American women ghost stroiesDara Downey lectures at University College Dublin. In American Women’s Ghost Stories in the Gilded Age (Palgrave, 2014), she explores how closely late nineteenth-century American women’s ghost stories engaged with objects such as photographs, mourning paraphernalia, wallpaper and humble domestic furniture. Featuring uncanny tales that range from the big city to the small town and the empty prairie, she offers a new perspective on an old genre. Rather than seeing the spectres that stalk the pages of women’s writing in Gilded-Age America as mere hallucinations or signs of mental disturbance, Downey examines the unusual motif of haunted houses without ghosts. Rarely appearing as ghosts, the dead women in the tales studied here hide away in the patters of furniture and wallpaper, offering a radical critique of the male gaze that reduced female bodies to alluring objects. Covering murderous nightcaps, haunted boarding houses and spectral china closets, it allows the object matter of the ghost story to, almost literally, come out of the closet.

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