Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Haunting Texts: Victorian and Modern Ghost Stories
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Practical 10 x 2hr workshops
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2hr seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 2 x 3000 word essays  100%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit or resit failed elements and/or make good any missing element 

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:

1. Describe and appraise the main chracteristics of the Victorian and modern ghost story, both as an identifiable literary genre and as a varied tradition (from the mid-C19th to the early C20th).

2. Consider and evaluate the arguments put forward by Victorian and modern writers about the definition of the ghost story: its narrative techniques, its literary conventions, its creative possibilities

3. Engage with theoretical and critical debates on the uncanny and the ghostly as problems of historical, cultural and literary interpretation

4. Write about the subject in a well-structured and argued manner.

Brief description

Haunting Texts will introduce students to the ghost story as a distinct literary genre, one that emerges in the early nineteenth century and becomes a dominant literary form in Britain from around 1850 until the First World War. The emergence of the ghost story will be linked to specific historical conditions in the Victorian era - an expanding readership, magazine publication, scientific developments, the cultural displacement of religious tradition - and also to a corresponding set of debates amongst Victorian intellectuals and writers about the supernatural and its literary treatment. The module begins by exploring theoretical reflections on the supernatural in the late Gothic tradition exemplified by Radcliffe and Scott, before moving on to the Victorian ghost story proper (Le Fanu, Dickens, Collins, Edwards, Lee). The reading for each week includes critical and theoretical commentaries, allowing students to focus on various aspects of the ghost story - vision, gender, location, fantasy, the uncanny, colonialism. The transition from the Victorian to the modern ghost story is traced in the work of M. R. James, whose texts dramatize the encounter of academic culture with the uncanny; students will read this text together with a viewing of Jonathon Miller's 1976 television adaptation, allowing them to consider the narrative problems and possibilities involved in transferring a ghost story from page to screen. And another James - this time Henry – will be seen to make the apparition in 'The Jolly Corner' into a self-reflexive question of writing itself. A terrifying story by May Sinclair will next be explored in terms of its intertextual dimension. Ghost stories from the 20th century will be read alongside theoretical reflections on the uncanny dimension of modernity and colonialism, leading to an exploration of the ghostly dimension of theory itself, especially as manifested in psychoanalysis.


This module combines close textual analysis, intellectual history and litrary theory, covering a range of authors largely excluded from the existing syllabus for 19th century core modules. Likely to be interesting to Psychology & English (Joint Honours students).


1a) Introduction: Gothic Revenants
Anne Radcliffe, 'On the Supernatural in Poetry' (1826) [e-text]; Walter Scott, The Tapestried Chamber (1829) [OBEGS 1-12]; 'On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition' (1827) [e-text]; J. S. Le Fanu , An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street (1853) [CGS 1-18].
1b) Workshop: what is the Gothic? Student-led presentations & discussion

2a) Victorian Phantoms
Charles Dickens, The Signalman (1866) [PBGS 91-104]; Wilkie Collins,
Mrs. Zant and the Ghost (1879) [CGS 30-58]; Julia Briggs, Night Visitors: the Rise and Fall of the English Ghost Story (1977); Jill Matus, 'Trauma, Memory and Railway Disaster: the Dickensian Connection' (2001)
2b) Screening of BBC Television adaptation of The Signalman (1979); followed by discussion

3a) Ghost Feelers
Edith Nesbit, Man-Size in Marble (1893) [OBEGS 125-36]; Vernon
Lee, A Wicked Voice (1890) [OBEGS 87-108]; Mary Wilkins, The Lost Ghost (1903) [CGS 150-164]; Nick Freeman, 'E. Nesbit's New Woman Gothic' [photocopy]
3b) Workshop: Ghosts, gender and sexuality. Student-led presentations & discussion

4a) Phantom or Phantasm?
Fitz-James O'Brien, What Was It? (1859) (PBGS, 25-37]; Amelia B.
Edwards, The Phantom Coach (1864) [OBEGS, 13-24, The New Pass (1873) [CGS, 74-85]; Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Haunted and the Haunters: or, The House and the Brain (1859) [PBGS]; Srdan Smajic, 'The Trouble with Ghost-Seeing: Vision, Ideology and Genre in the Victorian Ghost Story' (2004)
4b) Workshop: Ghosts and Science. Student-led presentations & discussion

