Gwybodaeth Modiwlau

Module Identifier
Module Title
Haunting Texts
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminar 11 x 2 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment First Essay Assignment  1 x 1500 word essay  25%
Semester Assessment Second Essay Assignment  1 x 3000 word essay  75%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit First Essay  1 x 1500 essay  Resubmit failed or missing essay  25%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit Second Essay  1 x 3000 word essay  Resubmit failed or missing essay  75%

Learning Outcomes

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

1. Describe and appraise the main characteristics 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 20th century)

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 itellectuals 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; 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.

Average Student Workload:
Contact time 20.5 hours
Reading and preparation: 100 hours
Independent study preparing assignments 79.5 hours


This module combines close textual analysis, intellectual history and literary theory, covering a range of authors largely excluded from the existing syllabus for 19th century core modules.


Week 1: Gothic to Ghost Story
Anne Radcliffe, ‘On the Supernatural in Poetry' (1826) [e-text];
Walter Scott, ‘On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition' (1827) [e-text];
Elizabeth Gaskell, ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’ (1852) [PGS 3-24];
J. S. Le Fanu, Squire Toby’s Will (1868) [OGS 25-50]

Week 2: Victorian Phantoms: Transport and Trauma
Charles Dickens, The Signalman (1866) [PGS 91-104];
Wilkie Collins, Mrs. Zant and the Ghost (1879) [CGS 30-58];
Jill Matus, ‘Trauma, Memory and Railway Disaster: the Dickensian Connection' (2001)

Week 3: Ghost Feelers: Gender and Genre
Margaret Oliphant, The Open Door (1885) [PGS 193-203];
Vernon Lee, A Wicked Voice (1890) [OGS 87-108];
Edith Nesbit, Man-Size in Marble (1893) [OGS 125-36];
Nick Freeman, ‘E. Nesbit’s New Woman Gothic’

Week 4: Seeing and Believing: Science and the Supernatural
Fitz-James O'Brien, What Was It? (1859) (PGS 25-37];
Amelia B. Edwards, The Phantom Coach (1864) [OGS 13-24);
The NewPass (1873) [CGS 74-85];
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Haunted and the Haunters: or, The House and the Brain (1859) [PGS 39-66];
Srdan Smajic, ‘The Trouble with Ghost-Seeing: Vision, Ideology and Genre in the Victorian Ghost Story’ (2004)

Week 5: Uncanny Sites
H. G. Wells, The Red Room (1896) [OGS 172-9];
Algernon Blackwood, The Empty House (1906) [OGS 222-35];
W. W. Jacobs, The Monkey’s Paw (1902) [PGS 231-42];
Sigmund Freud, ‘The Uncanny’ (1919) Nb no ‘Ralph Cram, In Kropfsberg Keep

Week 6: Ghosts and Scholars
M. R. James, 'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad' (1904) [PGS 261-80];
The Mezzotint (1904);
Ralph Harrington, ‘So jarred were all my nerves: supernatural shock and traumatic terror in the ghost stories of M. R. James’;
Luke Thurston, ‘Broken Lineage: M. R. James’ from Literary Ghosts (2012)

Week 7: Ghosts of the Self
Henry James, The Jolly Corner (1908) [PGS 291-325]
Eric Savoy, ‘The Queer Subject of “The Jolly Corner”’

Week 8: Haunting Memories
May Sinclair, The Intercessor (1911);
H. D. Everett, The Next Heir (1920);
D. K. Broster, The Pestering (1932);
Richard Bleiler, ‘May Sinclair’s Supernatural Fiction’

Week 9: Modern Domestic Ghosts
A.M. Burrage, Smee (1931) [OGS 377-86];
Elizabeth Bowen, Hand in Glove (1952) [OGS 444-52];
A. S. Byatt, The July Ghost (1987)

Week 10: Imperial Spectres
W. Somerset Maugham, The Taipan (1922) [OGS 283-8];
L.P. Hartley, A Visitor from Down Under (1926) [OGS 307-21]

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 group presentations.
Improving own Learning and Performance Developing own research skills, managment of time, expression and use of language.
Information Technology Use of electronic resources (JSTOR, websites); use of databases of digitized newspapers and periodicals; the production of written work.
Personal Development and Career planning By critical reflection and the development of transfeerable communication skills.
Problem solving Formulating and developing extended arguments
Research skills By 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 the theoretical concepts.
Team work Through group presentations in seminars - this will involve preparation outside of class and team work within the seminar.


This module is at CQFW Level 6