The postmodern spirit: the postmodernization of the ghost figure in twentieth century North American fictions

Collins, Gerard (2006) The postmodern spirit: the postmodernization of the ghost figure in twentieth century North American fictions. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The ghost figure in twentieth-century fictions perfectly embodies the inclusion and normalization of formerly monstrous others that results from the loss of referents, questioning of boundaries, and destabilization of the self in the postmodern era. In an era of gross commodification, with all foundational truths under constant scrutiny, we adjust our self-constructs, unable to impose labels and meanings with certainty and, as recent depictions of spectres illustrate, supposed others become more of a daily presence. With identification and interpretation possible only in context, the beholder's hesitation is a space that contains the ghost. Dubiety regarding phantoms is lessening because uncertainty about former adversaries is increasingly giving way to an understanding of multiplicity in supposed others. -- This thesis shows the ghost figure shifting from fearful other to nearly human. Chapter One explains the theory behind this dissertation. Chapter Two discusses the simultaneous absence and presence of a ghost in both Henry James's The Tum of the Screw and Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. Chapter Three explores how two 1970s novels, Stephen King's The Shining and Peter Straub's Ghost Story, cast ghosts as both independent and specular at once. Chapter Four focuses exclusively on Toni Morrison's Beloved in which the ghost is normalized almost instantaneously. Chapter Five analyzes Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride and Michael Ondaatje's Ani/'s Ghost to show just how ubiquitous, elusive, and specular the ghost figure has become. Ultimately, the distinction between ghost and human has become so tenuous that the only productive response is to accept that the ghost and human, however different, are one.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/10326
Item ID: 10326
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 342-354.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 2006
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Ghosts in literature; Postmodernism (Literature)

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