Dara 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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Alan Gibbs is lecturer in American Literature at University College Cork. His Contemporary American Trauma Narratives, which won the IAAS’s 2015 Peggy O’Brien Book Prize, examines the representation of trauma in contemporary American fiction and non-fiction. The book looks at the way writers present the effects of trauma in their work and challenges dominant and widespread assumptions about literary representations of trauma. It explores a range of narrative devices, as well as events in contemporary America, including 9/11, the Iraq War, and reactions to the Bush administration. Contemporary American authors who are discussed in depth include Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, Tim O’Brien, Mark Danielewski, Art Spiegelman, Jonathan Safran Foer, Anthony Swofford, Evan Wright, Paul Auster, Philip Roth and Michael Chabon. Contemporary American Trauma Narratives offers a timely and dissenting intervention into debates about American writers’ depiction of trauma and its after-effects.
A timely and important book, richly deserving of the Peggy O’Brien Book Prize, Contemporary American Trauma Narratives is published by Edinburgh University Press, and is available here.