do so without sufficient attention to the specific generic work that the ghost story does, situating their analyses instead only within a broader gothic frame. Kathleen Brogan’s Cultural Haunting can be taken as representative in this sense; other examples are Hershini Young’s Haunting Capital, Geraldine Smith-Wright’s ‘In Spite of the Klan,’ and Arthur Redding’s “ ‘Haints.’ ” Brogan argues that in stories, plays and novels by African American writers and writers from other American ethnic minorities in the 1980s and 1990s, the ghost does a different kind of work to what it does in earlier Anglo-American and European narratives. Unlike the Gothic in general, which ‘explores personal, psychical encounters with the taboo,’ and in which ‘ghosts serve to illuminate the more shadowy or repressed aspects of characters,’ in the narratives she analyzes the ghosts ‘signal an attempt to recover and make social use of a poorly documented, partially erased cultural history’ (p. 2). Brogan is certainly not wrong in finding that the ghosts in these narratives serve as figures for not – or not just – repressed aspects of the psyche but rather – or also – figures for histories at best only partially recoverable. But as we have seen, this does not distinguish the narratives she focuses on from the Anglo-European tradition of the ghost story. Indeed, if this book argues any single thing from beginning to end it argues that figuring partially recoverable history has been the primary work of the genre from Walter Scott onwards. Arguments like Brogan’s are best understood, therefore, as placing the figure of the ghost in recent ethnic and postcolonial literature squarely within the Western tradition of the ghost story, a recovery within the postmodern and postcolonial of a set of pre-modernist meanings for the ghost story genre. A different sense in which the ghost has been a useful figure for recent postcolonial writers draws on indigenous ghost story traditions rather than European ones, and the ways that works differently need careful articulation. In such traditions, the ghost often does not carry the weight of history, but rather functions as a part of a differently imagined community, figuring a different relationship between past, present and future. Yeats’s ‘The Stolen Child’ (1889) might seem an incongruous example of the kind of work that ghosts do within such alternate traditions, but nonetheless is helpfully understood in those terms. In the poem, faeries call to a human child, enticing him away from a world ‘more full of weeping than you can understand’ to their own world. An initial reading of the title as the faeries stealing the child, however, needs quick modification in the framework provided by the Irish

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Cultural Revival Movement, for whom faeries signify an Irish culture marginalized and repressed by English colonial education and social policies in Ireland. In Yeats’s poem, then, the faeries are better understood not as stealing the child but as rescuing the Irish child who has been stolen from Irishness by the Anglicization of Ireland. It seems appropriate to read the poem as setting up the distinction between the faery world and the human world as one between nature and civilization; each of the first three stanzas begins with the word ‘Where,’ and a description of a ‘natural’ location: an island in a lake, a coastal headland, a hill-pool. And each of these is marked as specifically Irish: Sleuth Wood, the Rosses, Glen-Car. Contrasting with them, the world the child is enticed away from is, if rural, nonetheless marked by human habitation and civilization: calves on the hillside, a kettle, an oatmeal-chest. But the poem is careful to locate the faery world beyond or through nature, not of it: the faeries come to the natural world to steal and store cherries, to dance, and to whisper to trout, but these places are not their home. Likewise, their behavior suggests not morality or immorality but amorality – a code so distinct from the ‘human’ as to be incomprehensible within it. The poem’s melancholic tone marks the speaker’s desire to have been such a stolen child – to have had the opportunity to have been enticed away from the Englishness of the modern world to the alternative Irish one the faeries represent. Even the poem’s English language takes on a kind of poignancy, here. The point, for us, is that ‘faery’ here represents nothing in particular about the supernatural, but rather serves as a marker for a national culture, for a mode of belonging unavailable within Anglicized Ireland – or more to the point, a mode of belonging that Yeats’s deployment of the faery in the poem proposes to generate in us through our reading. ‘Faery’ in Ireland could just as easily be ‘taniwha’ or ‘Rainbow Serpent’ or ‘Grandfather Mantis’ or ‘Raven’ elsewhere around the colonized world; or, indeed, ‘ghost.’ Stories of ghosts within indigenous narrative traditions are not, or at least need not be, concerned with the inheritance of history the way that so many of the ghost stories discussed in this book are, but rather address the really existing conditions of indigenous cultures. As Fagunwa writes, ‘even as dewilds exist on this earth, so do spirits exist also; even as spirits exist so also do kobolds; as kobolds on this earth, so are gnoms; as gnoms so also exist the dead’ (1982, p. 29). Or as Teshome Gabriel says ‘To the Third World, spirits, magic, masquerades and rituals, however flawed they may be, still constitute knowledge and provide collective security and protection from forces of evil’ (1994, p. 349). But this is not to say

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that there is no postcolonial gothic; indigenous writers do write from within the traditions of the colonizing cultures. Again, Yeats is a good example of such a writer. This chapter reads three narratives, all in some sense ‘magic realist,’ in which the Western and indigenous ghost story traditions intersect, and in which the weight of each tradition is carried differently. First, Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo (1955), a very modernist narrative from Mexico, in which the ghosts function almost entirely in the terms of the modernist ghost, that is to say, as a marker of modernity rather than a marker of history, and in which extra-urban indigenous peoples enter the story only so as to mark their non-ghostliness, unlike the entirely ghostly urban community. Second, Amos Tutuola’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954), narratively very traditional (so much so that it has been accused of being simply the translation into English of Yoruba folktales), from Nigeria, in which the ghosts are figures for the traditional world into which the protagonist is chased when his home village becomes caught up in slavery wars, but in which tradition and modernity play out a series of complicated contradictions. And third, Patricia Grace’s Baby No-Eyes (1998), a narrative that is in some senses a Beloved-retelling, a New Zealand novel in which traditional indigenous and modern ghosts are both present and in which contested models of temporality – and therefore of relations to the ghosts – structure the narrative itself. The juxtaposition of these three examples helps clarify the role of the ghost story in the genealogy of magic realism. Ghost stories, we have seen, have always been concerned with among other things empire, but the main significance of ghosts to magic realism is based on the role within that genre of the relationship between modern and pre-modern forms, languages, narratives, and cultures, because that relationship has also always been central to the modern ghost story.

Pedro Páramo: the ghost story and magic realism Describing the global history of the novel, Ernesto Franco declares that ‘Following Pedro Páramo, Latin America was freed from its colors and folklore, from the cage of its chronology and the blood of its horrors’ (p. 859). According to Franco, Rulfo’s novel serves a radical modernizing function: the book liberated Latin American fiction from its previous horrific imprisonment within traditional narrative forms. And in his account, Pedro Páramo figures the traditional as a grotesque alternative to the modern. Franco is entirely wrong, unfortunately, but making sense

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of why helps us to understand two things. First, the role of ghosts in Rulfo’s novel, because its ghosts do not work the way Franco seems to assume, as if they belonged in classic nineteenth-century ghost stories. And second, magic realism and Rulfo’s novel’s role in the history of that genre. The first thing confronting readers is the book’s difficult and fragmentary structure: about 70 fragments in the space of about 120 pages. (In the most commonly available English translation, the book is made up of sixty-eight short fragments; there are sixty-nine in the most commonly available edition of the original Spanish.) In many of these fragments, it is difficult to identify the speaker, at least as the fragment begins. They are not arranged in chronological order, and often the kinds of ‘clues’ to continuity or simultaneity that a realist novel would deploy turn out to be false clues. A straightforward example is the rain which falls on and off throughout the book: a fragment that ends with rain falling is followed by one which points to the falling rain, and readers trained in realist reading practices will identify a continuity, picking up the narrative clue that this new fragment is either simultaneous with or immediately consequent to the one just finished; and yet, a few sentences or paragraphs later, it becomes clear that this is a different rainfall, a different year. For instance, #36 ends ‘Don’t you hear the drumming of the rain?’ and #37 begins ‘At dawn a heavy rain was falling over the earth’ (p. 61), but the two fragments have settings many years apart, and #37 is earlier than #36. There are, though, enough such clues that do work to keep us looking for them. These fragments often lack any sense of an emotional relationship between the narrative and the events narrated, and indeed some are purely reported dialogue, with no narrative voice at all. On the face of it, that is, the fragments refuse our narrative expectations of coherence either by temporality, causation, or voice. Behind this disorder, though, the novel is less complicated. The fragments are given to us from only three narrative standpoints: that of Juan Preciado, who at the novel’s opening seems to be the main character, in the first person; that of Susana San Juan, who is the last wife of Pedro Páramo, the father that Juan sets out to find at the beginning of the book, whose story is also in the first person, though it amounts to only a few fragments in the last third of the book; and that of an unspecified third person semi-omniscient narrator. Of this third group of fragments, some are dialogues with no or almost no description, while some offer superficial images and sounds in a narrative voice, and some present characters’ thoughts.

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The novel sets itself up as a ghost story, or at least a novel that encompasses ghost stories. Early in the book (#17), when Juan has only recently arrived in Comala looking for his father, he goes to sleep in a room offered him by doña Eduviges. His sleep is interrupted by a voice that cries out in the night; it turns out, he is told by Damiana, who offers him her home to sleep in instead, that he is sleeping in the room where Toribio Aldrete was hanged by Fulgor Sedano and his men, a room that has always remained locked without a key; and that doña Eduviges has herself been long dead. Fragment #18 then jumps to the past, to Fulgor Sedano renting the room from Eduviges as he and Toribio drink together, settling a boundary dispute between Toribio and Sedano’s patrón Pedro Páramo. The story, that is, offers classic ghost story tropes – a hanged man, innocent of the crime of which he was accused, haunting the room where he was hanged; a wronged woman wanting revenge; locked rooms without keys mysteriously accessible to characters who turn out to be dead. But the novel deploys these ghost-story tropes without the standard social meanings that a ghost story would attach to them. Toribio disappears here from the story, never to return; locked doors or barred access more generally do not feature widely; and the novel so abounds with wronged women that it is hard to hold onto the specifics of Eduviges’s resentment. And when Damiana herself turns out to be a ghost, we begin to feel like the novel has no stable narrative frames: ghost stories within ghost stories within ghost stories. The book is clearly concerned with a set of relationships between property, class, and temporality, and uses the figure of the ghost to represent and to mediate between these, but it is a different set of relationships from those of the ghost stories we have looked at so far. The novel’s repeated deployment of fragmentary gothic tropes without being itself recognizably gothic reproduces in this sense the form of Eliot’s Waste Land, and we can conclude, at least provisionally, that Pedro Páramo is likewise modernist in its relationship to the ghost story. The ‘moments’ of the story, then, are these, rearranged into chronological order. The earliest thing we see is Pedro Páramo during his childhood years in a land-owning but cash-poor family; he dreams of Susana San Juan, his childhood love; his father, don Lucas, dies. Then comes the beginning of Pedro’s rise to power; his relationship with his (equally corrupt) administrator Fulgor Sedano; his arranged marriage to Dolores Preciado; a boundary dispute with and the murder of Toribio Aldrete. Pedro becomes the local cacique. The third moment surrounds the events of Miguel Páramo’s life and death. Baby Miguel, an

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illegitimate son of Pedro, is brought as a baby to Pedro by the priest, Padre Rentería. Miguel as a young man kills Rentería’s brother and rapes his niece Ana; Miguel is killed when thrown from his horse, soon after which Eduviges Dyada commits suicide. Padre Rentería is wracked by guilt about not resisting Pedro’s power and influence. The fourth moment is when the Revolution comes to Comala, though Pedro does not lose any land, through his cunning and hypocrisy. Susana San Juan and her father Bartolomé return to Comala; Pedro arranges for the father to die in the mines and marries Susana, but she is now mentally unstable and dying. When Comala fails to mourn her death, Pedro swears to let the town decay and die. The fifth moment spans the decade from the last years of the Revolution through the Guerra de los Cristeros, up to Pedro’s death. And the final moment, chronologically the last, but narratively the first moment of the novel, comes some years later, when Dolores Preciado dies and her son Juan travels to Comala in search of his father, Pedro Páramo (Beardsall 1990, pp. 79–80): Putting the novel’s narrative into this comprehensible chronological form, of course, restores an order and a coherence that Rulfo’s novel aims to undermine. Nonetheless, doing so illustrates the novel’s similarity to the Latin American family epic genre, in narrative substance though not in structure. Indeed, the novel does not shy away from its own social realism: references to towns and to the Revolution and the Guerra de los Christeros are straightforward enough that it is relatively easy to locate the story in time (from the 1870s or so through the 1930s) and place (the state of Jalisco, a little south of Guadalajara). What this chronology leaves out is the most important characteristic of the novel as a whole, which is that it is what Rulfo called ‘un diálogo de muertos’ (Beardsall, p. 88), a dialogue of the dead. Juan Preciado, when he first approaches Comala, the town of his father to which his dying mother has begged him to return, gets some advice and help from Abundio, who it turns out is dead; Abundio directs him to Eduviges, and after she helps him, she too turns out to be dead; Damiana, who rescues Juan from Eduviges, is also dead, as we discover later; and only in the last third of the novel to we discover that Juan himself has been narrating his portions of this whole story from the grave in which he too is dead, buried with Dorotea (also dead). In Rulfo’s novel, everyone is dead. Only the dead speak. Mexico is inhabited only by ghosts. Mexican modernity, in the terms of the previous chapter, is entirely spectral. The question, then, is what this spectral modernity means in the explicitly postcolonial context of this novel, with its background narrative of revolutionary war and occasional appearances from indigenous

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characters. We already saw something of this in the last chapter, especially with Slessor but also with Joyce, for whom the colonization of Ireland is a subject for his writing, if not perhaps an explicit provider of structure, and even Eliot’s intersection of Russia, India, and Western Europe in The Waste Land suggests that colonial and imperial history is a crucial, though one among many, determinant of the spectrality of modernity. In Rulfo’s writing, likewise, Mexico’s colonial history is at no point the subject of the story; rather, Mexico’s postcolonial status becomes the structuring principle around which the story’s modernist ghosts are arranged or organized. If we return to the novel’s fragmentary and disrupted chronology, we can see that this most noticeable feature of the novel is also central to the novel’s organization of the concepts of colonialism, modernity, spectrality, class and property. The novel’s opening suggests a kind of bildungsroman structure, a novel about the development of Juan Preciado’s character in his quest to discover the truth about his own past via his search for his father. Such a structure helps to account for the ‘flashback’ scenes of Pedro Páramo’s own life, which we can understand as, as Beardsall puts it, ‘phantasmal re-enactments, the interminable echoes of moments of trauma, crisis, wistfulness and torment, which help Juan and the reader to assemble a picture of Pedro Páramo and Comala’ (p. 79). That is, the opening sets up our expectations of the novel as a certain kind of ghost story: Juan Preciado comes to a haunted town, which means a town with a traumatic history. Juan’s narrative project of understanding the present then means coming to terms with those ghosts, with that traumatic history. But the novel’s opening sentences, when we look at them carefully enough, resist letting its temporality be comprehensible or even structural to the novel. And indeed as we read on the novel as a bildungsroman becomes increasingly untenable. ‘I came to Comala because I had been told that my father, a man named Pedro Páramo, lived there. It was my mother who told me. And I had promised her that after she died I would go see him’ (p. 3). There is already, here, a narrative juxtaposition of simultaneous non-contemporaneities, or more simply, distinctions between chronological categories (past, present, future) collapse: there is the moment of Juan’s mother’s death, cast here in the past; there is the still earlier moment of his promise to her, and the slightly later but still past moment of his acting on that promise. The moment of his coming to Comala is also cast as a past moment – ‘I came to Comala’ – but this past moment is the one which begins the novel, so it is both a first moment and a return, a reflection back to the moment of his arrival

