Date of Award

5-2012

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Advisor

Greg Howard

Second Committee Member

Dave Kress

Third Committee Member

Richard Brucher

Abstract

Ghost stories have served integral functions to various societies: a confrontation of mortality, an explanation of uncontrollable and seemingly supernatural events, an aid in the grieving process for loved ones, an exploration of the human soul and psyche, an expression of the inexplicable desire to live in eternity. Even in an age and society that views itself as rational and scientific, the ghost story continues to evolve through the use of new media. New patterns of social Spiritualism pervade the cultural imagination through the dissemination of the ghost story via television, film, and social media.

This thesis seeks to join this conversation, not for the purpose of confirming or denying the existence of spirits or an afterlife, but rather to analyze the various functions of the ghost story in society – what needs they serve, what desires they unearth, and what the changing conventions of the classic ghost story reveal about the ways society itself is changing. With this aim in mind, this collection of original ghost stories traverses various traditions of the ghost story, and explores what functions they serve in the societies that foster them. The stories within also aim to continue those traditions in new and creative ways for the contemporary era.

Critical research and readings into various types of ghost stories provide a context for different narrative types, which all explore human reactions to ghosts and hauntings. The narratives also investigate the seeming necessity of cultures to relate ghost stories – those certain attachments that societies and individuals form to concepts of death, and life beyond death.

Through various uses of the fictive space, it is determined that, though its existence may be believed, questioned, or denied, a ghost lives in the telling of its story. The ghost story is understood as a powerful cultural artifice, used for many purposes, and to some degree necessary to our understanding of the world and our place in it.

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