The Ghost in James, Pangborn, and Wharton: A Shifting Trope in an Era of Shifting Philosophies

Randi A Ross, Fordham University

Abstract

This dissertation examines how the changing social mores of the 19th Century, the birth of psychology as a science, and the raucous and prolonged public debate during that era regarding an afterlife and specters impacted upon the ghost stories of Georgia Wood Pangbom, Edith Wharton, and Henry James. Pangbom employed the trope primarily to further the ideals of the enormously popular Spiritualist Movement, which had its roots in Swedenborgian mysticism. The ghost stories of Edith Wharton often insist upon sexual freedom. Henry James used the trope in a variety of ways in numerous stories. This dissertation focuses upon his use of the case histories of The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in "The Friends of the Friends" and The Turn of the Screw. It suggests that James wrote "Friends" about a particular type of ghost studied by the SPR, the crisis apparition, and that he wrote Turn using SPR research in such a way as to provoke the critical firestorm that surrounded it for much of the 20th Century: Are the ghosts of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel real or a product of the imagination of an insane governess? ^

Subject Area

Literature, American|Literature, English

Recommended Citation

Randi A Ross, "The Ghost in James, Pangborn, and Wharton: A Shifting Trope in an Era of Shifting Philosophies" (January 1, 2010). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI3431919.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3431919

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