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from a later point which is in turn a ‘present,’ cast as the moment of narration. From the moment of arrival, we go back to the moment of his promise to his mother, then forward to the moment of her death, but then almost immediately back again to what she has told him of his father and of Comala: ‘Still earlier she had told me: . . . ’ (p. 3). And in fact we learn later, or we seem to, that the ‘present’ of this recounting is a time after Juan’s death. And Juan’s story is not told directly to ‘us’ as audience but rather to Dorotea, who buried Juan when she found him dead in the plaza, and who has since been buried with him. The novel at that moment reveals itself as the dead talking to the dead.1 And the novel continues to refuse straightforward linearity throughout. Disrupted temporality, as we have already seen, is a common feature of much modernist writing, an expression of the disoriented or alienated nature of the experience of modernity (and indeed also of postmodernism and postmodernity). And some of what is confusing about the temporality of this book serves, as it does in modernist writing, as a representation of the confusion and complexity of modernity. Rulfo’s text works to reconstruct for readers who are fully embedded in modernity the experience, now no longer available, of the shock of modernity felt by those to whom it was something still new and foreign. But the novel’s temporal complexity is much more than that. One way to think of realism’s great success is as a giant gloss on the idea ‘meanwhile’: a structure of parallel spaces experiencing the same moments in the same sequence, producing a narrative and indeed social whole out of seemingly disparate characters, situations, and places (Anderson 1991). Rulfo’s novel, then, seeks to undo that. Not the arrangement of simultaneous and sequential moments into narrative order so as to make visible the structural totality that unites them, as a social realist novel does, but rather the arrangement of such moments into a narrative order that rules out cause and effect, rules out geographic or temporal contiguity as relevant ordering characteristics, but nonetheless imposes a kind of order on its events through narrative. The question, then, is how this narrative generates order, what kind of order, and what are its ideological consequences. Focusing on non-causal relationships of juxtaposition and tension, on subjectivities and identities that are hard to fix in time and space, Rulfo’s novel suggests that ‘understanding’ is not a matter of arranging historical moments into an ordered chain of causes and effects, not a matter of seeing in the empty and wasted Comala the consequences of Pedro Páramo’s abused power and privilege, or of the Revolution and the Guerra de los Cristeros, but rather that any understanding needs to

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privilege the moment of storytelling-as-construction, and to pay attention to the juxtaposition of the novel’s past moments with the present of the novel’s telling. The novel confronts and refuses platitudinous historical narratives that see the Revolution as either the triumphant moment of the people’s rising up and entering into history or as the cause of the suffering that followed it, just as it refuses historical narratives that explain Comala’s death and suffering as the inevitable consequence of Pedro’s violence and corruption. And the book’s perspective, the moment from which it is narrated that allows for and insists on this refusal of historicity, is the position of the dead. In this regard, the book is engaged in something like the radical history project proposed by Walter Benjamin (2003). Like Rulfo’s narrative, Benjamin’s radical historian is critical of the traditional way of arranging historical narrative into a consecutive causal chain, a ‘sequence of events like the beads of a rosary’ (p. 397). Rather, says Benjamin, a ‘historical fact’ only becomes such a thing, is only a significant cause of some later event, once it is put into a relationship with a future moment, a moment that the historian (unlike the participant in history) has access to. To think about history properly, then, the historian needs to see the historical facts as part of a ‘constellation’ that the historian’s own era forms with a particular earlier one (p. 397). For the radical historian, Benjamin insists, history is not simply cumulative or additive, but made up rather of contradictory thoughts and ideas. There is no order to the events of history except that which we impose on them from a much later moment. In an ongoing war over national narratives, Benjamin argues that what is at stake is not just the present and the future but also the past: ‘Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious’ (p. 391). Rulfo’s novel turns Benjamin’s argument into a structural principle, around which it constructs its narrative. The novel does not locate its ghosts, its magic and myth and fantasy, with its indigenous people, whose presence is pretty marginal to the book; at least, in the book’s terms, Comala’s inhabitants do not register as ‘indigenous’ in comparison to the indigenous market traders who descend from the lands surrounding Comala to trade, and then leave. This encounter is precisely not gothic but capitalist, albeit an agrarian capitalism barely beyond subsistence. The episode, otherwise seemingly irrelevant to the book, seems particularly pointed in establishing the indigenous as non-Gothic, in establishing the ghosts as not a hold-over from pre-modern indigenous times but rather something much more

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like the insistence of Eliot and modernism generally, on modernity itself as ghostly, that is, in Jameson’s terms, modernity as the trace left by the traumatic transition to capitalism. In Yeats’s nationalist poetry, ‘magic’ is reinserted into the representation of reality as the signifier of an epistemology, an ontology and even a cosmogony specific to a national culture, borrowed from the nation’s indigenous peoples by writers either themselves not indigenous or so thoroughly colonized as to have lost any lived relation to that heritage. Yeats’s cultural nationalism is in this sense itself an ancestor of magic realism, which likewise locates in traditional epistemologies and ontologies alternatives and resistances to imperialist ideologies (Moretti 1996, p. 249). Rulfo’s novel is historically crucial to the history of magic realism, mostly because of Gabriel García Márquez’s declared debt to and admiration for it. And yet Pedro Páramo’s ghosts do not seem part of a project of cultural nationalism, projecting or developing a kind of ‘Mexican-ness’ by way of the novel’s mythos. What, then, are we to make of Márquez’s sense of debt to the book? ‘Magic realism’ as a genre traverses an apparent contradiction encapsulated in the term itself: magic comes from the narrative realm of romance, in which readers are offered an escapist fantasy, while realism comes from the narrative realm of the novel, in which readers are offered an account of the world ‘as it really is.’ Magic realism, somehow, claims to do both. And yet, in another sense, there is no contradiction here at all, or rather, the same contradiction is already contained within realism anyway: all novels, no matter how realist, impose through narrative a magical kind of order on the events that they encompass – that is precisely the narrative pleasure and function of realism. If anything is specific to magic realism, it is not so much that it narratively inserts magic into its description of the real world, but rather that in magic realism not only reality but also how that reality will get described, the epistemology by which reality will be rendered legible, is an open question (Thorne n.d.). We can put this a little more polemically by framing it in terms of a dispute between Cabral and Fanon about the role of culture in an independence struggle. For Cabral, a society looking to liberate itself from colonial oppressors will do well to look to the cultural roots of its poor: ‘culture is for the people an inexhaustible source of courage, of material and moral support, of physical and psychic energy which enables them to accept sacrifices – even to accomplish “miracles” ’ (1994, p. 63). In a colonized society, traditional stories function as a source of anti-colonial resistance. This is the political appeal of magic realism in

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postcolonial writing: it offers a narrative mode whereby alternatives and resistances to Western imperialism (which, in these terms, gets troped as an ignorant or malicious rationality) can be manifested; it sets up its magic as an alternative to the homogenizing and alienating banality of Western capitalism. But for Fanon, a revolutionary culture will be produced in the course of the struggle, and traditional culture is yet another impediment in the way of a properly revolutionary society. He frames this very specifically in terms of native myth: ‘The zombies are more terrifying than the settlers . . . . We no longer really need myths . . . . During the struggle for freedom, a marked alienation from these practices is observed . . . . After centuries of unreality, after having wallowed in the most outlandish phantoms, at long last the native, gun in hand, stands face to face with the only forces which contend for his life – the forces of colonialism. And the youth of a colonized country, growing up in an atmosphere of shot and fire, may well make a mock of, and does not hesitate to pour scorn upon the zombies of his ancestors, the horses with two heads, the dead who rise again, and the djinns who rush into your body when you yawn. The native discovers reality. (Fanon 1963, pp. 44–6) Fanon describes traditional culture in terms of what it teaches us to fear, and what it prohibits us from doing, rather than what it enables. It must be confronted and overcome, then, rather than embraced, as part of the independence struggle. In Fanon’s terms, magic realism in its turn to myth and magic is denial or escapism, a refusal to engage with the real project of emancipation that confronts third world intellectuals and revolutionaries. If the obvious answer to the dilemma here is that myth and tradition are neither programmatically revolutionary nor debilitating – and both Cabral and Fanon, having posited these extreme positions, end up advocating something reasonably similar to each other – then it is worth remembering this of magic realism, too, which is all too often uncritically celebrated as necessarily progressive. García Márquez is a crucial example here. And in this regard Pedro Páramo is again complicated because its ghosts are precisely not the representation of a traditional or indigenous culture but rather, like Eliot’s or Slessor’s ghosts, alienated products of modern capitalism. Pedro Páramo does not offer us, in other words, the choice between modern rationality and traditional myth because the two have already been collapsed into each other: the

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condition of modernity is not disenchantment but rather a horrifying, gothic enchantment. What is crucial about Pedro Páramo’s narrative technique is the way it repeatedly invites narrative frames for making sense of individual fragments or tying sets of fragments together – the opening that looks like a bildungsroman, the love story between Pedro and Susana or between Eduviges and Miguel, the adventure story of the revolutionary bandits, Juan’s quest narrative – and then collapses each of them into a story told by a ghost, about ghosts, to other ghosts. Narrative conventions – including realist ones – within the novel’s frame, are visible as conventions, and specifically as failed conventions: they manage to narrate nothing. It is not an anti-novel in the sense that it proposes romance as an alternative mode of storytelling, however: the book’s ghosts are not simply the gothic alternative, as we see with the failure of the gothic scene of Toribio’s murder to produce any more of a functional narrative frame than the realist scenes. Its ghosts narrate, continuously and obsessively, but such narratives never accumulate into anything greater, anything coherent or over-arching. The novel’s ghosts are situated at the point of narration, at the intersection of realism and romance, of myth and reality, but rather than offering a magical alternative to the novel’s realist tendencies they refuse both the conventions of the ghost story and of realism for containing them. And yet, even in this refusal of the ghost story’s conventions we can see Rulfo’s novel participating in the tradition of the ghost story as this book has sketched it, as an engagement with that is at the same time a critique of the realist narrative project.

Folk art, repetition, and melancholy: Tutuola’s bush of ghosts Joycean scholars, as well as scholars of Irish modernism more generally, have argued – compellingly – since the 1990s that the significant and dominant role of Irish writers within modernism is crucially tied up with Ireland’s decolonization struggles (for example, Kiberd 1996, Whelan 2003, Lloyd 2003, and Deane 2003). The argument runs something like this: precisely because of the defamiliarized, denatured and un-owned status of the English language for these writers – because they must, in Fanon’s terms, speak their resistance in the language of the colonizer – they are in a privileged position to understand the arbitrary, opaque and self-referential nature of language, and to use it therefore in a ‘modernist’ experimental manner. Extending this argument to

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Nigeria, I show that Amos Tutuola’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1954) is also a novel of both decolonization and modernism. And in those terms, the ghosts in Tutuola’s novel traverse the same ground between modernism and history as do the ghosts in Rulfo’s novel, though to different ends and in different ways. In brief, I argue that where Rulfo’s ghosts are a modernist critique of realism’s ability to represent a postcolonial modernity, Tutuola’s are a modernized but melancholic repetition (as invention) of a pre-colonial culture. Geoffrey Parrinder’s introduction to Tutuola’s novel claims that it is a celebration of ‘genuine Africa’ through the recounting of ‘truly African’ folk tales, which is to characterize it not as a novel at all but a romance, a pre-modern mythic narrative that neither bears on nor responds to the historical moment in which it was written. But this is to misunderstand almost entirely the work that the novel – and it is, indeed, a novel – does. Chinua Achebe has described his hope that ‘Someday a serious critic interested in such matters will assemble and interpret Tutuola’s many scattered allusions to colonialism for the benefit of more casual readers’ (1975, p. 24). Achebe’s point is that Tutuola’s novels are not divorced from colonialism, but rather a response to, and indeed an intervention into it. While I do not interpret all of Tutuola’s references to colonialism (Mbembe (2003a) more directly responds to Achebe’s hope), I do suggest that we need to pay attention to the way that My Life in the Bush of Ghosts engages with Nigeria’s colonial situation, if we are to understand the work that the novel’s ghosts do. Let me briefly summarize the novel’s plot, with some representative imagery, to make an initial case for Achebe’s rather than Parrinder’s reading. Our first-person narrator, only seven years old, is at home with his brother. A slavery war overtakes the town, and the narrator and his brother, finding themselves abandoned by the rest of their village, run off alone; the brother is captured, but the narrator, escaping, accidentally enters the ‘bush of ghosts,’ the Yoruba spirit-world, where he spends the next 24 years trying to find his way home. The ghosts of this world are not, by and large, dead people, and hence unlike the ghosts of a European gothic or ghost story, but rather beings who lead alternate lives to those of the ‘real’ world. The novel at this point becomes episodic, with the narrator being captured, threatened, and tortured by a series of ghosts from, successively, the 7th, 8th, 9th, 20th, 13th, 4th, 10th and 18th towns of the Bush of Ghosts. He is turned into a cow, a drum, and a grotesque humanoid form with no hands, a three-foot long neck, and a huge head with two extra eyes, in which form he is mistaken by the ghosts for a god and fed blood-sacrifices. In this form,

