Wormwood Article

I have an article in the new issue of Wormwood, the journal of fantastic, supernatural and decadent literature. Titled 'Notes on the Modernist Ghost Story', the essay looks at the various liks between the early 20th century ghost story genre and what might be termed the 'canonical' works of 'high' literary modernism. My thanks go to Mark Valentine for offering me a spot in the issue. I'm deeply indebted also to him for the kind words he posted about the article on the Wormwoodiana blog:

"The ghost story: an old-fashioned form; its finest writer an antiquarian. A thing of graveyards and cloisters, steeped in tradition. Surely it simply “wallows in the nightmares of history”?

Not according to Cambridge academic James Riley, who opens our new issue with his ‘Notes on the Modernist Ghost Story’. It’s time to acknowledge a different approach: 

“…the figure of the ghost, theme of haunting and the presence of the supernatural are not concepts alien to ‘high’ modernism. Woolf opened her collection Monday or Tuesday (1921) with the story ‘A Haunted House’ which later became the title of her posthumous collection A Haunted House and Other Stories in 1944. Consider also Leopold Bloom’s reflections on communication with the dead in Ulysses, and the spectral image of London as an “unreal city” that pervades ‘The Waste Land’. 

"Mary Butts used similar imagery in ‘Mappa Mundi’ (1938) when describing the “matrix” of dream and physical experience that constitutes “Paris and the secret of Paris”. Occupying the ghostly position of that which is there and not there at the same time, the city is compared to the face of Isis glimpsed during an initiation. Similarly, in ‘Mysterious Kȏr’ (1942), Elizabeth Bowen appropriates the fabulous city of H. Rider Haggard’s She (1887) to present wartime London as a “ghost city”."

But his essay doesn’t just broaden our image of the ghost story. James Riley also argues that M R James himself uses modernist concepts, especially in his treatment of time. The distinction between the classic and modernist ghost story may not be reliable."

Wormwoodiana currently features blog posts on each of the articles in the current issue. Check it out for details on essays on Sarban, David Lindsay and Guy Endore.