Free in Body and Spirit

Spectral Liberation of Objectified Peoples in Victorian and Neo-Victorian Literature


  • Marcus Grant
  • Dr. Allison Speicher


Victorian, Neo-Victorian, Children’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 Brown’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 “The Accursed Inhabitants of the House of Bly†(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.