Anxieties at the end: exploring the figure of the literary ghost and threatened social order at the Victorian fin de siecle
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The end of the century was a turbulent time for England. As Victoria's reign came to an end, England's foundation was undergoing a sort of renovation. This thesis considers the figure of the Victorian ghost in the social context of the fin de siecle as a response to the rising issues of women's rights, the forming middle-class, and changing understandings of colonial relations as they emerged in society. I consider how selected works by Vernon Lee, Henry James, and M.R. James grapple with the changing role of women, class structure, and imperial practises respectively, and how the literary ghost is utilized to narrate and construct this sense of instability at the end of the century. This thesis is invested in analyzing how Lee's "Oke of Okehurst, or. The Phantom Lover," Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw," and M.R. James's "Mr. Humphreys and His Inheritance" essentially work to re-implement traditional power structures in a time when this power was ultimately being questioned. Overall, despite the potential for power and originality within the genre of the ghost story, I suggest that each text rebels against a liberalizing world to preserve Eurocentric, patriarchal authority, though in differing ways.