The Ghost Story Criticism: Major Figures - Essay

Bruce E. Fleming (essay date spring 1989)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Fleming, Bruce E. “Floundering About in Silence: What the Governess Couldn't Say.” Studies in Short Fiction 26, no. 2 (spring 1989): 135-43.

[In the following essay, Fleming considers the supernatural elements in Henry James' The Turn of the Screw.]

The question of the reliability of the governess in The Turn of the Screw has produced one of the most developed ongoing debates in James criticism. There is on the one hand the Kenton/Wilson/Goddard school that suggests that the ghosts are imagined by the governess and hence not “real”; on the other are the critics who insist that the evidence in favor of their existence is irrefutable because...

(The entire section is 4071 words.)

Willie van Peer and Ewont van der Knaap (essay date 1995)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: van Peer, Willie, and Ewont van der Knaap. “(In)compatible Interpretations? Contesting Readings of The Turn of the Screw.Modern Language Notes 110 (1995): 692-710.

[In the following essay, van Peer and van der Knaap recount various critical responses to Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, attempting to resolve the conflict between critics who view the tale as a ghost story and those who interpret it as a Freudian text.]


The small community of listeners gathered around the fire in Henry James's The Turn of the Screw expect to hear a real ghost story,1 and with them we modern readers...

(The entire section is 7856 words.)

Judy Hale Young (essay date winter 1996)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Young, Judy Hale. “The Repudiation of Sisterhood in Edith Wharton's ‘Pomegranate Seed.’” Studies in Short Fiction 33, no. 1 (winter 1996): 1-11.

[In the following essay, Young addresses the theme of the absence of communication among women in Wharton's “The Pomegranate Seed.”]

“What the ghost really needs is not echoing passages and hidden doors behind tapestry, but only continuity and silence” (Ghost Stories 3). This passage in the author's Preface to The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton refers ostensibly to the physical silence that she found increasingly unavailable in her lifetime, to the “silent hours when at last the wireless...

(The entire section is 5127 words.)

Gianfranca Balestra (essay date winter 1996)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Balestra, Gianfranca. “‘For the Use of the Magazine Morons’: Edith Wharton Rewrites the Tale of the Fantastic.” Studies in Short Fiction 33, no. 1 (winter 1996): 13-24.

[In the following essay, Balestra compares two versions of Wharton's “Pomegranate Seed” and “All Souls',” using them as a basis to examine Wharton's ideas regarding ghost stories.]

Edith Wharton's relationship with the reading public and the market economy was ambiguously made up of acceptance and resistance, desire and mistrust. She obviously sought success and dealt with her publishers in a very professional and business-like manner, yearned to establish a connection with her...

(The entire section is 5208 words.)

Robert Michalski (essay date spring 1996)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Michalski, Robert. “The Malice of Inanimate Objects: Exchange in M. R. James's Ghost Stories.” Extrapolation 37, no. 1 (spring 1996): 46-62.

[In the following essay, Michalski suggests that M. R. James' ghost stories reflect his concerns about contemporary society and politics.]

If an interest in the supernatural or the occult betrays a fundamental nostalgia for times past and for superseded modes of thinking, M. R. James (1862-1936) is an anachronism even among writers interested in the supernatural.1 Unlike other practitioners of the ghost story such as Henry James and Algernon Blackwood, M. R. James had little interest in the contemporary...

(The entire section is 8306 words.)

Jacqueline Simpson (essay date 1997)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Simpson, Jacqueline. “‘The Rules of Folklore’ in the Ghost Stories of M. R. James.” Folklore 108 (1997): 9-18.

[In the following essay, Simpson evaluates the impact of English folklore and oral storytelling traditions on M. R. James' ghost stories.]

When Dr Montague Rhodes James of King's College, Cambridge, published in 1904 the first volume of the elegant but alarming tales with which his name is now always associated, he called it Ghost Stories of an Antiquary; in 1911 he followed it with More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. The word “antiquary” already had an old-fashioned charm about it, and was appropriate for a scholar whose work...

(The entire section is 9190 words.)

John Coates (essay date summer 2000)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Coates, John. “The Moral Argument of Elizabeth Bowen's Ghost Stories.” Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 52, no. 4 (summer 2000): 293-309.

[In the following essay, Coates offers an overview of Bowen's moral vision as depicted in her ghost stories.]

By common consent, Elizabeth Bowen was a distinguished writer of ghost stories. While fully capable of giving her readers all the usual and anticipated satisfactions of such tales, she made, and fulfilled, other, larger claims for the form. As she remarked in 1947 in a preface to Le Fanu's Uncle Silas, “Our ancestors may have had an agreeable-dreadful reflex from the idea of the Devil or a...

(The entire section is 7910 words.)