Criticism: The Ghost Story In American Literature - Essay

G. R. Thompson (essay date 1982)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Thompson, G. R. “The Apparition of this World: Transcendentalism and the American ‘Ghost’ Story.” In Bridges to Fantasy, edited by George E. Slusser, Eric S. Rabkin, and Robert Scholes, pp. 90-107. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982.

[In the following essay, Thompson contends that Transcendentalism was one of the main reasons why few American authors wrote ghost stories in the nineteenth century.]

Where do we find ourselves? In a series of which we do not know the extremes, and believe that it has none. We wake and find ourselves on a stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have ascended;...

(The entire section is 7680 words.)

Kathleen Brogan (essay date February 1995)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Brogan, Kathleen. “American Stories of Cultural Haunting: Tales of Heirs and Ethnographers.” College English 57, no. 2 (February 1995): 149-65.

[In the following essay, Brogan examines the unique characteristics of American ghost stories.]

As I sat in the darkened theater of the Yale Rep, watching the 1987 opening performance of August Wilson's new work, The Piano Lesson, it occurred to me that new spectres were haunting America—specifically, that ghosts were populating African-American literature in growing numbers. The play's action turns on the ghost of a murdered white slave-owner who haunts the descendants of his slaves. The spectre's power...

(The entire section is 7659 words.)

Arthur Redding (essay date December 2001)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Redding, Arthur. “‘Haints’: American Ghosts, Ethnic Memory, and Contemporary Fiction.” Mosaic 34, no. 4 (December 2001): 163-82.

[In the following essay, Redding explores the relevance of history in the creation of American literary traditions.]

What ghosts can say—
Even the ghosts of fathers—comes obscurely.
What if the terror stays without the meaning?

—Adrienne Rich, “What Ghosts Can Say”

No justice […] seems possible or thinkable without the principle of some responsibility, beyond all living present, within that which disjoins the living present, before the ghosts of those...

(The entire section is 8572 words.)