Module Information

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

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay Assignment  Comparative Critical Essay 4000 Words  100%
Supplementary Assessment Essay Assignment  Comparative Critical Essay 4000 Words  100%

Learning Outcomes

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

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)

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.

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

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 (Gaskell, Le Fanu, Dickens, Collins). 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.


Session 1
Introducing the Ghost Story
Theories of the supernatural by Scott and Radcliffe
Elizabeth Gaskell, ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’ (1852)
J S. Le Fanu, ‘Squire Toby’s Will’ (1868)

Session 2
Victorian Phantoms: Transport and Trauma
Charles Dickens, ‘The Signalman’ (1866)
Wilkie Collins, ‘Mrs Zant and the Ghost’ (1879)

Session 3
Ghost Feelers: Gender and Genre
Margaret Oliphant, ‘The Open Door’ (1885)
Edith Nesbit, ‘Man-Size in Marble’ (1893)

Session 4
Seeing and Believing: Science and the Supernatural
Amelia Edwards, ‘The Phantom Coach’ (1864)
E Bulwer-Lytton, ‘The Haunted and the Haunters: or, The House and the Brain’ (1859)

Session 5
Ghosts and Scholars
M. R. James, 'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad' (1904) [PGS 261-80];
‘The Mezzotint’ (1904)

Session 6
Other Selves
Henry James, ‘The Jolly Corner’ (1908)

Session 7
Uncanny Sensations
Algernon Blackwood, ‘The Empty House’ (1906)
W. W. Jacobs, ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ (1902)

Session 8
Haunting Memories
May Sinclair, ‘The Intercessor’ (1911)
D. K. Broster, ‘The Pestering’ (1932)

Session 9
(Un)settling Accounts
Edith Wharton, ‘Afterward’ (1910)
A. S. Byatt, ‘The July Ghost’ (1987)

Session 10 Essay Skills

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
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