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he says: ‘as the blood was pouring on me, so it was attracting flies which were covering me totally all the time and I had no hands to drive them away’ (p. 73). He is captured by the ‘Smelling-ghost’ who was ‘hard to see’ because he was so covered with ‘All kinds of snakes, centipedes and flies [that] were living on every part of his body,’ the smell of whom ‘did not let every one of the settlers stand still as his body was full of excreta, urine, and also wet with the rotten blood of all the animals that he was killing for his food’ (p. 29). The narrator is buried alive, and fights a war for the ‘flash-eyed mother’ (p. 97); in the course of this war, he has his head cut off, and instead of his own head, a ghost’s is reattached, which both talks incessantly and smells bad (p. 109). The Bush of Ghosts in general and the ghosts in particular, elements of Yoruba tradition and culture, are presented in the novel as grotesque, violent, scary; something to be afraid of, to run away from, to fight back against through force and cunning, and eventually to conquer. These cycles of grotesque and spectacular punishment are interspersed with moments of relief, and even pleasure. He meets ‘a very beautiful young ghostess’ (p. 57), to whom he is married by the Reverend Devil, with lessons read by ‘Traitor’ and the service closed by ‘Judas’ (p. 61), but he soon remembers his mother and brother again, and, abandoning this wife, sets off again to find a way out of the Bush of Ghosts. At a later point, he meets a ‘super-lady,’ who asks him to marry her, which eventually he does (pp. 113, 121). They have a son, ‘half ghostess and half earthly person’ (p. 134): ‘She wanted him to be acting as a full ghost as herself and I myself wanted him to be acting as a full earthly person as I am. So by this reason the love which was between ourselves was vanishing away gradually’ (p. 135). Eventually, she drives him from town, at which point he again remembers his mother and brother, and resumes his search for a way out of the bush of ghosts, even though he is by this point ‘nearly become a full ghost’ 136). When he gets to the 10th town of ghosts, he meets his dead cousin, one of the few ghosts who are actually dead people; the cousin has made his way, after death, to the Bush of Ghosts. This cousin is now respected by these ghosts ‘as he is the one who brought Christianity to their town’ (p. 144), by founding ‘THE METHODIST CHURCH OF THE BUSH OF GHOSTS’ (p. 146) and starting a school system. Enrolled in one of these schools, the narrator first learns to read and write. He goes on from there to build ‘police stations, courts, and prison yards’ in the town, teaches law and law enforcement to other ghosts, and eventually becomes a chief judge (p. 152). Having thus joined the colonial administration of the Bush of Ghosts, and established its legal branch, the

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narrator is overcome once again by the desire for home. He sets off, and is eventually shown the way home by a ‘television-handed ghostess.’ In brief, that is the narrative: a series of grotesque encounters between the novel’s protagonist and grotesque and scary antagonists, direct from traditional Yoruba culture. The novel’s climax is the narrator’s triumph over those traditional antagonists, which he achieves by joining the colonial administration, thus taming and making them safe. The novel sets up a fundamental conflict between the traditional world, identified with the ghosts, and the modern, colonized world, the latter eventually happily winning out over the former. Achebe is clearly right to insist that the novel directly addresses questions of colonialism. But these basic oppositions between a grotesque traditional culture and an ordered modern colonialism begin to collapse as soon as we begin to look more carefully at the novel’s narrative structure and its imagery. As, indeed, we should expect, since the binary modernversus-traditional is itself a part of colonialism’s exploitative project (for example, Mudimbe 1988, p. 5). Advanced technology, it turns out, is prevalent throughout the novel’s ‘traditional’ world: the ghosts possess guns, bombs, planes, electricity, and the like, and the ‘television-handed ghostess’ is herself a figure of such hybridity, instantiating not just the grotesquery of the traditional world but doing so via the incorporation into her body of modern technology. In many cases these are not instances of technology but rather aspects of the ghost-world that are explicable through metaphors of technology. As well as the televisionhanded ghostess, there is also the particularly domestic modernity of one of the ghost’s porticos, which ‘was sparkling as if it was polished with brasso at all moments’ (p. 23), and the million or more ‘homeless ghosts’ ‘who were listening to my cry as a radio’ (p. 50). The continuity between advanced technology and the spirit world is common in West Africa: according to contemporary myth, the witches of Togo, for instance, fly around in Lear jets, wield laser guns, and communicate by cell phone (Piot). The television-handed ghostess can serve as a representative example of how this juxtaposition of technology, traditional Yoruba culture, and the grotesque plays out in the novel. When he first meets her, the narrator ‘noticed carefully that she was almost covered with sores, even that there was no single hair on her head, except sores with uncountable maggots which were dashing here and there on her body’ (p. 161). She tells him that she has lived for 200 years with these sores, and, she says, sorcerers have told her ‘that there is an earthly person in this Bush of Ghosts, . . . and the sorcerers said that if you will be licking the sore

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every day with your tongue for ten years it would be healed’ (p. 162). In response, the narrator tells her ‘I want you to go back to your sorcerers and tell them I refuse to lick the sore’ (p. 163), and she explains that he can tell them himself, showing him her hand: when she opens her palm ‘nearly to touch my face, it was exactly as a television, I saw my town, mother, brother and all my playmates’ (p. 163). The television-handed ghostess, then, might seem something of a hybrid figure: a denizen of the Bush of Ghosts, and thus a part of traditional culture that her grotesque body – hairless, covered in sores and uncountable dashing maggots – clearly signals as repulsive. But she also incorporates into her body aspects of the excitement of new Western technologies. However, the incorporation is not an assimilation: the juxtaposition does not transcend the limitations of these two independent and confrontational cultures, but rather the roles and the affects, associated with each of the aspects – the sore-and-maggot ridden body, which needs to be cured, and the home-focused television set – remain clearly dissociated. The television-handed ghostess demands, in effect, a subservience to the grotesque bodies and practices representative of traditional Yoruba culture; the narrator’s reward for licking her wounds, for a deferential acquiescence to tradition that would heal her wounds, is that she will send him back to his family, out of the Bush of Ghosts. So, the televisionhanded ghostess demands, will he lick her wounds, daily, for the next ten years, and thereby heal her and make his own way home? ‘Hard to say “no” and hard to say “yes,” ’ as this chapter title tells us. He asks her to let him look one more time at his family through her televisionhand, before he gives her his answer. She agrees, and luckily, at that very moment, his mother is healing a sore on a child’s body, and the narrator is able to observe exactly the leaf she uses and how she prepares it. Equally luckily, the leaf in question happens to be growing in abundance just outside the hut that the narrator finds himself in, and he is happily able to heal the television-handed ghostess in a week, rather than ten years, and without having to get his tongue anywhere near her sores. In effect, that is, what he sees through the television – television as technological medium – offers him a short-cut, a way of avoiding the grotesque aspects of servitude required by the ghostess, and of radically reducing the length of time her healing requires. The ghostess is healed, and she sends the narrator back to his family in the real world. Technology, it seems, displaces tradition, in the same way that the implementation of hospitals, schools, police forces and law courts has redeemed and made safe the Bush of Ghosts.

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And yet what he sees on television is a folk remedy produced from natural rather than synthetic materials, standing therefore on the side of the traditional rather than the modernity that the television represents. Rather than demanding a choice between a traditional and a modern remedy, the novel’s solution is provided by the intersection of the two, the television with what is seen on it. But this is not simply the triumph of a hybridity that incorporates modernity into the traditional over a stand-alone traditional set of values, since the grotesquerie was itself equally hybrid: this is not any ordinary kind of television, but rather something more like Videodrome’s vaginal video-slot opening in James Woods’s stomach, in which the bodily and the technological are superimposed, to viscerally grotesque effect. The enthusiasm within the novel for the incorporation of technology into the ghost world is matched by the novel’s ecstatic but imprecise embrace of English, which suggests a dizzy enthusiasm for the modernizing influences of English (and, increasingly, US) culture in Nigeria. This English is not ‘standard’ English in even the broadest sense of that term, and the kind of giddy delirium that some of its images offer is available precisely because of that divergence. The book’s introduction tells us that this is ‘English as it is spoken in West African’ (p. 10) but West African critics have argued vociferously against such a claim (Johnson, p. 21; Harold Collins, pp. 43–4). In fact, the language and the structure of Tutuola’s novel is a lot like the language of a contemporary and local genre of popular literature, the Onitsha chapbooks, the language of which Kurt Thometz calls ‘mad English’ (p. x). The effect of this divergence from Standard English is not towards any other language in particular, but rather towards an unspoken language, a language spoken by no one, unfamiliar to all users. The result is to emphasize for readers, in parallel with the narrator’s own experiences in the Bush of Ghosts, our unhomed-ness in it, its uncanniness. Like that of the Irish modernists, that is, Tutuola’s language is deployed in unexpected, ungrammatical, or neologistic ways, and this deployment is made possible precisely by the decolonization struggles that provide the context for its production. What are at stake, in these political struggles for cultural control of the newly imagined independent nation-state, as well as the struggles for ownership of the language, are issues of sovereignty, and especially the legitimation of sovereignty, in Nigeria in the 1950s just as much as in Ireland in the 1910s and 1920s. In the European context, sovereignty is usually thought of as the exercise of reason in the public sphere; but in Europe’s colonies, the laws and principles which limit the expression of

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sovereignty are more or less continuously suspended, under what Carl Schmitt calls a ‘state of emergency.’ As such, colonial subjects are ‘kept alive but in a state of injury, in a phantom-like world of horrors and intense cruelty and profanity. The violent tenor of’ this life ‘is manifested through the [sovereign’s] disposition to behave in a cruel and intemperate manner and in the spectacle of pain inflicted on the [subject’s] body’ (Mbembe 2003b, p. 21). The Bush of Ghosts that Tutuola’s narrator traverses in the course of the novel seems an apt literary interpretation of this world, with its spectacles of pain, replete with ghosts, horrors and cruelty. It bears repetition, in this context, that when the narrator enters the colonial administration of the ghost world, he does so as its juridical arm. After teaching other ghosts to be policemen, lawyers, prison-guards and judges, ‘I was chosen as the chief judge of the highest court which is the “Assize court” ’ (p. 152). He becomes responsible, that is to say, for providing exactly what is lacking in this moment of conceptual anarchy, this transitional moment between colonial and postcolonial rule: legal limits to sovereignty. The potential that decolonization and independence seem to offer to Tutuola’s narrative is Nigeria’s entry into the system of nation-states where the ‘state of exception’ which justifies sovereign suspension of legal principles no longer holds. The taming of the Bush of Ghosts is made possible not simply through colonization, but through the application of judicial limits to the biopower of colonial sovereignty and the necropower of postcolonial sovereignty. That such limits to postcolonial necropower failed to be applied was clear within a few years of Tutuola’s novel, at the outbreak of the Biafran war and the series of dictatorships that Nigeria quickly passed through. But it is precisely the positioning of Tutuola’s novel between forms of legitimized (or at least sanctioned) sovereignty – between the colonial and the decolonized – that makes the dizzying euphoria of its language and its political hope possible. Formally, the novel is just as hybrid as is its imagery and its language. The kind of literature that forms the most immediate context for My Life in the Bush of Ghosts is not the traditional folk tale at all, but rather the genre of the Onitsha chap-books, a market-literature form that exploded onto the Nigerian popular culture scene in the years following the end of the Second World War. These pamphlets, like their eighteenth-century English equivalents, were designed specifically as guides to modern living: readers were taught how to make a success of themselves in the newly urban Nigerian landscape, in the process reinventing what both ‘success’ and ‘the self’ were to mean. ‘This booklet is intended to help

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the readers who have been asking me to give them advice in order to be free from some troubles of this world,’ one of them claims, representatively. ‘Since the people can not tell the truth and since Money, lack of sense, enemies and bad friends kill a man, it is wise to know how to live and know yourself’ (Thometz, p. v). These chap-books form an entirely popular genre – ’literature for the masses,’ one of their critics calls them (Obiechina, p. 4) – made possible by, among other things, a rapid and enthusiastic increase in literacy in Nigeria, a local printing industry, and the influx of money and ideas into Nigeria at the end of the Second World War, most visibly associated with the returning servicemen (Thometz; Obiechina). The chap-books deal with the two ‘worlds’ that Nigerian men found themselves co-inhabiting simultaneously: the traditional world, with its languages, moral codes, and narrative forms, as well as the new commercial environment, with business English, capitalist and Christian individualism, romance and thriller novels, and Hollywood adventure films (Thometz p. xxxviii). As such, they find in patriarchy a mode by which these competing worlds can be navigated, and even in some unpredictable ways mapped onto each other: women become at once the virtuous prizes to be gained by living the good life, and simultaneously some of the most dangerous traps laid by modern life, against which the chap-books promise to defend, with titles like ‘How to Avoid Corner Corner Love and Win Good Love from Girls,’ and ‘Why Harlots Hate Married Men and Love Bachelors.’ These chapbooks are influenced by Western-oriented education, modern information media, and the conflicts between old and new values; they are also, though, clearly influenced by the oral story-telling tradition of West Africa, with its moral didacticism (Obiechina, p. 12). However, the moral lessons they teach are fundamentally different ones to those of the traditional tales. The chapbooks, that is, deploy the oral tradition in the service of an ideology fundamentally foreign to it. The values proposed by the pamphlets are entrenched in the individual responsibility preached by Christianity and by colonial capitalism. Even what counted as traditional Yoruba culture in the 1950s was itself straightforwardly a product of processes of modernity and modernization, not least of which is the Atlantic slave trade and its aftereffects (Matory). And Tutuola’s novel shares these same modern values: the book’s narrator marks his success along the way with the repeated phrase ‘And it was that day I believed that . . . ’ whatever the lesson of the moment might have been. These lessons are, like the lessons of the chap-books, a combination of moral laws, rules for the management of

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sensibility or the construction of structures of feeling, maxims for commercial success, and, in line with the necropolitics of the novel and of colonialism, an understanding of fear (for example, pp. 20, 82, 92, 114, 120, 172). The novel also plays out this conflict between the traditional and the modern at the level of plot. It celebrates the triumph of colonialism and modernization, taking the broad form of the Western novel, and is written in English; and it insistently pathologizes Yoruba tradition in its depiction of the ghosts. However, the novel’s episodic repetition, a circular structure that repeats over and over again the failed attempt to escape the Bush of Ghosts, points to a different kind of conclusion, one tied up with the idea of melancholy and with the structural logic of the ghost story. Let us go back one more time to the television-handed ghostess. When the ghostess opens her palm in front of the narrator’s face, he looks at her hand and sees some sort of television screen, in which he sees his mother treating a wounded child; but he also tells us that this is something he dreams: ‘but it was just a dream for me,’ he says (p. 168). Maria Torok (1994) explains that traumatic irruptions of the libido are described by her analysands as surprising them, disclaiming fault. But ‘The event is never totally repudiated, however. “It was a dream and yet not a dream,” ’ one of these patients tells her (p. 117). The same complicated establishment of reality and not-reality is performed by Tutuola’s narrator here, by this description as a dream of something that is really (within the narrative) happening. We can think of what he sees in her television-hand as a version of Freud’s ‘screen memory,’ especially in Freud’s sense that such a memory represents some other repressed content: ‘a ‘screen memory’ . . . owes its value as a memory not to its own content but to the relation existing between that content and some other, that has been suppressed’ (1959a, p. 126). What he dreams is a voice and an image coming from her hand, which like the rest of her body is covered with sores. The television-equivalent in her palm, that is, is a wound that speaks, that locus classicus of trauma theory (for example, Caruth 1996, pp 1–9). The question, then, is what trauma does this wound speak; what repressed content does it signify? The novel’s opening sets up this ‘screen memory,’ this ‘dream,’ with the narrator’s mother forced, by economic circumstances, to absent herself from the family (p. 17). The boys’ father’s other two wives then abandon the narrator and his brother as well, as a ‘slave war’ descends on the village. A fantastic narrative structured by maternal abandonment, then, has at one of its pivotal moments a dream about maternal

