Tuesday, October 27, 2015
WORMWOOD 25 - Modernist Ghosts
This autumn, we’re celebrating 25 issues of Wormwood, and over 150 thought-provoking essays on the literature of the fantastic, supernatural and decadent.
Over the next few days, we’ll be highlighting the contents of our landmark issue 25, due out on 9 November.
The ghost story: an old-fashioned form; its finest writer an antiquarian. A thing of graveyards and cloisters, steeped in tradition. Surely it simply “wallows in the nightmares of history”?
Not according to Cambridge academic James Riley, who opens our new issue with his ‘Notes on the Modernist Ghost Story’. It’s time to acknowledge a different approach:
“…the figure of the ghost, theme of haunting and the presence of the supernatural are not concepts alien to ‘high’ modernism. Woolf opened her collection Monday or Tuesday (1921) with the story ‘A Haunted House’ which later became the title of her posthumous collection A Haunted House and Other Stories in 1944. Consider also Leopold Bloom’s reflections on communication with the dead in Ulysses, and the spectral image of London as an “unreal city” that pervades ‘The Waste Land’.
"Mary Butts used similar imagery in ‘Mappa Mundi’ (1938) when describing the “matrix” of dream and physical experience that constitutes “Paris and the secret of Paris”. Occupying the ghostly position of that which is there and not there at the same time, the city is compared to the face of Isis glimpsed during an initiation. Similarly, in ‘Mysterious Kȏr’ (1942), Elizabeth Bowen appropriates the fabulous city of H. Rider Haggard’s She (1887) to present wartime London as a “ghost city”."
But his essay doesn’t just broaden our image of the ghost story. James Riley also argues that M R James himself uses modernist concepts, especially in his treatment of time. The distinction between the classic and modernist ghost story may not be reliable.
To read more of this ground-breaking essay, why not order Wormwood 25 today?