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The Ghost: A Cultural History by Susan Owens
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The Ghost: A Cultural History

by Susan Owens

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361476,214 (4)2
"Five thousand years have now elapsed since the creation of the world, and still it is undecided whether or not there has even been an instance of the spirit of any person appearing after death. All argument is against it; but all belief is for it." --Samuel Johnson   Ghosts are woven into the very fabric of life. In Britain, every town, village, and great house has a spectral resident, and their enduring popularity in literature, art, folklore, and film attests to their continuing power to fascinate, terrify, and inspire. Our conceptions of ghosts--the fears they provoke, the forms they take--are connected to the conventions and beliefs of each particular era, from the marauding undead of the Middle Ages to the psychologically charged presences of our own age. The ghost is no less than the mirror of the times.   Organized chronologically, this new cultural history features a dazzling range of artists and writers, including William Hogarth, William Blake, Henry Fuseli, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, Susan Hiller and Jeremy Deller; John Donne, William Shakespeare, Samuel Pepys, Daniel Defoe, Percy and Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Henry James, Thomas Hardy, Muriel Spark, Hilary Mantel, and Sarah Waters.  … (more)

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Excellent overview of how ghosts—their clothing, their aims, and even their existence—have changed over time in England, based on changes in contemporary life. Owens shows the changes through reference to art, literature, drama, and stage shows, up to present-day depictions in television and movies (although the latter only briefly), and traces the way that depictions in one medium influence work in others (e.g., Dickens’s depiction of translucent ghosts in The Christmas Carol coming from projected images in the theatre).

An enjoyable read, and an excellent survey of ghostly literature, should you be interested in exploring more deeply. ( )
  cmc | Sep 23, 2018 |
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But whether reconcileable to the understanding or not they are most interesting to the imagination. - Walter Scott
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It is late on Christmas Eve in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, and Scrooge is sitting alone by his meagre fire when, with a great clanking of chains, the ghost of his old business partner Jacob Marley bursts into his room.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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