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care. Clearly, this dream is a wish-fulfillment, but even in this fantasy the position he would like to claim – beloved, nurtured, healed son – is usurped by a baby who has no familial relationship with the healer (p. 165). In this sense, the wounded baby, an illegitimate inheritor of that love and affection, does not usurp the narrator; rather, the wounded baby in the dream represents the narrator, someone appealing to an ancestral figure – pre-colonial Yoruba tradition – whose caring role has been made impossible by ‘slave wars.’ Because of the traumatic break of the slave trade, across which culture has to be invented rather than inherited, the narrator cannot be certain of any genealogical relation with the culture he appeals backwards towards. The modern slave trade, I am suggesting, forms the trauma at the heart of the novel’s construction of Yoruba tradition, and it is this trauma which is spoken by the wound in the television-handed ghostess’s hand. The novel pulls no punches in its willingness to make Yoruba tradition disgusting, grotesque, repellant; but at the same time, its serially repetitive structure – its sequence of ghost towns, each distinct only in the particularities of the kinds of grotesqueness its ghosts display, the narrator enacting a seemingly interminable sequence of escape, capture, grotesque suffering and spectacular display, and then escape again – this structure of repetition is melancholic. Each of the novel’s cyclical attempts to reject and find disgusting Yoruba culture is undermined by a secret desire for it, which results in every escape moving simply to a new capture. In one key contrasting incident, rather than running away from a ghost or ghosts, the narrator pursues an ugly ghostess: ‘It is better for me to die than to leave this ugly ghostess and run away without seeing her ugliness clearly’ (p. 87). The novel is a kind of ‘labor of compensation,’ a kind of work that fails quite precisely to be the ‘working through’ that would be required to ‘move on,’ as mourning rather than melancholy would allow, from the ‘lost object’ of Yoruba tradition.2 Instead, we have a structure in which tradition repeats, a cultural ‘return of the repressed’ in grotesque form. Thus the novel’s structure asserts the centrality of Yoruba culture to Tutuola’s understanding of Nigeria, even as the narrative works against that by describing the triumph of Western colonization over Yoruba tradition. Structurally, each of these episodes, featuring an encounter with grotesque ghosts and a failure to achieve the resolution aimed at (getting home), works like a traditional ghost story, which also aims, through its encounter with a ghost, at some kind of resolution that the story’s almost necessarily terrible ending fails to provide. We turn from each ghost story, unsatisfied, to the next one, hoping to there find the

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resolution we have been denied here, only to have it denied us again. The pleasures of the ghost story are crucially tied up with this denial, this failure. And it is the same failure that drives Tutuola’s narrative onwards towards its own (non-) conclusion. The novel’s Bush of Ghosts is both the world of Yoruba tradition, its denizens the grotesque and frightful ‘return of the repressed’ that the modernizing Nigeria of the chapbooks wants to leave behind; and it is also the transitional world between biopolitics and necropolitics, in which spectacles of pain and severing stand in for the death that sovereign power wields. And again, this is a world that a Nigeria moving towards decolonization and independence wants to leave behind. But in both cases, it cannot: the repetitive, melancholic structure of the story is resolved, finally, not with the narrator’s return from the Bush of Ghosts to the ‘real world’ – that comes a few chapters before the end – but rather with his mastery of the ability to navigate them both, a mastery he gains through ‘juju’ or magic as well as language and technology. The ‘resolution’ of the novel, that is, leaves us with two worlds that the narrator can navigate between, but in neither of which he is finally at home. The book ends with the desire simply to be elsewhere, with the narrator’s desire to be where he is not, and with the final claim that ‘This is what hatred did’: ‘this’ being a description of both the novel as a whole, and of the narrator’s position between these two worlds. Tutuola’s ghosts, in other words, are in the first place figures (like Yeats’s fairies) of an indigenous culture, a mode of cultural resistance to colonialism, and the novel’s distortions of both the English language and the novel form can likewise be read as a mode of resistance. But equally, the representation of these ghosts as grotesque suggests rather the opposite valence, a desire to escape from the traditional and embrace modernity, a desire suggested as well by the novel form and the English language, distorted though they might be. The novel’s complicated back and forth, and its indeterminate ending, produce a model of hybridity as anxious, melancholic ambivalence at the same time as it is exhilarating and exhuberant. For both Rulfo and Tutuola, ghosts are crucial in figuring a situation of what Du Bois called ‘double consciousness,’ a condition Paul Gilroy argues is widespread among the African diaspora (Black Atlantic). And yet the politics, the aesthetics, and the meaning of the ghost remain in each case radically distinct. What we can see, in these two novels, is the kind of formal proliferation of the ghost story, even as they share a recognizable postcolonial narrative project. Grace’s Baby No-Eyes likewise uses the figure of the ghost in a doubled fashion,

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though it sees in its ghost a possibility for resolution that neither Rulfo’s nor Tutuola’s novels provide.

Widening circles: the ghosts of Baby No-Eyes Patricia Grace’s Baby No-Eyes follows, in many ways, the model of postcolonial ghost-narrative provided by Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Its ghost, like Beloved’s, is a figure for a dead child that returns as well as for a collective identity shared by those who inherit a past social trauma: in Beloved’s case, Atlantic slavery, and in Baby No-Eyes’s, the colonization of New Zealand. The narrative principle around which Beloved is built is the idea of a story than cannot be told, and yet must be; the ghost’s appearance marks the impossibility of, and the simultaneous need for, resolution. The work that such postcolonial ghosts do is something like that done by the ghost in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Hamlet responds to the appearance of the ghost of his father by exclaiming ‘The time is out of joint. / Oh cursed spite, that I was born to set it right’ (I.v.188–9). The ghost, he suggests, marks a disrupted temporality, and it becomes the project of Hamlet (and of ghost-story narratives) to restore ‘normal’ temporality by laying the ghost to rest. Derrida takes Shakespeare’s line and argues that under modern capitalism temporality is not just momentarily but permanently out of joint; we inhabit simultaneously multiple and conflicting temporalities. Rather than laying ghosts to rest, he argues, we must learn to live with our ghosts, open to them, welcoming them into our lives even if they never actually arrive (1994, p. 65). Like Hamlet, the characters of Beloved seek to put their ghosts to rest, to return to a normal temporality. But Beloved, like Derrida, suggests that such a resolution is impossible. Unlike Derrida’s ghosts, though, Beloved’s remain damaging, even life-threatening, a danger that is, for the novel, inherent in story-telling itself. ‘It was not a story to pass on,’ Beloved’s conclusion repeats twice, about its haunting, and then offers one more repetition, this time with a modulation to make clear that the book is self-indicting: ‘This is not a story to pass on’ (pp. 274, 275). Grace’s narrative, which in many ways takes Beloved as a model, is nonetheless crucially different in its ideas about storytelling, and this inevitably has consequences for the work that its ghosts do. If it is the triumph of Morrison’s novel, in one sense at least, that it finds a way to tell its story at all, given the haunted condition of its language, then the triumph of Baby No-Eyes lies precisely in the way that storytelling

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functions as the generator and guarantor of both community and memory. Postcolonial ghosts, then, figure histories occluded by or elided from hegemonic narratives. Such ghosts have far more in common with the kinds of ghost stories I described in the early chapters of this book than they do with the ghosts of Yeatsian cultural nationalism. But the nationalist ghosts also have a strong presence in postcolonial writing, as we have already seen. Grace goes so far as to identify ghosts as ‘the good guys’ of her stories (2008). Such ghosts are part of a worldview that shares with nineteenth-century ghost stories the belief that the past is not simply the past, not wholly distinct from the present, but complicatedly interrelated with it; but they model a different attitude towards the relationship between the present and the past, in which the past is not a burden to be taken up or cast off, but rather a virtue, a value, a privilege. Donna Awatere explains the difference, in the New Zealand context, in blunt (reductive) racial terms: The Maori view of time differs from that of British culture. To the White, the present and the future are all important. To the Maori, the past is the present, is the future. Who I am and my relationship to everyone else depends on my whakapapa, on my lineage, on those from whom I am descended. One needs one’s ancestors therefore to define one’s present. Relationships with one’s tupuna [ancestors] are thus intimate and casual. It is easy to feel the humiliation, anger and sense of loss which your tupuna felt. And to take up the kaupapa [grievances] they had. (p. 54) What Awatere here claims as a specifically Maori view of time is not that at all: rather, a rejection of linear temporality is a regular trope of indigenous self-description, such as the declaration of the narrator of Winona LaDuke’s Last Standing Woman that ‘I do not believe that time is linear. Instead, I have come to believe that time is always in cycles, and that the future is a part of our past and the past is a part of our future’ (p. 200). Equally, though her distinction between Maori thought and white thought serves a useful polemical point for her, neither Maori thought nor White thought are as homogenous as Awatere here claims them to be.3 Nonetheless, what her description does mark is the way that certain narratives, predominantly postcolonial ones, which share ghost stories’ understanding that the past persists into the present, nonetheless see that persistence as valuable rather than as horrific.

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The awkward juxtaposition of the two kinds of ghosts – ghosts as inherited remnants of traumatic history and ghosts as markers of indigenous belonging – is a regular feature of postcolonial writing. Carrie Mae Weems is a representative artist in this regard, whose language of ghosts marks precisely this doubleness. Talking about her Hampton Project, she says that ‘Ghosts are my company, they speak to me and tell me what to say’ (Ramsey, p. 80). Her ghosts provide friendly companionship and conversation, but they also make demands. They are the muses of her work in the sense both that they inspire the artist and that it is them who speak, supplanting the artist. In Grace’s Baby No-Eyes these two versions of the ghost also coexist uneasily. The novel tells three overlapping stories, all of which are based to differing extents on true stories. The first, which most directly models itself after Beloved, is the story Te Paania tells to her son Tawera, about Tawera’s older sister who was stillborn, but whose ghost haunts Tawera, though no one else can see or sense her. When Te Paania was pregnant with her first child, she and her husband Shane were driving home from a family gathering at Kura’s house (Kura is Shane’s grandmother). Shane, drunk and driving recklessly, crashes the car, killing himself, and badly injuring Te Paania. When she comes to, she learns that the baby was prematurely still-born, and then the baby’s body (this part of her story is based, as Grace’s note at the beginning of the novel explains, on events at the pathology department of a New Zealand hospital), had its eyes removed, and was thrown into a garbage bin. When the family tries to claim the baby’s body for burial, according to Maori custom, they are delayed, and the body finally returned without the eyes, which are returned separately in a plastic container in a supermarket shopping bag. The ghost of the sister, Baby No-Eyes, then becomes a key part of Tawera’s life, as he decides that he needs to be her eyes, explaining for her colors (‘Yellow is touching a number two hair shave with the palm of your hand . . . . Dark blue is when you pull down your bottom eyelid and let hard, cold wind blow on your soft eye meat’; p. 139), and everything that he sees, giving her a role in his life (‘when we play soccer, you can think what to do and I’ll do the actions. You can be the brains’; p. 137). The novel’s conclusion comes, then, when Baby No-Eyes and grandmother Kura together convince Tawera that he has to tell Baby to move on to the spirit world, to leave him to live his life alone. The second story is the story of grandmother Kura’s radicalization. She turns against the ‘goodness’ by which she has lived her life up to now, a ‘goodness’ characterized by submission to Pakeha (white) authority that she now rejects, a rejection that she symbolizes by refusing to speak

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English. Her part of the novel includes the stories of their family that she tells to Te Paania and Tawera. The novel thus foregrounds the telling of stories as a political act, an assertion of identity and a mode of resistance. The third story centers around Mahaki, who is, with his partner Dave, Te Paania’s downstairs neighbor and landlord. Mahaki’s iwi (tribe) negotiate with their local council for the return to tribal ownership of a burial ground that was illegally acquired by the government. When the council is reluctant, iwi members occupy the town park, to get media attention for their cause, and eventually the case goes to court and the land is returned. The strongest thematic issue connecting these stories is Pakeha theft and Maori restoration. The stories Kura tells are often stories of the theft of identity and culture, but more importantly her project in telling them is a restoration of what a Pakeha education system steals from the generations to come. Mahaki’s grandfather is worried about access to the gravesites on the land being claimed because he has heard about ‘biopiracy’ (a legal issue Mahaki is working on, and about which Te Paania becomes an indigenous rights advocate) in which indigenous genetic material is taken for research by universities and corporations. And Te Paania comes to wonder whether the removal of her baby’s eyes, which was never explained, was similarly undertaken for reasons of ‘research.’ But the aspect of the novel that most straightforwardly connects the three stories is its narrative structure, which is, self-reflexively, the novel’s key interest. This is a novel about the telling of stories, and much is at stake in not just which stories are told (and not told) but also in how those stories are told. In this structural concern as well as in its ready accommodation of ghosts within its realist frame, the novel’s status as magic realism is clear. At the end of Te Paania’s first chapter, introducing the story that Kura is about to tell in the next chapter, Te Paania describes most clearly the narrative structure that governs not just Kura’s storytelling but the novel as a whole. There’s a way the older people have of telling a story, a way where the beginning is not the beginning, the end is not the end. It starts from a centre and moves away from there in such widening circles that you don’t know how you will finally arrive at the point of understanding, which becomes itself another core, a new centre. You can only trust these tellers as they start you on a blindfold journey with a handful of words which they have seemingly clutched from nowhere: there was a hei pounamu, a green moth, a suitcase, a birdnosed man, Rebecca