5a) Uncanny Things
H. G. Wells, The Red Room (1896) [OBEGS, 172-9]; Algernon
Blackwood, The Empty House (1906) [OBEGS, 222-35]; Ralph Cram, In Kropfsberg Keep (1895) [CGS, 141-9]; W. W. Jacobs, The Monkey's Paw (1902) [PBGS, 231-42]; Sigmund Freud, 'The Uncanny' (1919)
5b) Performing the Ghost Story (text chosen and performed by team of students); followed by discussion

6a) Ghosts and Scholars
M. R. James, 'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad' (1904) [PBGS 261-80]; The Mezzotint (1904) [photocopy]; Ralph Harrington, 'So jarred were all my nerves: supernatural shock and traumatic terror in the ghost stories of M. R. James' [photocopy]
6b) Screening of BBC Television adaptation, 'Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You' (1976); followed by discussion

Reading week

7a) Ghosts of the Self
Henry James, The Jolly Corner (1908) [PBGS 291-325] Martha Banta, 'Henry James and 'The Others'' [photocopy]
7b) Workshop: Ghosts and Modernism. Student-led presentations & discussion

8a) Intertextual Haunting
May Sinclair, The Intercessor (1911) H. D. Everett, The Next Heir (1920) Richard Bleiler, 'May Sinclair's Supernatural Fiction'
8b) Workshop: Reading Trauma. Student-led presentations & discussion.

9a) Modern Domestic Ghosts
A. M. Burrage, Smee (1931) [OBEGS, 377-86; Elizabeth Bowen, Hand in Glove (1952) [OBEGS, 444-52]; D. K. Broster, The Pestering (1932;; A. S. Byatt, The July Ghost (1987)
9b) Workshop: the stylistic development of the ghost story. Student-led presentations & discussion

10a) Imperial Spectres
W. Somerset Maugham, The Taipan (1922) [OBEGS, 283-8]; L.P. Hartley, A Visitor from Down Under (1926) [OBEGS, 307-21]
10b) Module Summary and Reflection: group discussion

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written communication in the form of essays, oral communication in seminar discussion and team presentations.
Improving own Learning and Performance Developing own research skills, management of time.
Information Technology Use of electronic resources (JSTOR, websites), production of written work.
Personal Development and Career planning By critical reflection and the development of transferable communication skills.
Problem solving Formulating and developing extended arguments.
Research skills Relating literary texts to historical contexts and theoretical commentaries, and by synthesizing various perspectives in an evaluative argument.
Subject Specific Skills Detailed critical and contextual analysis of literary texts and evaluation of theoretical concepts.
Team work Through group preparation and presentations in seminars.

Reading List

General Text
Botting, Fred. (1996 (various p) Gothic /Fred Botting. Routledge Primo search Punter, David. (1998.) Gothic pathologies :the text, the body and the law /David Punter. Macmillan Press Primo search Raitt, Suzanne (2000.) May Sinclair :a modern Victorian /Suzanne Raitt. Oxford University Press Primo search
Should Be Purchased
(1986.) The Oxford book of English ghost stories /chosen by Michael Cox and R.A. Gilbert. Oxford University Press Primo search Grafton, John (June 1998) Classic Ghost Stories by Wilkie Collins, M. R. James, Charles Dickens and Others Unabridged Dover Publications, Incorporated Primo search Newton, Michael (ed) (2010) The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories From Elizabeth Gaskell to Ambrose Bierce 416pp Penguin
Recommended Text
Smith, Andrew (2010) The ghost story 1840-1920 A cultural history 202pp Manchester University Press
Supplementary Text
Bloom, Clive (March 1993) Creepers:British Horror and Fantasy in the Twentieth Century Pluto Press Primo search Briggs, Julia (Jan. 1977) Night Visitors:The Rise and Fall of the English Ghost Story Faber & Faber, Limited Primo search Lustig, T. J. (1994) Henry James and the Ghostly Cambridge University Press Primo search Punter, David (ed) (2000) Blackwell Companion to the Gothic Blackwell Primo search Rowe, Catherine (1999) Dead Hands; Fictions of Agency, Renaissance to Modern Stanford University Press Primo search Spooner, Catherine & McEvoy, Emma (2007) Routledge Companion to the Gothic Routledge Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6