• IMPRINTS: Forming and Tracing the Malevolent Ghost-Child

    Jen Baker (see profile)
    Literature and history
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    childhood, ghosts, neo-victorian, victorian literature, History and literature
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    The scholarly cataloguing and study of oral folktales, the evolution of Gothic fiction, the rise of the short story genre, the foundation of the Spiritualist movement, and the uncertainties and potentialities raised by scientific and technological advances, are some of the key influences in the fictional representation and uses of the ghost in nineteenth-century fiction. Although the revenant can be traced back to classical literature, through folklore, theological beliefs, and death rites, it is nineteenth-century, and more particularly Victorian, writers who were integral in the establishment of the tropes that would persist and influence later formations of the ghost. Despite the preoccupation with children in all facets of Victorian and Edwardian life, the ghost-child possessed only a minor role in its fiction however, and the malevolent version was almost absent. Nevertheless, the discernible scarcity of the trope suggests that where the ghost-child did appear its role was significant in importing a specific message to its readers. Thus, the symbolic uses of the ghost more generally, such as the return of the repressed, are still evident, but through the use of the child are either enhanced or altered. In contemporary fiction and culture the ghost-child is far more prevalent and malevolent more frequently. Many of the examples are set in, or retain a strong affiliation with the stylistics of, the Victorian and Edwardian period, and employ familiar motifs from their ghost stories and utilise the discourse on childhood, and the influences of psychoanalysis, spiritualism and folklore. This chapter firstly dissects the original depictions of the ghost-child by Victorian/Edwardian writers in some of the most pertinent examples and then examines a small selection of fictional compositions from the twenty-first century The Little Stranger (2009), The Small Hand (2010) and The Awakening (2011) which correspond with these original stories and the period.
    Published as:
    Book chapter    
    Last Updated:
    7 years ago
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