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who was mother, a man who was a ghost, a woman good at making dresses, a teapot with a dent by its nose. Or sometimes there is a story that has no words at all, a story that has been lived by a whole generation but that has never been worded. You see it sitting in the old ones, you see it in how they walk and move and breathe, you see it chiselled into their faces, you see it in their eyes. You see it gathering in them sometimes, see the beginning of it on their lips, then you see it swallowed and it’s gone. But Gran Kura’s lips had remained parted. Words, unswallowed, began to fall from them. ‘There was a school,’ she said. (p. 28) The spiral narrative structure translates a temporal pattern into a spatial metaphor. The spiral shape of a new fern frond (or ‘koru’) is an important symbol for new life, growth and renewal, in Maori iconography. Stories told or untold structure identities, individual and collective, and Kura’s decision here to tell the stories, to give her family told rather than untold stories around which to construct their lives, governs much of the narrative to come, as well as the structure of the novel. The idea that a collection of seemingly unrelated words ‘clutched from nowhere’ turn out to form a coherent narrative whole signals the novel’s realist project: to narrate the relations between seemingly disparate people and objects, thereby making comprehensible an otherwise invisible social totality. And the circularity of such a narrative, its spiral of endings that are also beginnings, points to the ‘magic’ part of its generic identity. The novel insistently reminds its readers that its realist project requires the active participation of readers, that its narrative structure requires a particularly engaged mode of interpretation. Mahaki, watching his grandfather explain to the visiting council members why Anapuke (the iwi burial ground) should be returned to tribal ownership, realizes that the council members are not going to be able to understand: He wished the old man wouldn’t bother. Bob and Colin [council representatives] wouldn’t know what he was going on about and wouldn’t care either. Away from the old man for a few years you could forget too – how to listen, how to hear, especially when the old man was speaking in English as he was having to do now. You had to open your skull, peel off and peel off, listen. He’d heard it all before, though there was always something new to listen for. (p. 151) And then, thinking about what Bob and Colin are hearing as they listen without knowing how: ‘But what do they hear anyway, those who haven’t learned to turn what is said in order to examine the

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underside?’ (p. 156). Here, as well as with Kura’s explicit rejection of English, the novel invokes Ngugi’s argument about colonial education and the language of the colonizers in literature (1986): the kind of listening that renders comprehensible indigenous patterns of speech requires an untwining of the mind from the structures of understanding generated by a colonial education. The novel is insistent that understanding Kura’s stories, understanding the story of Baby No-Eyes, requires such turning-upside-down and listening from the underside, such an opening of the mind, peeling off layers and layers of narrative expectations, not in order to find some kernel of truth hidden beneath those layers but rather because the peeling itself repeats and becomes part of the process of narrative spiraling. Kura’s stories, then, the narrative of genealogy and family history that she offers to Te Paania and Tawera, are stories that initially seem irrelevant to or at least independent from the central issue of Tawera’s haunting, but need listening to upside-down, with skull-peeling and looking-underneath. We can usefully compare the work that her stories are doing to how Dickensian realism works. In Dickens’s Bleak House, for instance, the seemingly independent stories of Esther and Lady Dedlock, for instance, or Mrs Rouncewell and George, are revealed by the end of the novel to be not independent but interdependent – Esther turns out to be Lady Dedlock’s illegitimate daughter; George, who helps Esther, is the runaway son of Mrs Rouncewell, who is Lady Dedlock’s housekeeper, and so on. In a sense, Dickens’s story is the more magical: what look like unconnected lives turn out to be structured by material connections. The narrative, while it constructs for us these connections, claims only to be discovering them. In the world of Dickens’s novel, real connections are invisible, and the narrative works to render them visible. In Grace’s novel, on the other hand, the narrative work of making connections and thereby generating community is itself foregrounded. One of Kura’s stories, prefigured in the list of ‘words clutched from nowhere’ early on and mentioned at repeated moments throughout the novel but told only late in the novel, begins thus: ‘There was a woman who was good at making dresses. She had an old husband, one daughter and three sons’ (p. 234). There is no family relationship between the dressmaker and Kura’s family; Kura was witness to the dressmaker’s daughter’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and to the community’s response that allowed the dressmaker’s family ‘to start their lives again . . . without blame’ (p. 237), but what connects the story to the spiral of narrative in which we encounter it is left unsaid. Or rather,

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the novel’s structure allows us to do this work, this turning-upside-down and listening from below. The story of the dressmaker provides Kura with a model for understanding how functioning communities work to include even those who break its rules; it offers an example for those who refuse the roles assigned to them by society, another story of loss and recuperation as well as of the grief that one lives with even through that recuperation – as Te Paania and her family are working through, at the same time, with the ghost of Baby. If Kura’s stories function in the novel as providing or even generating community, then this is in contrast to the alienation that the novel gives as the direct cause of Shane’s anger and frustration, his drinking, and thus his death and the death of Baby No-Eyes. The novel carefully articulates the ways that various institutions are the vehicles for the experience of that alienation: the city councils and (historically) the land courts, the church, the colonial education system, the health system, and so on. The hospital, in particular, functions from its first appearance in the novel as a place of cultural appropriation, its foyer a badly refurbished space with ‘a glass showcase containing a kava bowl, a strainer, and a root of kava,’ in conjunction with ‘a gold-framed portrait of Lucrezia’ (p. 54). The display of Pacific-cultural objects speaks to a respect for cultural difference that is purely superficial and does not extend to relations between people. When a doctor finally comes to speak with Kura, she reports that the doctor said, ‘Now we’ve had this request for a baby,’ but he didn’t say ‘baby’ he said ‘body.’ ‘We’ve had this request for a body.’ So there were these words that I didn’t like, but never mind, I thought, these people have their words and we have ours. They are doctors, professionals, high-up people. Their words are different. (p. 60) What Kura experiences as a difference marked as hierarchical becomes only more marked as her encounter with the hospital staff progresses. Recounting it later, to Te Paania and other members of the family, the word ‘body’ again disrupts, this time Te Paania: So even when the word ‘body,’ spoken deliberately in English, took hold of my breath and my ear, I gave it a shake, flicked it away from me, because . . . there were people who used a different set of words from what we would use. // However ‘body’ did not prepare me for ‘arrange disposal.’ ‘Arrange disposal’ did not prepare me for ‘corpse’ or ‘mislaid.’ (p. 71)

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The medical language – its cold, clinical descriptions and its disrespect for the body-as-human – jolts Kura and then Te Paania, marking in their eyes their own alienation from the institutions that have control of Baby’s body. Similarly, when the council representatives talk about Anapuke, the burial ground of Mahaki’s iwi, they call it ‘Block 165G10’ (p. 153); the function of this re-naming is to alienate it from the place it plays in the culture and lives of those to whom they speak. Even the description of the land-protest as an ‘occupation,’ Mahaki comes to realize, is an alienated description of a people ‘resident on tribal land,’ ‘a fancy word that showed lack of understanding’ (p. 213). The line between cultural appropriation and literal appropriation is then crossed, both in the case of the council (Anapuke is land for which the council can find ‘no record of payment being made’; p. 153) and the hospital (the cultural objects of the kava ceremony appropriated to stand in for a cultural openness that it increasingly becomes obvious is not part of the hospital’s functioning culture, turning into the literal appropriation of the body and organs of Baby). When Baby’s eyes are returned by the hospital staff in a supermarket bag, the return is read symbolically by Kura and her family as declaring them food, with all the consequent disrespect attendant on that. Kura realizes that what a Pakeha education taught her to understand as a hierarchy of difference is in fact just difference, that those with power simply claim authority rather than deserve it, and that she must ‘stop . . . waiting there doing what I was told, . . . stop . . . sitting frightened of white coats, . . . stop . . . listening to people who gave themselves their own authority, . . . stop letting them not tell me why they’d stolen our baby’s eyes, . . . stop holding on to shame’ (p. 65). The hospital staff’s ignorance and disrespect is what triggers Kura’s storytelling. Set against these processes and institutions of alienation, then, the novel offers us its idea of narrative, an idea of narrative tied to haunting. The novel’s first chapter begins with this: ‘There was a suitcase on the verandah’ (p. 13). The suitcase and the verandah both, it turns out, are objects whose history connects people and constructs communities of meaning in realist fashion. The suitcase began as Kura’s, who ‘gave it to Luddie and Tom when Laina was going to boarding school,’ and Laina then passes it on to ‘Josie, who was the great-granddaughter of the man-who-was-a-ghost’ for her son Timmy (p. 13). Its return to Kura signals to her that ‘my life was changing,’ but more significantly in narrative terms it functions as the connection between Kura and a slew of people about whom we know, as yet, nothing. Similarly the verandah

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has been restored by Joe and Gordon, we learn, and is crucial to what is to happen: my verandah wasn’t finished with, . . . it had to be there for the day when Shane would step up onto it . . . . It had to be partly enclosed the way it is, and shaded at one end by clematis. In a more open space Shane’s demands could have leaked away into the garden to be eaten by flowers, or could’ve scattered across the yard and gone out with the tide. (p. 14) None of which, at this stage in the novel, has much meaning, but shows the circular structure of the narrative, circling out to events that will later on become the center of further narrative spirals. The verandah itself as object, like the suitcase, exists only within the social networks it mediates, and within the narratives which give it meanings. The three stories, which to begin with seemed so distinct, over the course of the novel are likewise ‘all becoming one – the old stories, the new stories, Anapuke and the eyes’ (p. 149). Te Paania begins to feel that ‘here I was at the centre of all this activity. It was like sitting on a stone in the middle of a pond with all the different aspects of my life moving out in ever-widening circles about me’; ‘new business, old business. // It was my business’ (pp. 176, 177). Narrative, here, is what connects objects, just as in nineteenth-century realism, and here the novel is drawing attention to the role of narration in the production of meaning and even of reality. Which is to say that the novel has a realist project of cognitive mapping, of representing a social and historical totality, of making visible a historical totality through narratively bringing into existence a particular model of community, a community unified by its mode of listening, and a community that we as readers can come to understand ourselves as sharing to the extent that we too understand ourselves to be reading from the underside, following a narrative that works by peeling away layers and following them. The narrative trains us in the kinds of reading practices required to produce the kind of community it describes. The book’s narratological project clear, we can now turn to the novel’s ghost and its temporality, because it is around temporality (and this narrative project) that Grace’s magic realism most visibly reconfigures the conventions of the ghost story. Baby No-Eyes’s ghost works within the Beloved version of the traditional Western ghost story, where the historical trauma is specific to imperial history, in which the ghost of some past trauma lingers into the present. And as well, it works within

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the Yeatsian cultural nationalism of the indigenous ghost story, in which the ghost becomes a marker of belonging, of national identity, through a re-imagined relationship between past, present and future. From early on in the novel, the role of the ghost as a figure for trauma is clearly marked. When Te Paania is unconscious in the hospital, Shane and Baby both dead, Kura stays with her to guard her against the ghosts: It would be several hours before her family arrived and it always needs a person strong in spirit to keep the ghosts away from someone as near death as Te Paania was at that time. So I placed myself there, as near to Te Paania as I was allowed to be. I put Shane from my mind, put the baby from my mind. I said my prayers and spoke to the dead who were there all round us, in and out like moths. I sent them away. This took all of my concentration. (p. 58) The ghosts of the dead, that is, call to the living, when the living come close to death, and insofar as one wants to keep the living alive, it is necessary to fend off the dead. Likewise, Mahaki’s grandfather, telling the story of Anapuke, explains that ‘You don’t look at Anapuke or a ghost will come. You don’t talk about Anapuke or a ghost will come’ (p. 151). The book is not suggesting, in other words, that indigenous ghosts are simply embraced, whereas Western ghosts are scary and rejected; rather, indigenous modes of relating to the ghost are more complicated than that. But as Te Paania begins the slow process of recovering, physically and emotionally, from the crash, the miscarriage, and the hospital’s horrific disrespect, the presence of the ghost of her baby is a comfort, is indeed what comes to structure her life. As she hears Kura’s narrative of the events at the hospital, a new pain begins in her head, passes through her heart and into her stomach, ‘where it broke and opened, reaching to every part of me’; when Kura ends her story, ‘I knew that my cast-out and plundered baby had been born to me.’ (p. 72). Her ghost-baby is born to her through the narration of wrongs inflicted on the baby and on the community that surrounds it. Te Paania’s grief, as well as her need to make up for the baby’s disfigurement, as she experiences it in a dream, keeps Baby from leaving the world of the living and moving on to the land of the dead: as Baby tries to leave, Te Paania ‘stepped on to the trail, stumbling after her, calling her to come home, come home’ (p. 72). Putting to one side, for a moment, the role of narrative, it is the hospital’s wrongs that bring Baby into existence, the embodiment of a historical wrong that, in the narrative’s terms, comes to stand in for

The Ghost Story and Magic Realism


a whole slew of historical wrongs with which the story concerns itself. But it is Te Paania’s pursuit of Baby that keeps Baby from leaving, from moving on. (This too is, more or less, the structure of trauma in Beloved.) As he grows up with Baby No-Eyes as a constant companion, Tawera has a strong sense of the role that the dead play in the lives of the living, beginning with his own sense of obligation to the dead: ‘The biggest thing in my life so far was to be my sister’s eyes’ (p. 75). Baby No-Eyes turns out to be a problem in all sorts of ways for Tawera, getting him in trouble in school, limiting the kinds of friendships he can develop, giving him no privacy, and even physically hurting him. But when Te Paania and Kura become aware of her role in his life, and tell him that he has to tell her to leave, he explains to them that they are misunderstanding their relationship. ‘You have to open your mouth and swear,’ Kura, now old and ill, tells Tawera. ‘Tell it to get out, tell it off properly, that’s what you do’ (p. 239). The ghost, though, Tawera points out, is ‘Not “it,” “her” ’ (p. 240); Kura explains that she does not ‘want to offend anyone’ but ‘It’s what you have to do when you need to. I can’t go ahead and die without telling you. It could mean your life.’ She has a mixed sense of respect for the dead, and a need to separate the living from the dead, to partition each into their respective realms. Tawera says he understands what she is saying, ‘But how could I? Gran, how could I? And even if I did [tell her to leave], how could I mean it?’ (p. 240). That level of rejection is, for Tawera, simply impossible, given the centrality of Baby to his sense of community and identity. That this whole conversation takes place at the same time as Tawera is drawing and coloring in a picture of ‘Michael Jordan, Bulls 45, doing a lay-up’ (p. 239), who he depicts in much the same fashion as the Maori hero Tawhaki he has acted in the school play, draws attention to the syncretic cultural traditions in which Tawera understands himself, and the synchretic ghostly traditions in which Baby is likewise embedded. Like Robyn Kahukiwa’s exhibition or artworks ‘Supaheroes for my Mokopuna [grandchildren],’ of cartoon-style images of brownskinned superheroes, Tawera’s Michael Jordan trails ‘black and orange flame’ (p. 239). And in his drawing of Tawhaki, reversing the synchretic appropriations, Tawhaki is dressed ‘in Superman clothes’ (p. 198). Tawera explains to Kura that she misunderstands his relationship with his sister. He does so not directly but with a story of what ‘I’ve found out’ about other families, in which siblings fight about inconsequential things, like who has more milk and who gets to sit in the front of the car, and in which the fighting means neither sibling gets what they want (no one gets milk, they both have to sit in the back); but sometimes, he

