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The Handbook to the Ghost Story sets out to survey and significantly extend a new field of criticism which has been taking shape over recent years, centring on the ghost story and bringing together a vast range of interpretive methods and theoretical perspectives. The main task of the volume is to properly situate the genre within historical and contemporary literary cultures across the globe, and to explore its significance within wider literary contexts as well as those of the supernatural. The Handbook offers the most significant contribution to this new critical field to date, assembling some of its leading scholars to examine the key contexts and issues required for understanding the emergence and development of the ghost story.
This book resituates the ghost story as a matter of literary hospitality and as part of a vital prehistory of modernism, seeing it not as a quaint neo-gothic ornament, but as a powerful literary response to the technological and psychological disturbances that marked the end of the Victorian era. Linking little-studied authors like M. R. James and May Sinclair to such canonical figures as Dickens, Henry James, Woolf, and Joyce, Thurston argues that the literary ghost should be seen as no mere relic of gothic style but as a portal of discovery, an opening onto the central modernist problem of how to write ‘life itself.’ Ghost stories are split between an ironic, often parodic reference to Gothic style and an evocation of ‘life itself,’ an implicit repudiation of all literary style. Reading the ghost story as both a guest and a host story, this book traces the ghost as a disruptive figure in the ‘hospitable’ space of narrative from Maturin, Poe and Dickens to the fin de siècle, and then on into the twentieth century.

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