The Ghost Story Criticism: Overviews And General Studies - Essay

Peter Penzoldt (essay date 1952)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Penzoldt, Peter. Introduction to The Supernatural in Fiction, pp. 3-12. London: Peter Nevill, 1952.

[In the following essay, Penzoldt presents a brief analysis of the rise and development of the ghost story in literature.]

Although the short ghost story became a popular form in English literature during the nineteenth century, it only attained its present degree of perfection in the past fifty years.

The course of the development that the tale of the supernatural has followed is somewhat surprising. In Anglo-Saxon letters, weird fiction belonged first to the drama and then to the novel; but the earliest examples of the supernatural in the...

(The entire section is 4516 words.)

Jack Sullivan (essay date 1978)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Sullivan, Jack. Introduction to Elegant Nightmares: The English Short Story from Le Fanu to Blackwood, pp. 1-10. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1978.

[In the following essay, Sullivan examines the reasons for the proliferation of ghost stories in late-nineteenth century England.]

In the past ghosts had certain traditional activities; they could speak and gibber, for instance; they could clank chains. They were generally local, confined to one spot. Now their liberties have been greatly extended; they can go anywhere, they can manifest themselves in scores of ways. Like women and other depressed classes, they have emancipated themselves from...

(The entire section is 6202 words.)

Brad Leithauser (essay date 1987)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: Leithauser, Brad. “Dead Forms: The Ghost Story Today.” In Penchants and Places: Essays and Criticism, pp. 123-35. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1987, Leithauser delineates the major characteristics of the English ghost story.]

Whether there is any necessary link between a devotion to afternoon sweets, queuing, and windowbox gardening on the one hand, and a passion for the ghost story on the other, would be hard to say. But one can assert without question about that puzzling thing, the English national temper, that it shows a deep affinity for the tale sprung from a restless grave.


(The entire section is 5042 words.)