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says, ‘brothers and sisters just share the Lego, or play elephants, or save something for each other when they have a treat’ (p. 241). As Kura recognizes, ‘You and your sister do all the things that brothers and sisters are allowed to do these days, so I suppose what you’re saying is right’ (p. 242). Tawera gives the picture of Jordan to Kura, to bring home the point that he negotiates his way through life via hybrid mythologies and traditions, concluding for her that ‘There’s nothing to worry about with me . . . . My family is a good family. I have a happy childhood’ (p. 242). His relationship with Baby No-Eyes is no more or less difficult that any other sibling relationship, he insists. The ghost is neither more nor less than family. However, Baby No-Eyes herself comes to realize, and explain to Tawera, that there will come a time when he wants not to be sharing every thought with her, and tells him that ‘I was on loan . . . because Mum needed me, but it was meant to be for just a few years,’ and she tells him that this is ‘Our last year,’ now that he is twelve and she sixteen (p. 251). The novel gives Tawera the ‘Last words’ (a chapter title), though they are not, as it turns out, the last words at all. As Tawera points out, ‘there are other last words you know, even though they not be so final’ (p. 272). As Kura lies on her deathbed, she and Baby No-Eyes together convince Tawera that he must tell her to leave, or at least, when he refuses, he must allow her to do so. Baby No-Eyes tells him that she does not want to go, but knows she should: ‘ “Want” ’ is different from “should” ’ she says, and ‘It’s taken me a long time to find out about “should” ’ (p. 286). ‘Don’t swear if you don’t want to . . . But I’ll tell you what, just let me . . . Go on, let me, that’ll be enough’ (p. 286). And so he does, eventually, say ‘Yesss’ (p. 287). Kura dies, and Baby No-Eyes leaves Tawera as well, leaves him feeling dessicated: ‘I was a blanket with paper inside, or cobwebs, or seed pods, or grass stalks, or old leaves’ (p. 287). To be without ghosts is to become oneself empty of life. The novel ends with an epilogue, again in Tawera’s voice: ‘Last, last words’ (p. 291). But again, though in a different sense, these last words are not an ending but rather another beginning: Tawera, now at university and studying to be an artist, finds that the empty space that his artworks all seem to need is not a flaw but rather something from which new creation can come: ‘Te Kore, the nothing’ (p. 293); ‘Inner space’ (p. 292). He expands this space, ‘pushing my drawing further and further to the outskirts’ until ‘everything’s gone’ (p. 293), and in this newly emerged emptiness he finds he can start to paint Baby No-Eyes, ‘Sister Seen’ (p. 294), and what seems like an ending gets recast as, in the novel’s final line, ‘Feet at the beginning of the road,’ a new beginning

The Ghost Story and Magic Realism


(p. 294). As promised by the description of Kura’s story, stories spiral out from one another. If we have finally arrived at a ‘point of understanding’ then that point is also ‘another core, a new centre’ (p. 28). Here the consequences of the novel’s contrast to Beloved becomes clearest: where Morrison’s novel’s ending refuses resolution and even representation, Grace’s ending points to a future in which Baby can be represented, both in terms of Tawera’s art and the novel’s own representation; it is an ending that opens up into more narrative, more representation, and through such representation strengthens and even produces the kind of community the book celebrates. And it is an ending that offers comfort, as against Beloved’s unsettled and unsettling refusal. Each has a very distinct politics, then. There is no refused resolution in Grace’s novel; rather, it is a matter of turning from one model of haunting – the trauma that persists – to another – community, or belonging – by means of representation, by means of Tawera’s painting and the novel itself. Letting the ghost of his sister go is necessary, Tawera comes to recognize, in order to move forward; but moving forward involves precisely a new creative relationship with his sister, a relationship which is itself based on an embrace of traditional Maori concepts – as well as Te Kore, the nothing, he paints her with taniwha and marakihau, ‘spirit figures’ from Maori lore (p. 294) – within contemporary modern painting. If in part this is no more or no less than a version of mestizo cultural production, art-as-metissage, it is also an emphatic choice of one version of the ghost rather than another, a choice that neither Pedro Páramo nor My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, nor indeed Beloved, allows their readers to so easily or comfortably make. The ghost as member of, even facilitator of a particular model of community is embraced, and in the process of that embrace the ghost as trauma is superseded and laid to rest.

Conclusion One of Fanon’s more trenchant arguments about the destructive effects of colonization concerns the history of a colonized people. ‘Colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content. By a kind of perverted logic, it turns to the past of the oppressed people, and distorts, disfigures, and destroys it’ (1963, p. 210). A key project of postcolonial literature has been the recovery of this past, and one of the key mechanisms for representing that past – distorted and disfigured, only partially or gesturally recuperable – is the figure of the ghost. Such ghosts function not in the manner of the modernist ghosts of Eliot or Kerouac or the writers

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discussed in detail in the previous chapter; rather, they function in the manner of earlier realist ghosts. The magic realist narratives I have discussed here place their ghosts at the intersection of this realist project of historical recovery (often suggesting its futility or even impossibility) with the project of cultural nationalism, by which the indigenous ghost figures not traumatic history but rather a mode of belonging, and by means of which forms of identity and collectivity are manufactured or recollected. The awkwardness with which these two versions of the ghost rub against one another in these novels is, as this chapter’s readings show, astonishingly productive. In Rulfo’s novel, ghosts represent not an indigenous alternative to modernity but rather modernity’s horror in a colonial context; in Tutuola’s novel, ghosts represent the grotesqueries of the traditional world as well as its hybrid incorporation into colonial modernity, and simultaneously the desired transcendent alternative to these; and in Grace’s novel, the ghost-as-trauma laid to rest only when it is both rejected and incorporated into the community, through the processes of narration and representation. The ghost, then, is a key figure in magic realism’s ability to straddle competing territories: novel and romance; modernity and tradition; traumatic history and national identity. Ghosts are so common in postcolonial narratives, then, in large part because the contradictions of the figure so usefully reproduce the contradictions of the writing situation.

Conclusion: Ghosts and History

As a genre, modern ghost stories are concerned with historical trauma, its remembrance and its lingering consequences. In these stories, the ghost is something that returns from the past, something that irrupts into the present, disrupting both the present’s presumed separateness from the past, as well as its stable inheritance of that past. There are two paradigmatic historical traumas that the modern ghost story responds to. The first is the transition from feudalism to capitalism, and the consequent shift in power from the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie. And the second is in effect a repetition of the first, as under imperialism different parts of the world experience the violent transition to modernity. Though the first transition, if it has a historical moment at all, happened some two hundred years earlier than the modern ghost story achieves its stable form, belatedness is consistently one of the characteristics of the modern ghost story. And regardless of whether that is an accurate or helpful model for understanding social change in the 19th century, it is overwhelmingly the narrative that ghost stories tell, and these are the terms in which they tell it. Crucial to the ghost story’s emergence at this moment is the coterminous emergence of the realist novel in its high modern form. The ghost story, like all genres, is a category meaningful only through its differences from and relationships with other genres. The ghost story does not much bother to distinguish itself from the folk tale, but it definitely has the realist novel in its sights. The ghost story can respond to realism in this way, can conduct a dialogue with it, because there was already something ghostly about realism to begin with. The novel has long been understood as the genre which picks up the burden of the epic, once the epic can no longer bear it: representing the social totality of a world-system. And this project – the business of representing the 227

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social totality, of making visible the structures that invisibly undergird the lived experiences of everyday life – was one the realists themselves imagined in ghostly terms. In the early nineteenth century, a new form of realism developed: the historical novel, in which history came to play new roles in realism’s representation of the social totality. The modern ghost story emerged at the same time, as a counter-narrative to that relationship between history and social totality. The modern English ghost story began with Walter Scott, I have argued, rather than with Defoe or with the Gothic novel more broadly, because it was only with Scott and the new modes of historical consciousness of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that the ghost story took on this project of representing the troubled relationship between historical trauma and modernity. Typically, these ghost stories center around some haunted property: some aged, aristocratic and rural building, the physical embodiment of the way of life of the landed gentry; the stories’ trauma, then, the reason for the ghosts’ appearance, is that the house is occupied by some representatives of the newly-emerging bourgeoisie, or the last remnants of the dying aristocracy, their inheritance still only on the verge of being interrupted. The anxiety of the stories, then, is both that of the bourgeoisie anxious to legitimate their inheritance of the social spaces of aristocratic power, and that of the aristocracy anxious to sustain their own legitimacy. And the quintessential moment such stories look back to, the moment that haunts them, is the traumatic transition from feudalism to capitalism. Trauma is the founding premise of this narrative of modernity. Parallel with the transition out of feudalism in Europe, the ghost story’s second primary concern is empire. A moment’s reflection may convince us that this interest in empire is not surprising, since in a certain sense the experience of empire was always a ghostly repetition of Europe’s bloody transition into modernity, as though Britain kept going out to re-experience, and to re-visit on others, that trauma over and over again. Even in its earliest versions, the ghost story is already focused on the parts of Britain belatedly making this transition: Scott’s Highlanders, Le Fanu’s Irish peasants, the still-coherent because still-feudal rural communities of Dickens and Gaskell. Small wonder, then, that the ghost story becomes a key genre for narrating the process by which the further reaches of the British Empire become incorporated into modernity, and that the ghost becomes a key figure later in global subaltern literatures of the twentieth century.



The history of the ghost story gets complicated as we move to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Usually considered the form’s golden age, it is in fact hard not to feel that the genre is increasingly set on autopilot, that its basic techniques get endlessly repeated with only minimal variations. Ghost stories, even good ones, continue to be written through the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries, though the ghost story’s function as a negative image of the realist project disappears as realism ceases to be the dominant literary mode, replaced by modernism and then postmodernism. But modernist writers found ways of doing new things with the figure of the ghost, mostly outside the confines of the ghost story proper. The last chapters of this book turn away from the ghost story in its Edwardian-anthology form and instead follow the ghost as it becomes a key figure in the twentieth century’s high literature, arguing that the work that the ghost does changes radically in these different contexts. In modernist writing, the ghost figures not the persistence of the past into the present, but rather the present itself, modernity experienced as increasingly abstract, diffuse, and intangible – as ghostly. And in postcolonial writing, the ghost appears at the intersection of competing traditions of the spectral: the one whose history is given in the first half of this manuscript; and indigenous traditions, in which, though the ghost has a wide variety of entirely different local meanings, the postcolonial ghost consistently represents locality and specificity. The specificity of the Nigerian bush and the specificity of pre-colonial Irish culture are importantly different, but within these postcolonial ghost stories, what matters is not the particularities but rather a notion of the pre-colonial, the non-modern. Ghost stories, unsurprisingly, do not have any single meaning. Making sense of any particular ghost story requires putting it into a context provided not only by other ghost stories that precede and follow it, but also with the larger literary history that surrounds it; in particular, I have argued, with the history of the novel. Ghost stories consistently engage with the same questions of epistemology, representation and meaning that realist novels ask, and are best understood as engaged in a conversation with such realist novels. The projects of realism and of the ghost story, it has turned out, are never far apart. Throughout this book I have invoked a Lukácsian version of literary history, even when I have been arguing that it gets things wrong, because it remains the most useful frame for making sense of generic struggle, as many other critics demonstrate (for example, McKeon 1987); and as I hope this book will have demonstrated, Lukács’s novelistic

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categories are equally illuminating when they frame a discussion of a genre like the ghost story. All literature makes the absent present and the unseen visible. Genres come into being in order to help readers make sense of their presentday experience, some nearby patch of history. But they then get handed down as storytelling forms – as templates – into which ever new patches of present experience then get plugged. Genres necessarily try to make sense of the present in terms of the past. They are even, if you like, a kind of intrusion of the past, the past’s monopoly on a certain intelligibility. And to that extent they are ghostly. Given that this is how genre works, the ghost story is not a marginal genre to literary history, but rather the genre in which crucial aspects of and questions about literature are more bluntly addressed than they are elsewhere. Reading the generic functions of the ghost story has consequences for reading genre itself. And it will continue to do so, as long as we still have histories to tell and the desire to tell them. The work of this book has consequences that reach beyond the genre of the ghost story, in at least two directions. The first is outwards into literary history more broadly. Ghost stories are responses to other literary forms as much as they are responses to their historical moment – the questions that ghosts stories care about and understand themselves to be answering are not only such political and ideological questions but also literary ones. (My argument, even if it is clearly Marxist in its parameters, is obviously not that of a reductive Marxism which thinks there is some simple causal relation between the productive mechanisms of a society and the literature it produces, base and superstructure.) Though this book focuses on the way that the ghost story responds to the novel, one of the implications of my argument is that the history of the novel needs to be re-thought with more attention paid to the way the novel’s project is an engagement with other literary forms like the ghost story. The second direction in which the work of this book opens up is towards theory or philosophy. For instance, what gets described as a ‘spectral turn’ (Luckhurst 2002) in European philosophy can be productively thought of in relation to the history of the ghost story. The first thing to say here is that European philosophy did not take such a spectral turn with Derrida’s Specters of Marx; ghosts have long been philosophy’s concern. Sartre’s Being and Nothingness is a key example of the ways in which European philosophy’s ideas of subjectivity found the figure of the ghost useful long before Derrida, so let me take a moment to explore Sartre’s ideas.



Being is basically Sartre’s term for the entirety of the object world. Sartre argues that ordinary objects are identical to themselves. What is unusual about human beings is that they are non-identical; they do not coincide with themselves. (Nothingness is thus broadly speaking his word for the subject: which means that the title of the book is really just Subject and Object, except that the object has a certain anti-Cartesian primacy and so comes first.) We can say that a book is a book, fully. But we cannot say that Simon Hay is an English professor and mean it in the same way. But then Sartre introduces two complications. First, he points out that people are not just subjects; they are also bodies, and to that extent objects in the world. And second, he explains that most people aspire to a certain identity. They want to be what they are or what they take themselves to be. They want to be a subject-object; he is not saying not that they want to be all body, without mind, but rather that they want to be wholly themselves. And he says that ‘the impossible synthesis’ of subject and object is the ‘perpetually absent being which haunts’ the subject. All people suffer because they are ‘perpetually haunted by a completed synthesis which they are without being able to be it.’ You are both body and mind, but you are not the union of body and mind. More generally: ‘Consciousness can exist only as engaged in this being which surrounds it on all sides and which paralyzes it with its phantom presence’ (Sartre 2003, all p. 140). Clearly, there is something of the modernist idea of the ghost in play here: to be a subject is to be haunted. But Sartre’s philosophy is ahistorical in this regard; being is what it is not only now, under conditions produced by modern capitalism, but rather as a universally true human condition. The insistence on a language of haunting, then, also marks the presence of a history that remains otherwise absent, which is to say, these are Victorian ghosts fully as much as they are modern ones, and Sartre’s ‘being’ is a modern condition haunted by an idea of completion or synthesis understood as something lost, a mode of identity cast as premodern and no longer available. Much more could be said about Sartre’s ghosts, but we already have here enough to suggest that the literary categories of this book’s history will be helpful to any more thorough analysis of Being and Nothingness. Ghost stories have persisted long after many of their commentators and writers thought they would or could do so. But they persist only by changing, adapting, and finding uses often startlingly new. Nonetheless, their traditional functions remain useful, indeed vital in all sorts of ways, as other forms of historical telling are marginalized

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and superseded. Indeed, in the broad and intense ahistoricity of most First World culture, the significance and value of ghost stories becomes increasingly important. And unless we pay attention to the history of such a mode of writing about history, we will miss the opportunity to read such stories as anything other than another version of postmodern ahistoricity.


