Free in Body and Spirit
Spectral Liberation of Objectified Peoples in Victorian and Neo-Victorian Literature
Keywords:Victorian, Neo-Victorian, Childrenâ€™s Literature, Spiritualism, Ghost
Ghosts in Victorian literature have been derided as manifestations of conservatism, overlooking the frequent depiction of both specter and observer as belonging to two groups that were oppressed in Victorian society: women and children. By applying Bill Brownâ€™s Thing Theory and sociological research to texts such as The Turn of the Screw (1898) by Henry James, I explain how haunted persons and ghosts themselves are objectified, more likely to be heard dead than alive. I also draw upon various Neo-Victorian texts, such as â€œThe Accursed Inhabitants of the House of Blyâ€ (1994) by Joyce Carol Oates, to bring attention to how this objectified haunting has transhistorical reach. In doing so, I unveil that the ghost characters of the nineteenth century reveal the symptoms of their oppression through their haunting and their hauntedness; in contemporary times, we see the hierarchies revealed in the Victorian era flipped in Neo-Victorian texts.