Welcome to the "Beyond The Grave" Writing Seminar
What, exactly, are ghosts? Wandering spirits forced to roam the Earth hoping for some strange closure for their mortal lives, or manifestations of our own social, cultural, and historical need to cement value in the figure of a phantasmal presence? In some sense, the ghost is necessarily a figure of history made "real"-a caricature of the values of the past which manifests, when least expected, to provide evidence of what once was. At the same time, the ghost story acts as modern fairy tale complete with a moral (though rarely does everyone in a ghost story "live happily ever after") to let us know what sorts of values are important, and what sorts of crimes are so heinous that their effect continues even after death.
In this class we will look at ghost stories as cultural artifacts that tell us about the culture in which they were written and by the culture that receives them. We will also be exploring the way the ghost stories have changed over the years to better reflect the beliefs and values of the society that popularizes them. To do this we will be reading and watching a number of works. Most notably, we will be reading, as primary materials, some of the great 19th century ghost stories ("The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," "The Yellow Wallpaper," "The Tell-Tale Heart", et. al.), one novella length ghost story: James's The Turn of the Screw, and one work of non-fiction: Mules and Men. However, this class is not entirely devoted to the ghost story as a written form and so we will also be looking at Ã¢â‚¬Ëœreal' haunted locations as much as we will fictional places, and we will be supplementing these works with mainstream films about ghosts. My hope is to get a wide variety of approaches to what a ghost story can mean, and what we can learn from the various things that go bump in the night. Skeptics and believers: as Kane, the evil preacher in Poltergeist would say, "All are welcome."
Ultimately, as a writing seminar, we will use our concerns to generate writing for the class in the form of three major papers. Discussion of the class materials (texts, films, internet material) will alternate with conferences and writing workshops.