Introduction 1. There is another Freudian point to make about the modern ghost story, which is that it develops in the emergence of, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a whole set of narratives collectively grounded in the pleasures of fear, for which Burke’s Sublime and Beautiful is a key text. Freud (1959b) also points out the role of the sublime rather than the beautiful in the narratives from which he constructs his analysis of the uncanny. The ghost story, but also the horror story and the gothic novel, all share Burke’s admiration for ‘delightful horror, which is the most genuine effect, and truest test of the sublime’ (1958, p. 73). These genres collectively, as does one version of Romanticism, turn away from the beautiful towards the sublime for their governing aesthetic. And, as Leithauser (1995) explains, this shift too is part of a broader shift from Enlightenment rationalism to Victorian skepticism, though of course those terms themselves are so hopelessly generalizing that it is hard to really see some coherent moment of transition from one to the other (32). I put these terms to one side, though, out of the desire again not to let Freud provide us with preemptive answers to questions that have other more interesting historical and social answers. 2. Freud (1955) does extend his theory of trauma from the private to the social, in ways that other psychoanalysts (for example, Abraham and Torok 1994) develop, arguing that we can effectively inherit traumas that we did not directly experience. Again, such theories continue to privilege the categories of the psychological rather than the social in ways that make explaining ghost stories in these terms circular. 3. Specifically, here, I am excluding the entirely different project of investigating ghost stories in relation to the short story as a genre. I do not mean to suggest, by its exclusion, that such a project is uninteresting or irrelevant; merely that in its concern with the invisible, and with history, the ghost story is involved in an exchange or conversation first and foremost with the realist novel in its various forms.


A Failed Modernity

1. ‘This is to locate the referent of ‘modernity’ in a new way, via the ancient ghostly forms of the experience itself rather than in some one-to-one correspondence between the alleged concept and its equally alleged object’ (Jameson, 2002 p. 39). Jameson is careful to point out that this is an analysis peculiar to Europe: such a transition didn’t happen in the same shape in America or across the colonized world. And those differences matter to the ghost story, as we shall see, especially in chapters four and six. 233

234 Notes 2. See also Mudimbe’s (1988) critique of anthropology as relying on the notion of ‘einfuhlung’ (empathy); for Mrs Baliol, the ghost serves to affirm the transparency of the past for modern rationality, its capacity to be identified and known, much like the object of anthropology, on Mudimbe’s critique. 3. Lukács describes Scott’s historical novels collectively as addressing a ‘chain of . . . crises’ that effectively make up the single ongoing crisis of the transition from feudalism to capitalism: ‘from the first great struggles between the rising Scottish middle class and the nobility, from royalty’s attempt to use these struggles in strengthening central power (The Fair Maid of Perth – end of the fourteenth century) to the last attempts of the Stuarts to turn back the clock of history, to restore outdated Absolutism in an already far advanced capitalist England (Rob Roy – end of the eighteenth century)’ (57). Even Ivanhoe takes the same shape, reading in these terms the twelfth century encounter between colonizing Normans and colonized Saxons. 4. Tessone’s reading of Scott’s novel Guy Mannering argues that many of the characteristics I attribute here to the ghost stories and not to his historical novels can be found in that novel. Insofar as she is right, though, Guy Mannering is anomalous, representative of Scott trying out his ghost story ideas in a novel rather than representative of his historical novels generally. Waverley remains the prototype and exemplar of that genre. 5. Though Williams’s idea of the residual (1977) would need modification to fit this geographical instance, along the lines of the model he develops in The Country and City, of a repetitive and nostalgic narrative of loss. The ‘true’ English countryside, Williams argues, has been declared to have only just disappeared with astonishing regularity from the eighteenth through to the twentieth centuries, though he also finds instances of its disappearances as far back as the sixteenth, too. (Naipaul’s Enigma of Arrival would be a recent example of the persistence of this kind of narrative.) British countryside, that is, has been for a long time something melancholically constructed via loss and remembrance. It is, that is to say, remarkably fitted to the narratives of ghost stories.


Fragment and Totality

1. Though Rushdie is talking about his own writing, not Dickens’s, it stands as a Lukácsian defense of realism. Citing Rushdie introduces a number of complications, not least of which is that magic realism goes about this mapping project differently to mid nineteenth-century realism. We will return to magic realism, and its relation to the realist project and to the ghost story, in Chapter six. Nonetheless, at this point, Rushdie functions as an insightful commentator on classical realism, even if not a practitioner of it. 2. The invisible suffering that Dickens is here concerned with is not the plantation slavery and colonial administration that Jameson argues is the truth that lies behind the drinking of sugar and tea, but rather England’s own working class and unemployed, suffering at the hands of landlords, capitalist employers, legal systems and misguided philanthropists. Indeed, as already noted, it is precisely one of the key limitations of the realist novel that its ‘totalized’








vision of society has become reduced to the parameters of the nation-state rather than (as in the epic) the world-system. This could be our unnamed medical narrator identifying himself in the third person; at no other point in reference to himself, however, does he use the third person so. Le Fanu seems fond enough of narrative complexity and puzzles for the possibility of a third narrator to at least be plausible here. More important, perhaps, than the eventual decision we make as to whether there is yet another narrator present here, though, is recognizing its possibility: in this irresolvability, in fact, we can see that the narrative frame introduces even more intently such layers of uncertainty into our reading practice. A whole branch of contemporary supernatural fiction follows Miéville’s formulation. In Dead Beat, one of Jim Butcher’s ‘Harry Dresden’ novels, the wizard, Harry Dresden, is explaining to a character who has just had his first encounter with the terrifying supernatural world. ‘You find out about horrible things that happen—things you would be happier not knowing. So rather than live with the fear, you get away from the situation. After a while you can convince yourself that you must have just imagined it. Or maybe exaggerated it in the remembering. You rationalize whatever you can, forget whatever you can’t, and get back to your life’ (54). The supernatural, that is, has a particular ability to make visible truths about the ‘real world.’ ‘Reality’ is a process of denial; realism and the supernatural both are about breaking down that denial, being open to other kinds of knowledge. Originally published in April 1864 in Dublin University Magazine with the title ‘Wicked Captain Walshawe of Wauling.’ The title ‘My Uncle Watson’ was the choice of the editor of the 1970s collection of Le Fanu’s stories The Hours After Midnight, on the amusing grounds that the other one sounds silly, and because Le Fanu’s titles were often changed by editors. In terms of the narrative of the realist ghost story, what is important about ‘A Christmas Carol’ is how hard it has to work to represent Scrooge’s ‘salvation’ by the ghosts – a process of bullying, threatening, even blackmailing him into being happy – as not an act of horror, which it can achieve only by a complex representation of Scrooge as both (a) repugnantly miserly beyond even stereotype to caricature, and (b) clearly an aberration from the path he ‘should’ have followed given what a nice boy and young man he was; the ghosts are not, we are given to understand, ‘changing’ Scrooge so much as ‘changing him back.’

Supernatural Naturalism

1. Robert Michalski has argued that these stories of M. R. James’s function as a critique of commodity fetishism, that they are a kind of Marxist defetishization project: the standard mode of such stories, he says, is to show how ‘the seeming stability of objects gives way to reveal itself as an active relationship among people’ (120). As a gloss on Marx, however, that seems entirely backward. The problem of commodity fetishism is that we treat objects as though they were magically alive and self-directing, when in fact they are not. To de-fetishize an object is, in one crucial sense, to make it dead again and see that only human capacity and creativity can make objects

236 Notes live. Michalski argues that the glasses are an inanimate object brought to live through the restoration of their history to them; but if that is so, it is the story’s project to re-fetishize the glasses. They are an object of horror because they are not themselves dead, because they have a specific history; in ‘killing’ them, however, the story’s conclusion is a process of rejecting their history, insisting on the superiority of a pair of binoculars without history, sui generis. The story’s problem needing resolution is the existence of an unfetishized commodity. 2. In this, Julia’s accounting metaphor for fairness aligns her with an idea of justice that can be quantified, and thus a logic of the marketplace. Despite her attitudes to the poor, though, Julia is in most senses traditional rather than modern: she does indeed give Sarah money to distribute to the poor, and Sarah tells us she ‘had none of the ‘fast’ tendencies which have become so common lately’ (173). That is to say, the psychological conflict between Julia’s coldness and the warmth of the Chrightons is not straightforwardly representative of a social or historical conflict.


Ghosts That a White Man Can See

1. It is worth noting, for instance, that surveying recent books on the short story, Frank Myszor’s Modern Short Story, Martin Scofield’s Cambridge Introduction to the American Short Story and Adrian Hunter’s Cambridge Introduction to the Short Story in English have between them only a handful of paragraphs on the ghost story. That said, David Stevens’s The Gothic Tradition also pays only cursory attention to the ghost story; something about the ghost story clearly unsettles whatever broader generic category we might like to assign it to. 2. In a slightly different way, Kipling’s stories ‘Haunted Subalterns’ and ‘My Own True Ghost Story’ focus on British characters haunted by indigenous ghosts, rather than British ghosts. The stories function to much the same end, however, in that the ghosts by picking white people to haunt imply the significance of the haunted people’s relationship to the landscape, in contrast to the excluded indigenous people who are not thus haunted. 3. A note on names: Ken Gelder’s Oxford Book of Australian Ghost Stories, in which this story is collected, spells the author’s surname ‘Chads,’ while Susan Martin in The Oxford Literary History of Australia spells the same author’s surname ‘Chad.’ Though my references to the story are from the Gelder collection, I use Martin’s spelling. 4. Making matters more complex, the phrase ‘bright and particular star’ comes from William Allen Butler’s 1858 poem ‘Nothing to Wear: An Episode of City Life.’ Easy to point to is Harry’s desire to undress Ellie with the description; more interesting, given the argument I make in what follows, is that she is thus identified for him with a city scene, whereas the story sets up his rural life with her as the desirable antithesis to the work-life he has but hates in Melbourne.


‘I had not Thought Death had Undone so Many’

1. See Bennett (2001) for a different argument about the enchantment, not disenchantment, of modernity.



2. The paragraph ‘Ghoul! Chewer of corpses!’ could grammatically be either Stephen speaking to the ghost of his mother or the ghost speaking to him. That it is followed by the paragraph beginning ‘No mother. Let me be and let me live’ suggests that the two are spoken by different speakers, in Stephen’s mind, and hence the first by his mother and directed at or to Stephen. The possibility that it could be either Stephen or his mother, however, reinforces one of my main points; that being a ghost and being haunted are, in modernism, increasingly represented as the same thing. 3. Deane has argued that Joyce’s Dublin was spectral as early as Dubliners. Dubliners, he argues, ‘threatens, in subtle and disturbing ways, to fade into ghostliness. The twilit, half-lit, street-lit, candle-lit, gas-lit, firelit settings are inhabited by shadows and silhouettes that remind us both of the insubstantial nature of these lives and also of their latent and repressed possibilities. These people are shades who have never lived, vicarious inhabitants of a universe ruled by others’ (2000, p. 21). 4. Pilger quotes from The Australian School Atlas (1939), (Melbourne: Oxford UP): vii, 51–62. This atlas was, according to Pilger, the standard school atlas from its publication until 1966 (180). The near simultaneous publication of Slessor’s poem and this atlas is, surely, no more than serendipitous. But it does point to a broader set of cultural assumptions about the representation and perception of colonial encounter, and of the narratives of white exploration of a black land.


The Ghost Story and Magic Realism

1. The temporality of the narration is just as precise, and complex in its precision, in the original as is the translation. ‘Vine a Comala porque me dijeron que acá vivía mi padre, un tal Pedro Páramo. Mi madre me lo dijo. Y yo le prometí que vendría a verlo en cuanto ella muriera . . . . Todavía antes me había dicho . . . ’ (9). The careful relationships between past perfect (vine, me dijeron, me lo dijo, le prometí) and past imperfect (vivía), past subjunctive (vendría a verlo), conditional (muriera), and indicative-pluperfect (había dicho) are even more clearly marked in Spanish than in English, even as they are overlaid and grammatically interdependent. 2. This is also the typical structure of folk or oral art forms, which are characterized by ‘Cyclical progression [of scenes] linked thematically’ as against print/literate art’s ‘linear progression’ of scenes, and by ‘Multiple episodes that have their own centres’ as against a ‘Singular episode extended through detail’ (Gabriel 1994, p. 351). In other words, the novel’s structure is a melancholic reproduction of traditional forms. 3. Walter Benjamin (2003) and Alain Badiou’s (2010) politics of ‘transtemporal’ events (p.233) are good examples of non-indigenous thinkers of non-linear temporality.

