By Simon Hay (auth.)
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Extra info for A History of the Modern British Ghost Story
For the most part, he argues, ‘modernity’ is a word best avoided, a reiﬁcation of the already-reiﬁed concept of ‘capitalism’ (2002, for example, pp. 12, 13, 80, 215). But on at least one occasion, he explains modernity in 30 A History of the Modern British Ghost Story ghostly terms, ‘as a trace and an abstraction from a real historical event and trauma, . . the moment of the overcoming of feudalism by capitalism, and of the aristocratic social order of castes and blood by the new bourgeois order’ (2002, p.
His thoughts map out a certain career through life, middle-class in some eighteenth-century sense – education; hard work in the service of the nation; belated leisure. His notion of pleasure accords with middle-class sensibilities: retirement is deferred play, the entry into genteel life via an appropriately elevated profession, though he himself, it is carefully spelt out, has no land of his own. This narrative of development has as its counterpoint fond childhood memories and this confusion of progress and nostalgia is what brings out the ghost.
As a protagonist, Edward is astonishingly passive: he does almost nothing, while things happen to him, even though, as Derrida’s analysis of witnessing makes clear, a witness is always an enabler or a perpetrator. The moment when he is taken by the Highlanders from the English who have imprisoned him is representative: the narrator tells us that ‘his fortune had settled he was not to be left to his option’ (p. 181). The same could be said of his marriage to Rose rather than Flora. He is characterized, rather than by his actions, primarily by his mode of perception, possessing the ‘common aberration from sound judgment, which apprehends occurrences indeed in their reality, but communicates to them a tincture of its own romantic tone and colouring’ (p.
A History of the Modern British Ghost Story by Simon Hay (auth.)