Spectral America: Phantoms and the National Imagination

Overview

From essays about the Salem witch trials to literary uses of ghosts by Twain, Wharton, and Bierce to the cinematic blockbuster The Sixth Sense, this book is the first to survey the importance of ghosts and hauntings in American culture across time. From the Puritans' conviction that a thousand preternatural beings appear every day before our eyes, to today's resurgence of spirits in fiction and film, the culture of the United States has been obsessed with ghosts. In each generation, these phantoms in popular ...
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Overview

From essays about the Salem witch trials to literary uses of ghosts by Twain, Wharton, and Bierce to the cinematic blockbuster The Sixth Sense, this book is the first to survey the importance of ghosts and hauntings in American culture across time. From the Puritans' conviction that a thousand preternatural beings appear every day before our eyes, to today's resurgence of spirits in fiction and film, the culture of the United States has been obsessed with ghosts. In each generation, these phantoms in popular culture reflect human anxieties about religion, science, politics, and social issues. Spectral America asserts that ghosts, whether in oral tradition, literature, or such modern forms as cinema have always been constructions embedded in specific historical contexts and invoked for explicit purposes, often political in nature. The essays address the role of "spectral evidence" during the Salem witch trials, the Puritan belief in good spirits, the convergence of American Spiritualism and technological development in the nineteenth century, the use of the supernatural as a tool of political critique in twentieth century magic realism, and the "ghosting" of persons living with AIDS. They also discuss ghostly themes in the work of Sarah Orne Jewett, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Amy Tan, Gloria Naylor, and Stephen King.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780299199548
  • Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2004
  • Series: Ray and Pat Browne Book Series
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey Weinstock is assistant professor of English at Central Michigan University. He is the editor of The Pedagogical Wallpaper and coeditor, with Sarah Lynn Higley, of Nothing That Is: Millennial Cinema and The Blair Witch Controversies.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : the spectral turn 3
1 Uncanny afflictions : spectral evidence and the Puritan crisis of subjectivity 18
2 Friendly ghosts : celebrations of the living dead in early New England 40
3 Can such things be? : Ambrose Bierce, the "dead mother," and other American traumas 57
4 Living for the other world : Sarah Orne Jewett as a religious writer 78
5 The politics of heaven : the ghost dance, The gates ajar, and Captain Stormfield 101
6 Technologies of vision : spiritualism and science in nineteenth-century America 124
7 Flight from haunting : psychogenic fugue and nineteenth-century American imagination 141
8 The girl in the library : Edith Wharton's "The eyes" and American Gothic tradition 157
9 "Commitment to doubleness" : U.S. literary magic realism and the postmodern 169
10 Melodramatic specters : cinema and The sixth sense 185
11 Stephen King's vintage ghost-cars: a modern-day haunting 207
12 Ghosting HIV/AIDS : haunting words and apparitional bodies in Michaelle Cliff's "Bodies of water" 221
13 Salem's ghosts and the cultural capital of witches 244
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