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Achebe, Chinua, 203, 205 Adorno, Theodor, 12, 25, 56, 86–7, 122–3 Minima Moralia, 57, 160 advertising, 175–7 agency, 15, 103–4, 112, 114, 116, 119, 120 alienation, 158–60, 167, 219–20 allegory, 59, 76–9 and history, 120–1 Anderson, Benedict, 65, 181–3, 198 antiquarian, 93, 96–100 architecture, 14, 124–6, 161–2 authoritarianism, 125–6 Awatere, Donna, 214 Badiou, Alain, 237 Barthes, Roland, 63, 99 Baucom, Ian, 19, 34, 39–40, 54, 125–6, 167, 181–3 Beardsall, Peter, 196–7 Beer, Gillian, 18 Behn, Aphra, Oroonoko, 79 being, 231 Benjamin, Walter, 2, 26, 27, 32, 176–7, 181, 189, 199, 237 Bennett, Jane, 236 Benson, E.F. ‘The Shuttered Room,’ 69 Berman, Marshall, 158–9, 168 Blackwood, Algernon, 17, 121 ‘The Kit-bag,’ 71 ‘The Willows,’ 93, 109, 116–21 bourgeois readers, 36, 55 Braddon, Mary Elizabeth, ‘At Chrighton Abbey,’ 93, 110–15, 147, 236 ‘The Shadow in the Corner,’ 109–10 Briggs, Julia, 91

Broughton, Rhoda ‘The Story of Clifford House,’ 71 ‘The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth,’ 71 Brown, Charles Brockden Edgar Huntley; Or, Memoirs of a Sleepwalker, 127–8 Wieland Or, the Transformation: An American Tale, 127, 138 Brown, Nicholas, 160 Buck-Morss, Susan, 177 Bull, Malcolm, 160, 189 Burke, Edmund, 32, 233 Burney, Francis Cecilia, or Memoirs of an Heiress, 72 Buse, Peter, 5, 87 Butcher, Jim Dead Beat, 235 Butler, William Allen, 236 Cabral, Amilcar, 200–1 Cain, P.J., and A.G. Hopkins, 9, 50 capitalism, 6, 9, 15, 23, 29–30, 39, 50, 52–6, 66–8, 70–5, 78, 84, 85, 99, 100, 102 see also feudalism Caruth, Cathy, 4, 182, 210 Césaire, Aimé, 11 Chad, Ellen Augusta, 236 ‘Ghost of Wanganilla: Founded on Fact,’ 132, 138–45, 187, 188 Christmas specials, 57, 64, 69, 75 see also Dickens, Charles classicism, 124–6, 160 Clery, E.J., 140 Clover, Carol, 22 cognitive mapping, 20, 22, 60–8, 83–4, 89–90, 99, 146–55, 166 Collins, Harold R., 207 Collins, Wilkie ‘Miss Jéromette and the Clergyman,’ 71


250 Index commodity, 99, 101–3, 118, 162–3, 176–9, 235–6 Conrad, Joseph, 11, 26, 79, 128, 146, 158, 183, 189 Lord Jim, 80, 153–5 ‘The Secret Sharer,’ 132, 150–5 Cox, Michael, 159 Croker, Bithia ‘To Let,’ 71 Deane, Seamus, 175, 202, 237 decolonization, 202, 203, 207, 208, 212 deconstruction, 185–6 Defoe, Daniel, 7, 228 Moll Flanders, 79–80 ‘A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs. Veal,’ 29 Derrida, Jacques, 23, 37, 41, 65, 76, 183, 188–9, 213, 230 desire, 94–6, 103–7 Dickens, Charles, 57–77, 90, 91, 149, 218, 228, 234 ‘The Baron of Grogzwig,’ 69–70 Bleak House, 59, 64, 73–4, 77, 218 ‘A Christmas Carol’, 65–8, 89, 235 Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son, Wholesale, Retail, and for Exportation, 62, 64, 68, 89 The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, 63, 69 Hard Times, 77 A Tale of Two Cities, 77 ‘The Trial for Murder: To Be Taken With a Grain of Salt,’ 71 différance, 185–6 domesticity, 109–16, 121 Doyle, Arthur Conan ‘The Brown Hand,’ 11, 132–8 dreams, 210–11, 222 Duncan, Ian, 58 Edmundson, Mark, 5 Eliot, George, 60 Eliot, T.S., 26, 189, 195, 200, 201, 225 The Waste Land, 157–8, 168, 195, 197 empire, 125 Englishness, 45–52, 126, 137, 192

epistemology, 4, 13, 18, 24, 25, 33, 62, 66–8, 146, 149, 153–5, 161, 200 empiricism, 17–18, 27, 82, 89 positivism, 97–9, 119, 123; see also truth, scientific dialectics, 17, 25, 65, 86–7, 89, 98 exemplarity, 1–2 expressionism, 160 Fagunwa, D.O., 192 Fanon, Frantz, 144–5, 173–5, 179, 200–3, 225 fashion, 78–9, 176–7 Faulkner, William, 13 feudalism, 2, 6–7, 12–15, 23–5, 70–4, 95, 113–14, 228 see also capitalism form, 1, 12, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26, 92–3 Franco, Ernesto, 193–4 Freud, Sigmund, 5, 10–11, 51, 88, 210, 233 Gabriel, Teshome H., 192, 237 Gadamer, Hans Georg, 76 Gaskell, Elizabeth, 58, 228 ‘The Ghost in the Garden Room,’ 69 ‘The Squire’s Story,’ 69 Gelder, Ken, 236 genre, 1–2, 11, 15–17, 19–27, 28–9, 58, 75–6, 230 Gifford, Don, 170 Gilbert, Elliot, 92, 150, Gilbert, Geoffrey, 162, 166 Gilroy, Paul, 173, 212 Gordon, Avery, 23, 186 gothic, 23, 124–38, 173–4, 191, 193, 195, 199, 202 Gothic novel, 29, 38, 45, 53 Grace, Patricia Baby No-Eyes, 27, 193, 212–26 Hart, Kevin, 185–6 Hartley, L.P., 13, 99, 160 Harvey, William Fryer ‘Sambo,’ 11, 131 haunting, theories of, 19–20, 49, 64 Hegel, G.W.F., 54–6, 57, 60, 86–7, 119, 120

Index heterochronicity, 33, 39–40, 46–7, 50, 65, 68, 182–3, 188 historical novel, 13–15, 18, 19, 21–2, 24, 28–30, 37–56, 85, 115, 152, 228, 234 historicism, 85 historicity, 13, 103, 199, 232 historiography, 21–2, 119–23 of Scott, Walter, 39 Hobsbawn, Eric, 70, 75–6, 130 home, see house homosexuality, 45 homosociality, 44–5 Horkheimer, Max, 25, 87, 121–3 house, 5, 8, 12–14, 17, 18, 26, 75, 94–6 Hudson, Nicholas, 73 Huggan, Graham, 190 Hunter, Adrian, 236 indigeneity, 26–7, 127–32, 144–5, 174, 190–226, 229, 236 inheritance, 2–9, 16, 22, 38, 47–8, 60, 69–74, 132–8, 228 and imperial knowledge, 146–54 of past, 12–14, 17, 19, 24, 26, 51–5, 93–6, 119 James, Henry, 11, 26, 172, 189 ‘The Jolly Corner,’ 26, 160–7, 184 The Turn of the Screw, 152 James, M. R., 25, 27 ‘The Ash Tree,’ 94–5 ‘The Diary of Mr. Poynter,’ 95 ‘The Malice of Inanimate Objects,’ 93–7 ‘Mr. Humphrey and His Inheritance,’ 70 ‘The Residence at Whitminister,’ 96, 98–9 ‘The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance,’ 97–8 ‘The Tractate Middoth,’ 106 ‘The Treasure of Abbot Thomas,’ 106 ‘A View from a Hill,’ 27, 93–5, 100, 108 ‘Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad,’ 104


Jameson, Fredric, 20, 29, 54, 55, 60, 61, 63, 77, 88–90, 99, 105, 115, 146, 156, 200, 233, 234 Jauss, Hans Robert, 13 Johnson, Babasola, 207 Joyce, James, 26, 58, 197, 202, 237 Ulysses, 160, 168–79, 183, 237 Kahukiwa, Robin, 223 Kerouac, Jack, 158, 166, 225, 243 Kiberd, Declan, 202 Kipling, Rudyard, 12, 92, 131 ‘Haunted Subalterns,’ 236 ‘In the House of Suddhoo,’ 132, 146–52 ‘My Own True Ghost Story,’ 236 ‘The Phantom Rickshaw,’ 146 ‘The Tomb of His Ancestors,’ 126 LaDuke, Winona, 214 Landon, Perceval ‘Thurnley Abbey,’ 131 landscapes, 13–14, 127–9, 132–3, 136–45, 236 see also natural world Lawn, Jennifer, 130 Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan, 12, 15, 57, 78–85, 91, 93, 95, 96, 98, 99, 110, 130, 228, 235 ‘An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street,’ 71 ‘Dickon the Devil,’ 68–70 ‘Green Tea,’ 10–11, 64, 81–4 ‘A Haunted House,’ 69 In a Glass Darkly, 63 ‘Mr Justice Harbottle,’ 71 ‘Squire Toby’s Will,’ 70 ‘The Watcher,’ 20, 78–9, 88 Leithauser, Brad, 87, 233 Levenson, Michael, 158 Lloyd, David, 202 Luckhurst, Roger, 23, 230 Lukács, Georg, 19, 29, 38, 39, 48, 54–5, 58, 60, 61, 63, 64, 77, 84, 86, 89, 93, 101–3, 105, 108, 112, 115, 119, 130, 229, 234 Lynch, Eve, 8, 110

252 Index MacDonald, George ‘Uncle Cornelius His Story,’ 6–7, 18 Machen, Arthur, 11, 74, 160 Mackesy, Piers, 50 magic realism, 19, 26–7, 190–226 marginality, 10, 19, 22 Martin, Susan K., 140–1, 144 Martineau, Harriet, 130 Marx, Karl, 119–20, 235 Marxism, 85, 235 masculinity, 133–4, 137, 140–3, 153, 154, 165 Matory, J. Lorand, 209 Maugham, W. Somerset, 11, 12 Mbembe, Achille, 203, 208 McClintock, Anne, 8, 110 McKeon, Michael, 229 medievalism, 125–6 melancholia, see mourning and melancholia memory, 14, 78–9 Michalski, Robert, 235 modernization, 32, 159, 162, 175, 193, 209–10 modernism, 19, 21, 22, 26, 27, 155–6, 157–89, 195, 202–3, 207, 229, 231, 237 modernity, 13–15, 18, 24–6, 29–30, 39–40, 233 Moodie, Susanna, 140 Moretti, Franco, 57–8, 60, 83, 200 Morrison, Toni, 190, 213, 225 Beloved, 193, 215, 221, 223 Morton, Patricia, 10 mourning and melancholia, 33, 35, 51–2, 88–9, 112, 184, 203, 211–12 Mudimbe, V. Y., 205, 234 Myszor, Frank, 236 narrative frame, 6, 18, 21, 30–43, 79–83, 96–9, 235 nation-state, 60, 65, 125, 181, 207–8, 235 national identity, 143, 145, 181 nationalism, 130, 140–3, 182–3, 188, 200, 214, 222, 226 natural world, 127–9, 132–3, 140, 192 and civilization, 116–21 see also landscape

naturalism, 25, 150, 155, 160, 161, 180, 92–123 and realism, 92–103 naturalist supernatural, 92, 101, 122–3 Nesbit, Edith, 71 Ngugi wa Thiong’o, 218 Nora, Pierre, 101 nostalgia, 15, 18, 24, 32, 34, 43, 49, 50, 53, 164–6, 234 Obiechina, Emmanuel N., 209 objects, 99–100, 120 see also commodities Offer, Avner, 3, 70 Orlando, Francisco, 15, 159 Parkin-Gounelas, Ruth, 12, 87 Paterson, A. B. ‘Banjo’, 142–3 petty bourgeois history, 116–21 phantasmagoria, 26, 177–9, 189 Pilger, John, 187 Piot, Charlie, 205 Pizer, Donald, 92, 93 primogeniture, 8, 16, 113, 115 property, 2–6, 8, 13–14, 17, 68–75, 78–9, 132, 137, 161–6, 188, 228 psychology, 92, 103–15 individual, 106–7, 109, 110, 122–3 psychoanalysis, 5–6, 233 public and private, 62, 77 Quilligan, Maureen, 76 realism, 19–27, 57–90, 149, 150, 155, 160, 166, 174, 183, 198, 202, 217, 221, 226, 227–9, 233, 234 anti-realism, 119, 123 metarealism, 83 and reality, 63, 83–4, 235 and naturalism, 92–103 Reeve, Clara, 29 republicanism, 125–6 Ricketts, Harry, 149 Riddell, Charlotte, ‘The Open Door,’ 1–10, 12, 15–17, 20, 33, 52, 68, 70, 73, 91, 99

Index Rulfo, Juan Pedro Páramo, 26, 193–202, 225, 237 Rushdie, Salman, 74, 234 Midnight’s Children, 59–60 Said, Edward, 10, 61 Sargeson, Frank, 129 ‘Gods Live in Woods,’ 129, 138, 142 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 230–1 Scofield, Martin, 106, 236 Scott, Walter, 11, 15, 18, 21–2, 24, 26, 28–56, 58, 60, 63, 75, 79, 82, 87, 101, 109, 130, 131, 152–3, 191, 228 Guy Mannering, 234 ‘The Highland Widow,’ 28, 30–8, 42, 45, 53, 79 ‘My Aunt Margaret’s Mirror,’ 28, 76 ‘The Tapestried Chamber,’ 28, 42–52, 53, 98–9, 101, 110–11 Waverly; or, ‘Tis Sixty Years Since, 14, 37–52, 78, 102, 234 Shakespeare, William, 94, 168, 171, 213 Slessor, Kenneth, 26, 160, 197, 201, 237 ‘Five Bells,’ 160, 179–89 Smith-Wright, Geraldine, 191 Smith, Adam, 34–5 solicitors, 68–74 spectacle, 29, 41–2 spectatorship, 35, 38, 52–3 Stevens, David, 236 Stevenson, Robert Louis, 11, 131 Stoler, Ann Laura, 125 style, 121–3 sublime, 117, 118, 180, 233 suffering, 4, 12–14, 87, 122–3, 234 Sullivan, Jack, 10, 21, 89, 91, 99, 116 symbolism, 118–21 sympathy, 34–42, 52, 152–5 Taussig, Michael, 168 technology, 205–7 temporality, 59, 64–8, 83, 181–3, 194, 197–8, 213, 221, 237


Tessone, Natasha, 234 Thometz, Kurt, 207, 209 Thorne, Christian, 5, 83, 100, 154, 200 Tiedemann, Rolf, 86 Torok, Maria, 210, 233 totality, 10–11, 19–21, 58–65, 77, 80, 98, 123, 198, 217, 221, 227–8, 234–5 and fragment, 84–90 trace, 30, 32, 44–5, 56 tradition, 46–9, 59, 76–9, 113–15, 122 and modernity, 193, 205–6, 209–10, 212 truth, 11, 20–1, 24–5, 33–4, 82, 86–7, 92, 105, 107, 110, 122–3 authenticity, 79–80, 97 imperial, 146–7 scientific, 138–41, 150; see also epistemology; positivism Turcotte, Gerry, 129 Tutuola, Amos, 226 My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, 26, 193, 202–13, 225 uncanny, 17–18, 95, 144, 207, 233 unconscious, 104 universalism, 122 Wallerstein, Immanuel, 86 Watt, Ian, 58 Weber, Max, 158–9 Wharton, Edith, 11, 95, 159 ‘Kerfol,’ 13, 14 Whelan, Kevin, 202 Williams, Raymond, 39, 46, 48, 234 witnessing, 37, 41 Woolf, Virginia, 161 Yeats, William Butler, 172, 200, 212 ‘The Stolen Child,’ 191–3 Young, Robert, 130 Zola, Émile, 58, 92, 93, 102–10, 111, 123 Au Bonheur Des Dames, 93, 102–10, 111, 112