Ghosts, Monsters and Spirits, 1840–1900

Authored by: Alexandra Warwick

The Gothic World

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415637442
eBook ISBN: 9780203490013
Adobe ISBN: 9781135053062

10.4324/9780203490013.ch31

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Abstract

The ghosts, monsters and spirits of the Victorians are still with us. They continue to haunt and speak to us even though more than a century has passed. The Victorians were obviously not the first people to encounter ghosts and monsters, but they encountered them in very particular ways, ways that were shaped by the conditions in which they lived, and which, in turn, re-figured understanding of those conditions. Many of these particularly Victorian forms are the ones still present in twenty-first-century culture. The neo-Victorianism of our own times does not return to the social-problem novel, or to the Reform Acts, but to the nineteenth-century “Others” found in public spectacle, popular culture and genre fiction. While these returns focus upon the oddness, the apparent strangeness of Victorian culture, it is not because of its difference but its familiarity. It is familiar because the Victorians used their monsters, ghosts and spirits to negotiate the unprecedented changes they witnessed: the transition to capitalist industrial modernity that transformed their world. Possibly the intensity of recent neo-Victorianism is a response to the ruin of that world, the perishing of its material structures, while the present is still convulsed by the workings of invisible forces.

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