Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2hr seminars plus 1hr viewing of television programme


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.


1) Introduction: Gothic Revenants
Anne Radcliffe, `On the Supernatural in Poetry' (1826) [photocopy]; Walter Scott, The Tapestried Chamber (1829) [OBEGS, pp.1-12]; `On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition' (1827) [photocopy]; J. S. Le Fanu , An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street (1853) [CGS, pp.1-18].
2) Victorian Phantoms
Charles Dickens, The Signalman (1866) [CGS, pp.19-29]; Wilkie Collins, Mrs. Zant and the Ghost (1879) [CGS, pp.30-58];
Julia Briggs, Night Visitors: the Rise and Fall of the English Ghost Story (1977) [1 chapter photocopy]; Jill Matus, `Trauma, Memory and Railway Disaster: the Dickensian Connection' (2001) [JSTOR].
3) Ghost Feelers
Amelia B. Edwards, The New Pass (1873) [CGS, pp.74-85]; Vernon Lee, A Wicked Voice (1890) [OBEGS, pp.87-108];Vanessa Dickerson, Victorian Ghosts in the Noontide: Women Writers and the Supernatural (1996) [1 chapter photocopy].
4) Phantom or Phantasm?
Fitz-James O'Brien, What Was It? (1859) (CGS, pp.102-12]; Edith Nesbit, Man-size in Marble (1893) [OBEGS, pp.125-36]
Mrs. Henry Wood, Reality or Delusion? (1874) [CGS, pp.59-73]; Srdan Smajic, `The Trouble with Ghost-Seeing: Vision, Ideology and Genre in the Victorian Ghost Story' (2004) [JSTOR]
5) Uncanny Sites
H. G. Wells, The Red Room (1896) [OBEGS, pp.172-9]; Algernon Blackwood, The Empty House (1906) [OBEGS, pp.222-35]
Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny (1919) [photocopy]
6) Writing the Ghost
Henry James, The Friends of the Friends (1896) [OBEGS, pp.150-71]; The Real Right Thing (1900) [CGS, pp.113-24]
Martha Banta, `Henry James and `the Others' (1964) [JSTOR]
7) Ghosts and Scholars
M. R. James, 'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad'(1904) [OBEGS, pp.205-21]; Preface to Ghosts and Marvels (1924) [photocopy]; H. P. Lovecraft, `Supernatural Horror in Literature' (1927) [photocopy]
7a) BBC Television adaptation, Whistle and I'll Come to You (dir. Jonathon Miller, 1976)
8) The Imperial Uncanny
W. Somerset Maugham, The Taipan (1922) [OBEGS, pp.283-8]; L.P. Hartley, A Visitor from Down Under (1926) [OBEGS, pp.307-21]; Homi Bhabha, `Sly Civility' (1985) [JSTOR]; Ranajit Guha, `Not at Home in Empire' (1997) [JSTOR]
9) Theoretical Phantoms
Mladen Dolar, `I Shall Be With You on Your Wedding Night: Lacan and the Uncanny' (2000) [JSTOR]; Roger Luckhurst, `Something Tremendous, Something Elemental: On the Ghostly Origins of Psychoanalysis'(1999) [JSTOR] ; Glen Cavaliero, `Literary Theory and the Supernatural' (1995) [1 chapter photocopy]; Steven Connor, `The Machine in the Ghost: Spiritualism, Technology and the `Direct Voice' (1999) [JSTOR]
10) Choose Your Own Ghost Story!
Students are divided into teams to choose another story from OBEGS, and give a 15-minute team presentation situating the text in terms of the generic definition of the ghost story and the theoretical commentaries explored in the module.


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).

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 Henry James, whose texts make the apparition of the ghost into a self-reflexive question of writing itself. And another James - this time M.R. - provides a story that dramatizes 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. Ghost stories from the 1920s will be read together with theoretical reflections on the uncanny dimension of colonialism, leading on to an exploration of the ghostly dimension of theory itself, especially as manifested in psychoanalysis. The module will culminate with a chance for the students to choose a more modern story from the Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories (which includes texts published as recently as the 1980s), and to give team presentations relating that text to the various literary tradition explored in the module and the diverse theoretical discourses provoked by it.

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

Essential Reading
(1986.) The Oxford book of English ghost stories /chosen by Michael Cox and R.A. Gilbert. Oxford University Press Primo search Bleiler, Everett F. (March 1983) The Guide to Supernatural Fiction Kent State 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
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 Atkinson, William (1996) Dictionary of Literary Biography British Short Fiction Writers 1880-1914: The Romantic Tradition Vol 156 Primo search

Sullivan, Jack (Dec. 1986) The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6